Over this month, our firm has considering moving its office, and we’ve been reviewing available office space downtown. It’s extremely instructive to be on this side of the developers’ table. Our options:
1) Stay put. We love City Market. We love the shops and restaurants, we believe in this “edge” of downtown. We’re thrilled to see it develop, we believe it will develop, and we believe development will be good when it happens. We have great windows, facing south and east. We have a lot of space, and our conference table fits. HOWEVER: our rent would double next month, and the public areas are in embarrassing condition with no promise to fix them. By staying here, we actually seem to be limiting the improvement of this area. In fact, this whole floor is almost empty. Once the last hold-out moves, maybe something good will happen to the buildings, but it’s not happening now. And, I’m about at my endurance limit for classic rock from the sports-bar downstairs.
2) We saw an amazing suite in a new building two blocks away. It’s a fantastic building. Our entrance would be a private door from the street, upstairs, to a second floor with a huge reception desk, private restroom, offices, and a glass walled conference room. I told the realtor, “There’s no way we can afford this.” He said, “They’re desperate, make an offer.” I’m still mulling this, but I think I’m going to say no. The finishes were outrageous: cherry floors, raised panel wainscot and reception desk, real marble paneling: finishes way over the top in a very small space. This is the first time I’m saying no to a great plan because of finish level that’s too high. It would be difficult to preach sustainability and creative economy under the glow of HID track lights and marble walls. I’d have to dress better and golf more. No thank you.
3) Our current landlord is showing us a lot of their available stock. Simply describing it as “stock” tells you and me what I’m seeing. Hasn’t been repainted since 1995, drab carpet, vinyl base that doesn’t stick, Cortega ceiling tiles, demountable partitions, maze-like circulation, frightening restrooms. The current market is the case study for why mediocre space planning and maintenance isn’t profitable. If I could find something just a little bit better, I would not rent an ugly office.
4) And, I did find something a little bit better. Actually, a lot better. As of today, it looks like we’re moving up. We found space on the seventh floor, even closer to the capitol downtown. It’s owned by one of the most aggressive and creative property developers in Raleigh, a firm who is committed to growth downtown. It’s newly, but modestly re-finished, has amazing views, and is priced the same or better than “stock” spaces. The building also has a significant history of relevance in the city, and the developer is committed to that history. The building lobby actually has brass chandeliers and marble floors, but it was built at a time when brass and marble was the right thing to do, and it reminds me of success and optimism, not excess.
To be overtly self-serving, now is the time to design and build. After this tour of Raleigh office space, I have new admiration for our clients who are building in this difficult season. I respect the difficulty my landlord must be having to renovate while his tenants are moving out, but I also admire my [not yet] new landlord who had the ambition and ability to renovate before his tenants moved out.
Architecture endures, for better or worse. Buildings carefully developed in the 1920’s are still being fitup today, and are inspiring and persisting through their second depression. Buildings neglected in good times are being abandoned today and may be gone when the good times return. New work completed today will be on the forefront for the next season and will direct development around itself.
Andy Osterlund AIA | LEED AP
Andrew Osterlund, Architect, PLLC
GREEN | URBAN | SMART ARCHITECTURE
313 S. Blount St., Suite 200A | Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 889 6823 | www.aoarchitect.com