Simply keeping up with local competition also drives many high-rise modernization projects. “We’re working with a client right now that has a modern, new building – but it doesn’t have any outdoor space,” explains Dan Ringler, project director at LPA Inc. , a California-based design firm.“So they’re investing in an outdoor amenity space because there are other high-rises in the area that do offer usable outdoor space.”

Focusing on what Ringler calls “impactful moments” like these is becoming more important in high-rise towers. “Owners and developers want to make sure they’re getting a return on their investment. It’s no longer about making a ‘beautiful building,’ especially if it’s not going to produce a return.” Instead, Ringler recommends identifying improvements that will help retain current tenants and attract new ones.

In the case of impactful improvements at One Washington Square, as Rubenstein Partners’ Director of Asset Management Craig Zolot explains, an enclosed mezzanine level is being removed to open up views from the lobby to Independence Hall across the street. Doing this ensures that tenants aren’t sealed off from their surroundings, and allows them to enjoy views of the park, and experience the four seasons.

“Analyzing high-rises to find these opportunities for impactful moments is a science,” says Ringler. “There’s a lot of listening and data that should be collected first.” Tenants may not make formal complaints about problems they’re experiencing, but you probably don’t have to dig too deep to figure out what needs to change.

For example, are guests coming to see tenants, but having problems finding a public restroom or the right elevator bank? If so, they’re most likely voicing their frustrations to the receptionist when they finally arrive on the correct floor. Comments can cause tenants to question why they’re choosing to lease space in a certain building. Don’t plan a modernization project without talking to tenants at all levels to find out what they’re hearing and experiencing. Otherwise, you may miss an opportunity to fix a financially damaging situation.

Another philosophy to keep in mind during modernization: “People don’t often raise their heads and actually look up,” Ringler points out. “Keep your dollars to use in areas where there’s a line of sight or things you literally touch and interact with.” This includes things on the main floor, in hallways, and the landscape and hardscape around the building exterior. It can even apply to small, seemingly unimportant details like door handles and entrances.


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