What BuzzFeed And Bloomberg's Real Estate Heads Look For In Offices
This doesn’t just boil down to splashy paint, but everything from the electrical systems to the windows to the amenities needs to match a company’s perceived identity.
Finding and designing such spaces is BuzzFeed corporate real estate and facilities senior director Gabrielle Rubin Deveaux’s bread and butter. She didn’t find BuzzFeed’s current NYC digs, but she was tasked with designing and building it and helping the new media juggernaut move to it, all within 12 months.
That’s a lot to accomplish, but Gabrielle—who will be a panelist at Bisnow's Big NYC Office Event next week—tells us she was able to get significant headway when she asked BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti for three adjectives the space needed to embody.
His answer? “Casual, light and optimistic.”
“These weren’t what I usually heard,” Gabrielle says. “Most people say things like ‘home-court advantage,’ ‘revolutionary’ or ‘sophisticated.’”
To capture Jonah's descriptors, Gabrielle says she had to keep the palette simple and subdued, added residential pieces, pendant lights, floor lamps, decals, colored glass and art from employees. But the most important task was to get in as much natural light as possible by keeping the space’s ceilings open wherever she could.
It’s less expensive to close up ceilings, she says, and required for mechanicals and acoustics, so she kept the ceilings open in the workspace, but lowered the ceilings and had concrete floors in hallways and entryways.
“Although they’re small, they’re the spaces that leave an impression. If you asked an employee what kind of floors their office has, they’d still say concrete,” she said.
Even the choice of the building was to maximize BuzzFeed’s brand. Although it's now a $1.5B, global corporation, BuzzFeed—like Google, Yahoo and Facebook—still sees itself as a scrappy startup, so older buildings capture a “roughing it” sentimentality. And, of course, there’s still the flexibility to accommodate growing brands like BuzzFeed’s Tasty and Nifty video platforms.
Although she works for a more “adult” company, Bloomberg LP real estate and facilities global head Lauren Eckhart Smith (right, with GSA planning and design quality director Mina Wright) says she tackles a lot of the same challenges as Gabrielle, but on a much larger and more complex scale.
“Not only do we have 180 facilities, we have four core value—innovate, collaborate, know your customer and do the right thing—that need to be embodied in a space,” she tells Bisnow.
Founder and former mayor Michael Bloomberg made it company policy for everyone to be in the same open area, with no private offices. Even Bloomberg’s nature as a global news organization affects her choices: not only does Lauren have to guarantee that every space has the tech infrastructure to keep the site active 24/7/365, but she has to place a greater focus on having the infrastructure for top physical security and cybersecurity.
With so much to balance, Lauren says it can be frustrating when the real estate industry lags behind in design and infrastructure to accommodate Bloomberg’s basic necessities and the sizable workforce. She even points to London’s real estate market, where amenities like bike rooms, showers and recycling support are required for landlords.
“For some reason, the US just lags behind in providing such amenities,” she says.
Maybe not as much as she thinks, or not for long. L&L Holding Co leasing director Andrew Wiener says the competitive office market has encouraged developers and landlords to step up their game in catering to their tenants, and they, too, are obsessed with the “war for talent.”
“It’s no longer four walls and a roof,” he says. “The search for the city’s top talent has forced tenants to think of not just the location of a building and rent, but on the building’s product, amenities, and much more recently, wellness.”
As such, L&L placed an increased focus on providing new product with brand infrastructure, including amenities, sustainability initiatives and wellness programs that tenants have been looking for.
Andrew says the company is also making sure its brokers fully understand a space’s attributes and potential so it can be clearly conveyed to potential tenants, and is even exploring Floored’s Protofit service, which can create test fits quickly and inexpensively, helping a company see their brand embodied in a space, and helping moving transactions forward.
Learn more on Nov. 9 at 180 Maiden Lane for New York's Big Office Event, with keynotes Tony Malkin and Larry Silverstein.