John Alvarado: Office Buildings Have Their Own Musical Styles

John Alvarado

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m an audiophile. I love music—the louder the better. I carry a briefcase so I can always have my Bose noise-cancelling headphones for airplane rides and my Dr. Dre Beats headphones for working out. My colleagues at work know if I’m wearing the Bose headset at the office, it’s the equivalent of having my office door shut, locked, and with a “Do not disturb” sign.

I sometimes resort to this because I sit in a cube. Company brass reminds me it’s to foster collaboration and not because they don’t appreciate my contributions at the office. After all, Jack Fraker sits across from me and he is both a legend and a celebrity. If he works in a cube, I should feel lucky to have a desk. (You know who he is, don’t you?)

I love all genres of music—rock, blues, jazz, hip hop, classical, and even country (as long as I’m west of Fort Worth). Sometimes, when I listen to music I am reminded of buildings. Yes, it sounds weird, but it’s true. Don’t get ahead of me, but you are already wondering which songs go with each building right? Here’s how it works.

Buildings like The Crescent, Trammell Crow Center, JPMorgan Chase Tower, and Comerica Tower demand classical music. They are romantic, intricate, and complicated. Think Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. Williams Square in Las Colinas is a country song. It’s rugged, classic, and stands alone among its nearby peers. Think Don Williams. There are hip buildings, too—Seventeen Seventeen and Fountain Place come to mind. I won’t name artists here for fear of embarrassing my children, but think something young and hip that moves and has a lot of bass. I figure Brittney Spears would office at the Galleria.

Every building has its own personality, and this determines the type of tenant the building can attract. Owners are always looking to improve their buildings to gain a competitive advantage. The obvious include lobby appointments, elevator décor, restroom renovations, and landscaping. But, like songs, every building has an audience. I once saw Eric Clapton close a great show with the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It did not work, and the same can be said for buildings. If you try to be something you are not, you will lose your audience.

Buyers of office buildings look for compelling stories as to why buildings work. My advice to owners is similar to what I have heard Simon Cowell tell singers: Find your own personality and go with it all the way. A compelling story always helps sell a building.

By the way, I’ve never seen Jack Fraker wear headphones at the office.

John Alvarado is senior vice president within CBRE’s Investment Properties Institutional Group in Dallas and Houston. Contact him at [email protected]