We see them often in today’s corporate and retail landscape: large, abandoned structures of bygone eras, accumulating debris with the years and casting a blight on the community that surrounds it – communities that once relied on it for jobs. Rather than wait for another monolithic tenant to take them over, developers are increasingly choosing to divide these campuses to allow for mixed, multi-tenant uses.
With OKW’s diverse knowledge in planning, retail, corporate interiors, and architecture, we have tackled projects like these to not only bring new use and value to these large, dilapidated structures, but also give back to the communities that grew around them. We do this by re-positioning what was one a private, single-tenant building or campus into a multi-tenant, public campus, thus creating a vibrant and dynamic environment that is much more resistant than a single occupant facility to market forces.
Travis Bridges AIA NCARB, a senior project manager at OKW, leads the charge in strategically re-positioning large campuses. With several successful conversions behind him, he has developed a refined understanding of the challenges our architects and designers should anticipate with projects of this scale.
“The first step is to consider what would bring the most immediate value to the development, as those initial decisions will support all of the project’s future phases.” Travis cites recent experience with Torburn Partners’ campus redevelopment project in Arlington Heights. The site was largely taken up by an old Motorola facility that was occupied by Nokia and composed of six buildings. Among the first decisions was to tear down two of the existing structures, which allowed for more developable land, less vacancy, and less risk. More importantly, it provided the opportunity for higher parking counts, which was crucial in attracting high-caliber, Fortune 100 clientele.
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These decisions are aimed at achieving balance between what our clients want and what is achievable given our knowledge of the site’s contextual details. “You start to work with traffic engineers, then interface with the sanitary side and power companies to determine how much our new development will affect their individual systems.” This pursuit of balance continues at the HVAC level, where the needs of individual tenants must be balanced against what the system can support. It extends further into landscape design, which connects what are otherwise separate entities into a holistic experience.
“A lot of these developments are in rural or suburban areas, but the tenants that our clients are chasing, and in turn, their employees, expect the perks you typically find in a large city tower. This means that we have to pay close attention to amenities and their locations.” For Travis and his team, this means combining thoughtful landscaping with strategic planning to improve each employee’s experience within the new campus, which can translate to better efficiency and wellness.
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This effect can be seen in our client Torburn Partners’ redevelopment of Plantation Pointe in suburban Florida. “This was a campus built on privacy and intellectual property, and we reopened it, essentially giving it back to the community.” The amenities and landscaping that OKW designed for the campus were not intended to be strictly used by its tenants, as one would find in a gated community. Instead, they were valuable assets to the community, available for all to enjoy.
Travis sees these undertakings as a natural, ongoing effect of changing times. “There’s always going to be something at the tail end of its heyday. You can see many examples of this in many breweries around the world, notably the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, which is now rental apartments. If you take a look at the print industry, there are many opportunities that OKW is investigating that involve re-purposing old newspaper printing facilities.” As a resident in a former book-binding plant in Chicago’s Printer’s Row, Travis wakes up in a successful re-imagining every day.
Ultimately, OKW’s goal is to add value to our clients’ projects by relying on careful planning, strategic decisions, and balancing the needs of our clients with the expectations of tenants, and our collective duty to serve the community. “We’re bringing back up to forty years’ worth of high-tech jobs that left the area decades ago, which is great for the campus, but even better for the community. These jobs improve their tax base, attract more companies, and revitalize a dead space.”