Maybe it’s the design. Design problems are often latent defects. Whatever the asset, design impacts its performance. We have addressed industrial, multi-family, luxury houses, urban and suburban retail, hospitality, workplaces, health care, streets and public places. Depending on the project, good design in commercial real estate encourages people to walk to places where a they can engage in a transaction and makes life easier and more enjoyable in the process.
“Any prospective purchaser should independently determine, to its satisfaction, whether or not the property is satisfactory. The prospective purchaser should conduct or obtain such market analyses, utility studies, zoning determinations, rental surveys, title examinations, review of applicable laws and ordinances or studies or information relevant to purchase analysis as are appropriate for a prudent investor."
PATTERNS IN THREE AREAS ARE CRITICAL:
- the space from the building entrance to as far as pedestrians can walk in the building;
- the space between the site entrance and the building entrance;
- the space connecting the site (or the building) to abutting public property.
- Retail - A regional mall in Southern California
The owner of a portfolio of community and regional malls believed an attractive 900,000 SF, three-level urban mall they acquired in a recent multi-property transaction had pedestrian circulation problems causing diminished sales revenues of line tenants. Our systematic evaluation showed most stores with weak revenues were located along spatial-visual gaps, discontinuities and odd transitions in spatial patterns affecting pedestrian movement. These were linked to the locations of the vertical circulation systems and to a large and visually attractive but spatially segregating atrium. We worked with the client and architects to show how a redesign would reconnect pedestrians with shops. After a major redesign that addressed these problems and updated the image, the mall now thrives.
- A can-opener bridge
Can-opener bridges are low clearance, functionally obsolete railroad bridges designed and built in the late 19th and early 20th century that are too low for contemporary truck traffic. They're called can-opener bridges because the tops of trailers get peeled back by the bridge. Driver attention can be a problem but, as the psychologist Donald Norman says, the problem may be erroneously thought to be human error when it's the artifact that's the real problem. Was the driver at fault or the short line railroad by failing to ensure adequate warning signs could be seen?
- An ultra-luxury house
The founder of one of the largest media companies was going to build a unique 25,000 SF great house, stables, hangar, manager's house and landing strip in one of the most scenic but undiscovered areas in the West. After interviewing several architects, he chose one in the closest town, a place under 100,000. whose background included extensive project management experience on large institutional buildings.
After little more than year, there were delays, fee and cost increases and after almost another year the main house was barely started. The owner fired the architect. The architect counterclaimed for unpaid bills and to prevent his designs from being used. We showed the architect was poorly-qualified with neither academic training nor work experience designing such a house. The case was settled beneficially for the client.
- A hotel in Guam
An earthquake hit the United States territorial island of Guam shortly after a so-called luxury hotel and condominium resort had opened. Because value was one of the issues, we were asked to determine whether the hotel's design placed it in the luxury class. After comparing how the rooms, public spaces, and visual quality of this hotel affected the experiences of seeing, touching and movement with several well-known luxury hotels both on and off the island, it was clear this particular hotel did not qualify as a luxury hotel.
- Retail - Chicago’s Block 37
Known as the city’s as “the city’s cursed retail block” for so many problems with developers, the 290,000 SF retail portion of block 37 is a functional failure even with direct access to Chicago’s pedway and CTA red and blue lines. The images don’t tell the real story. The street entrances are not inviting, elevators and escalators block visibility in the atrium and routes to leasable spaces are cul-de-sacs. The retail space recently rose to 65% occupied after several years of just 30% occupancy. The Detroit architecture, planning and interiors firm that designed the retail area claimed the mall is filled with heavy daily pedestrian traffic. It's not.
- Retail - Main street In Denver – urban design
A two-mile segment of one of the longest commercial streets in the United States was directly next to urban neighborhoods with some of the finest, most vibrant early 20th century single-family dwellings. But commercial property values on this street had fallen far behind the values of residential properties just around the corner. Though they could easily walk there, nearby residents rarely frequented the street’s merchants.
We showed how problematic uses, crossing street discontinuities, transit stop locations and spatial-visual configurations, and ownership patterns limiting assemblage limited the intelligibility of the street and diverted middle-class pedestrians from it. We developed materials illustrating how redevelopment could proceed and, within five years, average values of properties on the street increased by almost 250 percent.
- A casino in the Rockies
The functional utility of a building with a historically designated shell in a limited stakes gambling town was one of several matters at issue in an unjust enrichment suit. A designer-contractor disputed the claim by his client that the layout of the casino, when finished, would be similar to small casinos that had marginal success and be substantially different from successful ones, that it would be functionally obsolete.
We distinguished external (economic) from functional obsolescence by identifying the impact of decreased demand on overall real estate values. Our financial break-even model equating fixed costs with real estate values and variable costs with casino operating costs developed base-line value measures. Our systematic evaluation showed that the design and construction of the building on completion allowed an already contemplated assemblage with adjacent property substantially similar in functional utility to larger successful casinos. After the trial court decided in favor of the designer-contractor, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the facts, but reversed saying unjust enrichment must involve wrongful conduct.
- A workplace in Michigan
A company wanted to change the layout to improve collaboration and lessen awareness of noise distractions and interruptions. Key objectives were that the changed layout would
- increase the quantity and relative value of collaborative interaction;
- stimulate more chance encounters;
- promote a psychological ownership of collaborative space.
The new and larger layout increased the number of distinct work spaces by just over 15 percent while slightly decreasing overall workplace density.
- But research findings showed
- collaborative interaction and its quality decreased;
- the number of chance meetings decreased;
- employees believed they are less productive.
Our systematic evaluation showed why: a significant increase in spatial complexity caused a decrease in movement and relocated the most accessible zone from the center to an edge.