Sasha Phillips / January 2, 2024
Today marks 41 days since The Boulos Company officially moved into its gorgeous new office space at One Portland Square. We could not be happier! And I would like to think we have earned it after several years of renewals in our too-small previous office; a 6-month stint in a temporary office with half the footprint; and several Certificate of Occupancy delays. Spearheading our relocation plan was the talented Certified Interior Designer, Gretchen Boulos, of Boulos Commercial Design.
Our experience with Gretchen led me to reflect on tenant representation assignments I have worked on and to debate the old chicken and egg conundrum: “Which comes first, the broker or the space planner?” Most brokers can relate to the experience of going on a tour for 10,000 SF of space, only to realize what the tenant really needs is 5,000 SF, or the exact opposite. Square footage requirements are a foreign concept and sometimes a shot in the dark for many businesses, so how should a business determine the appropriate square footage that best suits their requirement? And how does one determine what they need when all they know is that their current space does not fit their needs? You can take the guesswork out when you hire a professional skilled in commercial interior design and space planning. As a full-service tenant/buyer representative, your broker at The Boulos Company can help facilitate this relationship.
I understand that moving offices is expensive, and adding another specialist to an already growing list can seem intimidating. However, in our experience, it can be an affordable approach that will save you time, headaches, and money down the road. Interior Designers, like Gretchen, often customize services based on specific client needs so hiring one can bring an incredible amount of value with a very affordable price tag. A space planner will listen to your successes and struggles in your current space and translate the information into a useful roadmap. Getting professional input upfront, including ideas that you may have never considered, is extremely valuable. Consider the three-step approach used by Gretchen.
Step 1: Programming Exercise
First, you will look at your existing needs, along with your projected two-, three-, and five-year needs. Where do you see yourself in those increments? What do you have now that works for you? What potential challenges will you have if you stay? What do you need down the road? In this step, your business will establish its program. With the help of your space planner, you will categorize a list of spaces within your office and assign them a square footage amount. This includes staffing spaces (offices, cubicles) and support spaces (conference room, storage, mothers’ room, copy room, kitchenette, etc.). Once you total this number, you will add a factor for circulation space (hallways, exits); depending on the buildings shape this could range from 20%-30%.
Step 2: Determine Prospective Properties and Establish Values
Now that you have a reliable square footage requirement, have your broker pull together a list of prospective properties and schedule a tour. In preparation for the tour, collaborate internally with your team to establish a list of company values and environmental priorities, so you have an agreed upon guideline for evaluating and ranking prospective spaces. Some items to consider are daylight, the flow of space, the amount of required buildout, budget, visibility, proximity to amenities, the safety of the neighborhood, and class of building. Gretchen suggests engaging all your employees in the initial brainstorming and programming phases as you might be surprised to hear the diversity in priorities.
Step 3: Test Fit
After completing your office tours, narrow down your options to your top three choices. These spaces should all fit your square footage requirement, as determined by the programming exercise, and align well with your thoughtfully determined company values. Not all square footage is made equal, and the shape and orientation of a location can make a significant difference. Your next step is to have your design professional create test-fit plans, so you can see how your space needs would be reflected in each location. By conducting this important exercise, you will quickly learn the pros and cons of each option, allowing you to make much more informed decisions. For example, you might find that in one option, everyone has access to natural light, but in another, everyone would have room for a private office. At the end of the day, each location will shake out differently. Having a skilled and experienced space planner by your side to sort through the options with you can make all the difference in the outcome.
Step 4: Sign a Lease
Congratulations! Once you have made it to this step, you can rest assured you have methodically secured a space that will suit your needs for the foreseeable future.
If you are considering a move, I suggest asking your broker to recommend a design professional at least 3-6 months before your search. The worst thing that can happen is that you sign a lease, hire a space planner after the fact, and learn that the space does not fit your needs. Your broker will guide you through the many other steps of your office search and lease negotiations, but that will later be covered in its own article.
Designers like Gretchen can also offer soup to nuts services and can continue their work with your company through construction drawings, furniture selection and construction administration. If you want to learn more about space planning and commercial interior design, feel free to reach out to myself or anyone on the Boulos team.
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