January 14, 2015

Inside the Creative Office Craze

A catalytic convergence of densification, collaboration and technology has pushed creative office space to new heights. And it's not just for tech firms anymore, which is why we're hosting Bisnow's Chicago Creative Office Summit on Jan. 28 at Willis Tower, starting at 7am. Meet some of our panelists:

Buy-In's Key: Brad Serot

CBRE EVP Brad Serot (just back from skiing with the family in Denver) recently went through a major creative makeover himself at 321 N Clark, CBRE's new futuristic digs (below) with “less me space and more we space.” The secret to the two-year process was getting company buy-in to the idea of an open, collaborative work environment, he says. Everyone's a little scared of change, but with committees and subcommittees employees all felt like they had a hand in designing the new space. Technology like electronic room reservation systems has been a huge help, he says, allowing people more ways to work within their space than before.

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Brad's client VisaNow is moving its office from River North to the West Loop and transitioning into an open environment (even the president and CEO will have a workstation). But you don't need loft space to be creative, Brad says, and you don't necessarily have to go the full mile if your company doesn't have the budget. Small changes to technology, furniture, light and air can make a huge difference in fostering happy, motivated employees. Looking forward, Brad expects an increase in fitness and wellness programs around the office, as people work longer hours and employers make health a priority.

Even You Can Be Creative: Enrique Suarez

Harley Ellis Devereaux managing principal Enrique Suarez (just back from exploring the Miami Design District over the holidays) says even large, corporate, institutional clients are learning from creative office design in terms of communication and intra-discipline collaboration. But it's important the space design brings a fresh perspective that reflects the DNA of the company (since even creative space can become formulaic). HED starts the design process with deep-dive design charrettes, envisioning the space from the perspective of both team members and clients. For Garrett Popcorn's HQ that led to the popcorn shop as inspiration for features like graffiti walls (below) and full kitchens.

More traditional Northern Trust has also embraced free address seating and benching, Enrique says, adding small meeting rooms in addition to the traditional 10-person conference room to give people more opportunities to work together. This move toward density, micro spaces and community is not just an office trend, Enrique says, and should be considered on a larger scale within the built environment and how people like to live/work today. Apartments are shrinking as amenitized communal spaces grow outside of the home, and the “sharing community” includes everything from rides to co-working to shared kitchens for chefs. (Notice a trend?)

Creative Engineering: Nathan Snydacker

Offices need to move from being a place to touch down to a place employees want to spend the day (instead of their local Starbucks), says ESD VP Nathan Snydacker, and the trend's gone well beyond tech firms. Nathan even has a financial services client considering a move from big wooden desks and private offices to a more open, modular space. Heating and cooling these larger spaces can be easier than smaller zones, but when you start removing ceilings for the currently favored “loft look,” you can find hidden conditions along the perimeter (especially in older buildings) like gaps in the walls or subpar insulation, he says.

A robust wireless network is key these days, making it easier to work as you walk from space to space without reconnecting to a port. Nathan also sees huge potential for power over Ethernet lighting. With offices moving to LED lights, the power draw is so low that you can power through cabling like you would with a telephone. It will make a huge impact outside of Chicago with the ability to run cabling as opposed to copper wire and conduit to all the light fixtures, he says. Nathan's loving this snow and excited to go sledding with his 3-year-old and 6-year-old. Get your event tix here!

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Wrigley Field to be Hot Topic at the Cubs Convention

The Cubbies will converge this weekend at the 30th annual Cubs Convention, and ESPN Chicago had some predictions on what our lovable losers will have to say on issues pertaining to real estate:

  • The bleachers: Not ready on Opening Day, but the delay shouldn't be more than a month. Minor logistical setback or first of many construction delays in the team's effort to remain playing at Wrigley throughout the reno?
  • Rooftop owners: They're “working on it.” This battle looks like it will remain a long, bloody mess. The Cubs want to buy up the rooftops, their owners don't take threats of blocked views lightly, litigation ensues. What a headache.
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The Infamous Congress Theater: Can Renovation Boost Reputation?

The gritty, 88-year-old Congress Theater in Logan Square has developed quite a rap sheet in recent years (from nearby crime to code violations to an electronic dance music ban), but Ald Joe Moreno (1st) says things are going to change with an upcoming renovation that will include a small inn and affordable housing units, DNAinfo reports. The renovation will be led by new owner Michael Moyer, famous for his successful $20M makeover of the Cadillac Palace Theater downtown.

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Don't Miss Our Creative Office Summit Jan. 28!

Companies (led by tech firms) are pining for open space and a “Google culture,” but they're realizing you can't just knock down all the walls and hope that will happen. That's why we're exploring the process, step by step, at Bisnow's Chicago Creative Office Summit, Jan. 28 at Willis Tower, beginning at 7am. Our all-star lineup includes 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, South Street Capital co-founder Matt Garrison and CBRE EVP Brad Serot. Pictured: The special photo wall at CBRE's new digs, 321 N Clark, where employees can showcase their personality. Don't wait, get your event tickets today so you can prepare for your office makeover tomorrow!

Tell Us

Any Congress Theater memories? Ours range from a killer The Dead Weather Show to Cinco De Mayo lucha libre wrestling to a not-so-awesome car break-in in the middle of winter. marissa.oberlander@bisnow.com