commercial real estate

Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, a former Marshall Field’s Warehouse and a tech darling.

Any of us who’ve spent time in an office know that work is changing. We hear about new ways to work and all the technologies that aim to serve. But what about the actual physical spaces we work in?  Sure, everyone talks about mobility and the ubiquity of the cloud, but what about when the butt hits the Aeron chair? That’s changing, too.

A recent survey by commercial real estate broker CBRE reported that 45 percent of respondents “anticipate migrating to an activity-based workspace,” while 52 percent “anticipate implementing some level of unassigned seating.”

Back in January 2018, the Chicago Tribune posted a story about how older, enormous buildings — typically the stuff of real estate white elephantry — were suddenly tech company darlings. And not for manufacturing, but carpeted office space. These are buildings like the disused Old Main Post Office, Merchandise Mart, and a number of 100-year-old catalog warehouses (remember Monty Wards?). Each of these relics have 50,000 to 260,000 square feet per floor. Put in perspective, that something up to six acres per floor.

The reason these spaces are now hot is because as commercial broker Matt Ward of Newmark Knight Frank said, “This thinking of different floor, different planet is finding its way into every boardroom. The idea of us getting out of our offices and being together is seen as a necessity in today’s business.”

In a word, collaboration.


Photo: RealTech Dallas

John Backes, left, at the RealTech Dallas event “Cultivate: Building the Next Big Thing in Real Estate.” Photo: RealTech Dallas

John Backes is a young real estate entrepreneur, technology innovator, and champion of the city of Dallas. He practically vibrates with energy and ideas, and has a sort of raw enthusiasm that’s utterly sincere and unscripted.

The St. Mark’s grad is passionate about bringing new ideas to the real estate community by collaborating with the active start-up community in Dallas. That motivation is showing up in myriad ways in his life.

As we wrote about yesterday, he is launching the MOTIVE Accelerator Program this fall. This exciting program will fund selected commercial real estate technology start-ups, as well as provide mentoring through a program oriented around customer and product development.

Backes was also the co-founder of RealTech Dallas 12 months ago, which brings together the startup community with the real estate industry.

His new company, DXZ Media, is a full-service branding and digital marketing agency that aims to solve complex problems related to technology, identity, and strategy.

Sound like a full plate? It’s not even the beginning. He’s also a mentor at the The Dallas Entrepreneur Center and advisor at PoshPublic, a curated crowdfunding platform which allows artists or nonprofits to create a campaign at no upfront cost and no risk. There’s so much more. And the ideas just keep coming.

“We have an incredible story here in Dallas of innovative real estate companies, and so many tech start-ups, too. There was so much vibrancy, but no intersection,” Backes said. “Every day, I feel like I’m in a very dynamic center of change.”