Over the years, our firm has assisted a great number of clients with finding new office locations. This year, I had the unique opportunity to see it from the client side when HKS came to the end of its 15-year lease in Uptown and began seeking relocation opportunities. Here’s how we did it—and lessons we learned along the way.
Lesson One: Pull together a stellar oversight team. The team you assign to the project is first and foremost. We assigned Dan Jeakins, AIA, project principal-in-charge; Dan Noble, FAIA, director of design; and Kirk Teske, AIA , chief sustainable officer and project manager. I was considered the liaison to the board of directors and the main ogre on budget issues.
Lesson Two: Assess your firm (e.g., How will it function in the future?). It was interesting to discover that up to 70 percent of our desks might be empty at any given time due to people traveling, in meetings, or even working from home. We decided from this fact alone to develop smaller, more efficient workplaces and augment them with conference or teaming areas.
We also conducted an employee survey to determine what was important to them when selecting our new corporate office location. Some of the highlights included access to public transit, parking and restaurants within walking distance. Both downtown and Uptown were high scorers, although the center of our employee population was at the intersection of North Central and Mockingbird. In addition, employees stressed the desire to design and build a sustainable building, to “practice what we preach.”
Lesson Three: Orchestrate a study to identify your workplace setting. David Meyer, our workplace specialist, outlined a program of space and estimated budget for the new office. As our broker shared with us potential corporate headquarter spaces, we quickly conducted tests to assess the functionality of each layout. We evaluated no fewer than 20 buildings—both built and unbuilt—with this method. Due to the vast amount of empty buildings, it became clear that an existing facility would most likely be our best option from a cost standpoint.
Lesson Four: Carefully evaluate each and every option. We had potential opportunities with our new-building developer clients, but the rent was not practical for our particular profession in the recent economic downturn. Next, we set parameters for an existing building. We would give preference to an HKS-designed building or one we could substantially renovated to put our “mark” on the building. In the process, we evaluated the old public library and the Dallas High School. We found that both were more expensive than new construction due to their age and renovation requirements. John Crawford, with Downtown Dallas Inc., was a great advocate of us moving downtown, was Mayor Rawlings.
Our broker received a call from Bank of America. The downtown Patriot Tower, previously One Dallas Centre, was in foreclosure. The bank offered us a great deal to consider, and we began to discuss the possibility of owning the building. However, at that time, Encore had approached Bank of America, and decided to develop the building into both office space and apartments. This is when I learned about the difficulties of financing a foreclosed building project. The property, as we say, had “great bones.” It was an I.M. Pei-designed building from the late ’70s. But it needed some drastic remodeling to repurpose the building.
As financing alternatives began to thin out, I was approached by Shawn Todd of Todd Interests. He felt he could bring the deal to fruition. I am amazed at what he did. His energy and contacts were consequential, and it was not too long before he had taken over the development, funding and bringing the building project back to life.
Lesson Five: Assemble the best design and construction team possible. As our journey began, we committed to an agreement and were off to the races with a tight schedule requiring the full cooperation and coordination of the entire team, including the developer, the leasing agent, HKS, and Andres Construction. Our interiors team—Olga Acosta, Loretta Fulvio, Frank Effland and their staff—began the detailed interior architecture, furnishings, and color selections. Working closely with furniture companies, we created mock layouts in the actual space, as well as in our current location. Along the way, we tested, proved, and made appropriate decisions.
Our quest: LEED Platinum certification. Teske worked diligently with our project architects, David Beller, AIA, and Nancy Hulsey, LEED AP, to institute the LEED checklist on all reuse and new materials. We have incorporated reuse of many of the materials in the building; improved our efficiency of heating, ventilation and air conditioning; incorporated low-water-use plumbing fixtures; integrated automatic shades to help reduce the impact of solar gain on our spaces; and many additional energy-saving design features.
It’s amazing how much we accumulate over time! Having worked in the space for 15 years, the firm acquired more than 52 tons of paper and non-paper products. All of these items were recycled before we moved to our new space. We also arranged the sale of much of our older furniture. (As a side note, please make sure you include a stipulation in your lease noting that any artwork attached to your tenant space or building will remain under the ownership of the tenant. Some unscrupulous landlords may try to claim your artwork as part of their building.)
Lesson Six: Celebrate a happy ending. We are now moved into our office headquarters—although some of the spaces, including the lobby and sixth floor, will not be completed until August. We are enthusiastic about our new landlord and exciting space. All of us are trying out local restaurants—they number close to 35 in a five-minute walk. The space also offers a nearby post office, dry cleaner, banks, apartments, and many other amenities.
It is exciting to be in downtown Dallas!