March 09, 2016

How about asking what can you do for your building?

Most people, when considering an office building or business area, think about what it offers its tenants. It’s far less common to think about the reverse: what impact can a tenant have on the premises and neighbourhood they inhabit?

Sometimes organisations add prestige, raise standards and leave a positive legacy for those that follow. Other times not so much. We thought we’d take a look at a few instances of tenant legacy and show examples of what we consider good and bad practice.

The arrival of a new tenant can really lift the atmosphere in a building or business area
There’s an immediate injection of fresh energy - especially if the new tenant takes over a substantial amount of previously unoccupied space. Suddenly there’s a better buzz about the place with lots of different people around and new thinking at the tenant meetings.
Broadgate Quarter in London was a good example of this. It benefitted from several new ten-ants who kept their offices immaculate and undertook exciting, state-of-the-art fit outs. Word obviously got around which led to an increase in the building’s prestige. This obviously benefits everyone.
Rathbone at Port of Liverpool set a very high standard by creating a handsome conferencing area, which they then let other tenants use. This helped develop a real feeling of community within the building while also providing a convenient benefit for all occupants.

However, new arrivals don’t always work out for the better.
Some tenants may bring with them practices from less well-run facilities. They may, for ex-ample, regularly jam the lifts for deliveries leaving other tenants to pick up the repair costs through increased service charges or habitually litter the common areas.
Fortunately most businesses understand the importance of getting on with their fellow ten-ants.

Sometimes a business becomes heavily associated with the building it occupies
For example, does anyone remember the name Wang? They were big when computers first began getting smaller, back in that eighties heyday of wide shoulder pads, baggy suits and big hair. Most people have forgotten them yet the building they occupied at 1000 Great West Road is still sometimes referred to colloquially as the Wang building.
That’s when it’s not being referred to as the building next to Glaxo, due to the proximity of neighbours GSK. It’s obviously going to take a considerable marketing initiative to establish the name it goes by today: The Mille (one thousand in Italian, in case you wondered).

Here at Helix we also have experience of tenant legacy
For example, at Dukes Lane in Brighton, part of the Brighton Lanes shopping area, we inher-ited a haven for skateboarders and grungy clothing outlets. Hidden among them were a few independent retailers selling aspirational brands such as Ralph Lauren and Prada, but they were struggling to make an impact in an area with no real identity.
We worked hard to improve the tenant mix towards something more high end while also retaining the independent traders that give The Lanes its distinctive offering. The shopping profile we wanted was, in London terms, something like St Christopher’s Place (rather than Carnaby Street in the seventies).
Soon, innovative new brands came in underpinned by strong covenants such as L’Oreal and Jo Malone. We then considered developing a linking parade into a cinema and food offer-ing. This is the kind of thinking that can turn a few undistinguished streets into a new desti-nation.

No building or business area is a clean slate
As we’ve seen, occupants past and present always leave a mark. However, whether you’re an investor or a prospective tenant, buildings or areas with downmarket reputations can sometimes prove to be real bargains providing they have solid fundamentals.
Shoreditch in London is just one example of a business district that once appeared beyond the pale but has now become a magnet for all kinds of forward looking businesses.
They too are now leaving their mark.

Dawn Thompson
by Dawn Thompson • March 09, 2016 Categories: Facilities Management