For rent: Office w/gr8 views, lots of light, green amenities
There was a time when sufficient square footage, a floor plan and the right price was enough to secure a great tenant. But the way commercial buildings are being marketed is changing dramatically. Today, it's all about the employee.
“How's the staff going to feel working here? What's the quality of the light like? Where is my staff going to go for their workouts? Where’s the nearest parking lot? Where's the nearest green space?” said David Allison, author of Branding Buildings Better and co-founder of the Vancouver marketing firm Braun/Allison Inc.
Mr. Allison works primarily in residential and recreational real estate, where quality of life and amenities have been a focus for 20 years. But in recent years Braun/Allison has started working on commercial projects and applying marketing methods from the residential world.
“The idea is, there's a lot of good, smart thinking that's been going on for a couple of decades now. Why are we reinventing the wheel? Let's use it.”
For landlords, the goal is “a building people don't want to leave. They renew their lease, they're willing to pay a little bit extra. When the leases expire, there's a waiting list in the best of all possible worlds because you've got the cool building.”
One of Braun/Allison's projects, Sun Tower in Vancouver, is a heritage building that's being rebranded as Creative Commons. The building's website proclaims, “This is not office space, this is creative space,” and emphasizes the building's architecture, its onsite fitness centre, the neighbourhood's cuisine and entertainment options.
“What we're trying to do is tell people this is a particularly awesome building in a great location, and if you consider yourselves to be creative thinkers – whether it's a creative law firm, photographer or government agency – then this is going to be a creative hub for Vancouver,” said Mr. Allison.
“It's not just about a name and a logo, it's about establishing our brand. It's a great example of how you can take a commercial building and use some of the rules for residential and tell great stories and help people understand why [relocating here] is a good decision.”
Employees are also a driving factor behind the incorporation of environmentally sustainable features into new buildings, said Mark Fieder, president and managing director for Avison Young's Ontario division.
“You will never see a new building built in Toronto that is not in some way LEED certified,” said Mr. Fieder. “It's a branding issue – clients want to see their suppliers are doing the right things within the environmental side of the business. And human resources is driving it, I'd say more than anything, because this is what employees want.”
“If you want to attract the best talent, you have to get on board with these concepts.”
Landlords have been making substantial investments in older buildings in Toronto's downtown financial district as they attempt to upgrade their properties to compete in this new green landscape, Mr. Fieder said.