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.


UNS’s vision for the Chicago Museum of Film and Cinematography

I usually let readers digest a “Why Can’t Dallas Have Nice Things” column before I post a fresh installment, but last night the Dallas Architecture Forum presented Christian Veddeler from Amsterdam-based United Network Studio (UNS). And Dallas really needs to see this firm’s work, if for no other reason than the questions that were asked at the session.

I won’t bore you with the questions, but the answers can be summed up as, “the reason Dallas has such boring architecture is because fantastic architecture requires developers with inspiration, a decent budget (though not always), and a local bench of talent (architects, engineers and craftspeople) capable of constructing such buildings.” Dallas, it seems, is starved of all three … well, unless a Dallasite needs an ego boost with a self-funded, self-named bridge, theater, museum or park. Which, don’t get me wrong, are great and every city needs them, but we also need great architecture in the profit-making world too. (Besides McKinney and Olive, the first in 40 years.)