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Three Tips For A Quick Lease-Up

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Just like an old car, a diamond-in-the-rough office building requires some elbow grease and TLC. (Also, you will occasionally find Burger King wrappers from four years ago.) But it’s not as easy as spiffing it up and throwing around buzzwords like “vintage.” Here are some pro tips:

Three Tips For A Quick Lease-Up

1) Show off your assets

Since taking over management and leasing at the 235k SF Class-A Inland Steel building, 30 W Monroe, in February 2012, MB Real Estate increased occupancy from 45% to over 85%, with rents now in the $18/SF to $19/SF range. (The building holiday party will be a lot more robust this year.) So we asked VP Sara Spicklemire for some how-to advice. She says the building's most obvious asset, its architectural significance, was one of the first priorities for owner Capital Properties Management. While historic status comes with restrictions, they've pushed forward with national recognition for the SOM-designed landmark building, and the process (and its welcome tax credits) will soon be complete. The next step was making the interior just as special as the steel and glass exterior.

Three Tips For A Quick Lease-Up

2) Make strategic tune-ups

So they worked from top to bottom, looking for forward-thinking amenities that appeal to new ways of working. They traded a ground-floor bank for Specialty's Cafe, added a fitness center and Zipcars in the garage, and created a 13k SF conference center (above) in partnership with Workspring featuring treadmill desks and screen-filled breakout rooms. (Can't forget new dream bathrooms and a green roof.) Now that more owners have the capital to invest in upgrades, it's about "checking as many boxes as you can" and towing the fine line between designing solely for savvy techies and not offending traditional office users like financial and law firms, Sara says.

Three Tips For A Quick Lease-Up

3) Sell the dream

But even more "old school" tenants are getting funky with their space (it's like your grandparents listening to Daft Punk), and the trick is selling them on a work environment that may not be complete yet, Sara adds. (For example, Inland's fitness center didn't open until after the flurry of leasing.) Though she predicts some collaborative whiplash, with some firms regretting their open plans and longing for more employee privacy. She and EVP Gary Denenberg repped ownership in the 13 new Inland leases, including 13k SF to Asset Allocation Management and 13k SF to Jacobsen Group. Sara's pumped to jet off to Australia later this month, with some scuba diving and sea kayaking with seals planned.