Tuesday, May 21, 2024 May 21, 2024
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Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: Taking Building Design and Development to the Next Level

Jackson-Shaw President and COO Michele Wheeler shares how art can impact developments

One of the most important factors in real estate development is making connections.

Thousands of people every day walk through lobbies, between walls, and down hallways. How can we connect and engage with everyone who crosses the threshold?

Michele Wheeler, President and Chief Operating Officer for Jackson-Shaw.

This is where the “art of hospitality” can be a way to relate and offer a better experience to employees, customers, and guests.

We define the “art of hospitality” using all five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

It’s about adding value to a property and including extra touches that help engage and foster conversations. Whether it’s an art installation, creating common areas for employees, or giving back land to the city for a park or other outdoor recreation, this best practice goes beyond bricks and mortar. It can open lines of communication, stimulate creativity, and improve well-being.

It is essential to incorporate this idea at the onset of a project rather than as an afterthought.


Projects that genuinely connect and engage are part of the fabric of development, intertwined with building design, and cemented as a permanent fixture of the layout. This looks different from project to project, but it’s mostly about looking at real estate developments holistically.

At Jackson-Shaw, we weave some art into almost every project. As examples:

  • As a long-time advocate of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Jackson-Shaw saw an opportunity to engage the organization as part of the Element Hotel at SkySong’s unique health and sustainability features. During the property’s grand opening, the hotel featured artwork by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale students. This included tapestries about various “elements” (earth, air, fire, and water) and what they meant to the artists. Other touches, such as a larger-than-life sculpture by local artist Mark Carroll, BALANCED, JOURNEY is inspired by Element Hotels’ commitment to a balanced lifestyle while on the road.
  • One of our newest projects, the AC Hotel Fort Worth, will embrace the vibrant arts and culture scene of the surrounding community. Curated art installations and intuitive technology elements will be apparent throughout.
  • When developing the Cascades at the Colony, which includes three hotels, multiple restaurants, commercial space, and a conference venue, Jackson-Shaw hosted the Colony High School Southwest/Texas Art Challenge. Students were invited to submit artwork, and winners were awarded. Some of the art was showcased at the property’s grand opening. Also, the Colony High School Orchestra Chamber Quartet and Steel Drum Band performed at the opening. Work by American photographer Laura Wilson, sculpture, and murals are throughout the development. We did donate to the city a two-acre, enhanced landscaped park in the round to use as a natural collaborate outdoor space.
  • While art installations are a common theme, how about a dinosaur park? Recognizing the value of preserving the history and significance of the fossil deposits found on a portion of Brick Yard urban-industrial development and conscious of this opportunity to practice stewardship, continuing relationships, and historical preservation, Jackson-Shaw donated land and resources to complete a large park dedicated to dinosaur discovery in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

There is much more to real estate development than creating solid structures. Art adds value, whether it’s an office building, hotel, multifamily property, and even some industrial projects. In the end, art pays off because it elicits emotional responses, enhances the workplace, facilitates connections, and fosters learning.

Michele Wheeler is President and Chief Operating Officer for Jackson-Shaw.