A Non-Traditional Way to Dump Your Traditional Office Space and Move into the 21st Century
July 28, 2019 I A. Bruce Crawley
For about 15 years, our firm maintained offices on the 31st floor of a Class A, 41-story office tower. It was a traditional Center City Philadelphia office space, west of City Hall, on Market Street. Did I mention “Class A?” Did you notice my use of the word “traditional?”
Over the past few years, we began to realize, more and more, that a prestigious office space was no longer a requirement for effective employee recruitment or client relations, and we grew increasingly restless for more suitable “housing” for M3M.
We were a communications/advertising/digital marketing firm, but our stodgy, high-rise office space looked and felt more like a law firm than a creative space. The cultural impacts of the $47 billion co-working giant, WeWork; the growing influx of millennial employees; digitalized communications; more frequent use of videoconferencing; remote workforce members; and, even, more relaxed office wear, were all conspiring to let us know that, for firms such as ours, it was time to move on.
Like everything else in the 21st century, office space demand, also, is being disrupted, and it made sense for us, for a whole bunch of reasons, to be a part of the transition. And so the journey began.
About a year-and-a-half ago, we posted an M3M blog, describing our first tentative step to pull ourselves away from high-rise office space to whatever now made more sense. We landed, first, at a residential “condo” complex at 8th and Market Street, a still-pioneering area of Center City Philadelphia, targeted for future development. Did I mention “future?” How about “pioneering?” Something told us to take a one-year lease...and we did.
As a team, we knew the new landlord’s faux-industrial office design, and simulated brick walls, were a step closer to the WeWork-style, open-space concept we had been seeking but, in our desire to quickly move “east of City Hall,” we, somehow, had shamefully “settled.”
Once in that space, we realized that we had rushed to move into a convenient, but uncomfortably small, “fake” office...not good for client relations or team morale. Even as we took possession, we knew that those offices would never be our long-term solution.
At about the three-month point in the lease term, I happened to be invited to a public meeting on the critically important topic of Philadelphia’s gentrification challenges. It was being held at the old Electric Factory building, at 7th and Callowhill Streets, just north of Center City. The event was being convened by a planning group including Tayyib Smith, a prolific young entrepreneur whose parents raised him in my old North Central Philadelphia neighborhood, in the Richard Allen Homes.
Tayyib’s father, and my good friend, Billy Smith, had told me that quite a few private-sector, community and political leaders would be in attendance. Indeed, another friend, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, was scheduled to serve on one of the panels. It would be an important discussion, Billy said, and showing up might even be good for business.
I was hooked, and left work early to arrive for the start time of the presentation.
I’m sure the discussion was timely and stimulating, but I missed much of it, as I was immediately struck by the authentic look and feel of a complex that had actually been, at one time, a working electric factory. After a few minutes, I got up to wander through the layout and facilities in the building...large columns, extremely high ceilings, authentic plank hardwood floors, real exposed brick walls.
Returning to our 8th Street offices, the next day, I announced to the team that I had found our new office space and that, one way or the other, we would soon be moving to 421 N. 7th St, the old Electric Factory complex, now owned and managed by a group called Arts and Crafts Holdings.
Our administrative director commenced and led a lengthy, sometimes tedious, lease negotiation process with Arts and Crafts. The lease we eventually signed, for space on the old factory’s sixth floor, stipulated a custom fit-out of our proposed offices, with all the “bells and whistles” we had been seeking.
Our team members, who had been invited to weigh in heavily through every step of the process, love the new space, its creative “vibe” and its mix of like-minded tenants. It felt, finally, like “home” and we signed a five-year lease.
It was a somewhat circuitous journey, one we wouldn’t have expected to take, but we arrived successfully at our destination.
Sometimes a non-traditional approach is good.
We recommend it.
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A. Bruce Crawley is president, CEO and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc. (M3M). Read More...