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Creative Office Doesn't Have To Mean New Construction

Looking for 21st century digs that can improve your company’s creative output? Don’t limit your search only to new glass and steel structures. Gensler co-managing principal Jordan Goldstein says creative types fit just as comfortably into older, refurbished buildings. You can hear more about who's building what at our Creative Office and Growth of Tech event on Feb. 23 at 2011 Crystal Dr in Crystal City at 7:30am.


There’s definitely movement for businesses seeking new, leased facilities to look at older buildings and, luckily, DC has a substantial stock of them, Jordan says. 

“Every workplace is different," Jordan told Bisnow this week. "Every company has a different DNA signature. So part of our job is to really unearth that and then try to marry that DNA to a harmonious strategy for the building."

Technology tenants, for example, want a truly creative and flexible environment where “each person is afforded the ability to customize their specific work area,” Goldstein says. Today’s smaller work areas are balanced by a greater mix of amenities and communal space.    


The specifics of the building—the core of the structure itself, its windows-to-core wall depth, its column spacing, floor-to-floor heights, existing systems, including HVAC—need to be taken into consideration, as does the façade, he says. 

Gensler did precisely that with the Boilermaker Building (above) at 3rd and Tingey streets SE in Forest City Washington's The Yards project. Built in 1919 as part of the Navy Yard, the original red brick façade now houses 45k SF of retail, with second-story loft office space.


It’s all about companies needing to communicate their culture and their brand to their employees and their customers, says MRP Realty principal Zach Wade. “So it’s really about unique space and space that becomes part of the culture.”    

Zach says new technology in HVAC, glass and “hackable space”—the term for permitting tenants to make modifications to their spaces—all contribute to new environments.


“The general principal of real estate is providing space; the value of space in the new economy is directly correlated to its connectivity,” says Michael Burke, WiredScore’s director of business development for the Washington region. He will join Zach and Jordan as panelists at our event next week.

Michael ranks Internet connectivity just behind location and price as the three most important factors tenants—especially those in creative fields—should look for.    

Landlords whose buildings have housed government agencies may be able to offer enhanced Internet services and good lease terms by leveraging existing infrastructure, he says. And understanding how best to leverage that infrastructure technology for creative companies or defense contractors can be a huge selling point, Michael adds.

The widespread use of cloud data storage has markedly reduced the need for on-site facilities, freeing space for other uses. “Our company helps you plan for the future that is connected," Michael told Bisnow. "And if your real estate doesn’t do that, you’re at a disadvantage.”    

How tenants occupy their spaces is also of prime concern to Mark Ramirez, Hickok Cole Architects’ director of commercial office and associate principal.

“You’re making a space that is really specific to a certain tenant demographic, whether it’s tech or biotech, or government services,” he says. Amenities are the big driver today, and Mark cites “the big three”—the lobby, the rooftop and the fitness center.    

For Mark, it begins in the lobby—making commercial entrances more like hotel lobbies, places where people will want to congregate and interact. That means lounge seating, WiFi, perhaps a coffee bar with warm surroundings. With such lobbies it could be difficult to get folks back into the office. 

Hear more about creative design and development on Feb. 23 at 2011 Crystal Dr for our Creative Office and Growth of Tech (as Tenants!) event. Register here.