Part 3 of Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building

Chicago, IL | May 11, 2021

Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building

Before the pandemic, a building's overall amenities had become increasingly important as employers looked for more incentives to lure and retain employees. As we transition out of the coronavirus pandemic, this trend is intensifying. At MBRE, we have general managers who help run some of the city's largest (and coolest) office building assets. They've seen trends shift and change in recent decades, have helmed major renovations and buildouts related to tenant amenities, and have a keen understanding of what businesses are now seeking in an office environment. To get a better idea of the current state of the office atmosphere, we spoke to our four award-winning general managers.

Since employers choose not to have all of their desired niceties inside their space—like a gym, huge lounge, and conference facility—they're willing to pay a premium for buildings that have these amenities available for use. A building needs to strive to create a living, breathing community. Establishing experiences outside of the rented space is critical. - Michael GrahamBelow, you'll find the combined wisdom of 1 North Dearborn General Manager Michael Graham, 1 North LaSalle General Manager Courtney Hamm, former Richard J. Daley Center (Daley Center) General Manager Andre Wiggins—who is now MBRE's Senior Vice President of Asset Management—and 181 West Madison General Manager Krystal Kurinsky. All four of these talented general managers have won BOMA/Chicago's "Gold Circle Award" in the "Property Management Professional of the Year" category. Additionally, we spoke to Managing Director of Asset Management Suzanne Hendrick

Michael is well aware of the ways in which asset management has evolved over the years.

"It used to be that tenants just rented a certain amount of square footage, and that was their space—the building's common areas merely being pass-through space. But now the experience throughout the building has become just as important for tenant employees," Michael said. "Since employers choose not to have all of their desired niceties inside their space—like a gym, huge lounge, and conference facility—they're willing to pay a premium for buildings that have these amenities available for use. A building needs to strive to create a living, breathing community. Establishing experiences outside of the rented space is critical."

It goes beyond nice lobbies. 1 North Dearborn has seen major interest in its rooftop garden and beehives. At 181 West Madison, Krystal looks forward to a return to some of the bigger events her team at 181 West Madison hosted before the pandemic, like ping pong tournaments and the building's March Madness Free Throw Competition in the lobby.

"We need to create an environment in our buildings that is engaging, collaborative, experiential, and impactful to our occupants," Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Asset Management Suzanne Hendrick emphasized.

At the Daley Center, Andre had more than tenants' needs and desires to address. As a public asset, the Daley Center also has to reflect Chicago's communities, which is accomplished through events in the famed Daley Plaza. The Richard J. Daley Center hosts over 200 exterior plaza events annually. Event organizers include non-profit organizations, local municipalities, cultural groups, commercial groups, and private sector organizations. Well-known events include free lunchtime music performances, Chicago's longest-running weekly farmers market, and a weekly food truck festival. There's also Chicago's favorite holiday tradition: the annual Christkindlmarket.

"The management team works closely with the City and Department of Cultural Affairs to ensure the events are run smoothly and safely," Andre said. "The nature of plaza events is directed by other Chicago departments. All forms of events are welcome at the Daley Center."

Whether you're talking about tenant amenities at 1 North Dearborn or 1 North LaSalle, tenant events at 181 West Madison, or lively public events in Daley Plaza, you still must consider the cost of creating an atmosphere. But how do you convince office building owners that robust amenities are worth it?

"Tenant amenity centers with the latest technology are especially important as meetings are held with employees both in person and virtually. Ownership's investment in 181 West Madison's new conference center and tenant lounge, 'Balance 18,' has really paid off,” Krystal said. “Returning tenants are thrilled to have a variety of workspace options as well as a comfortable and inviting place to take a break for coffee or lunch."

Of course, as Courtney points out, "To get ownership to buy in, it helps to be cost-effective or cost-neutral. These amenities have to help them get those leases inked. You have to make your building more attractive than your competition."

Looking at the updated amenities at the buildings in our portfolio, we can say with confidence that making a tenant feel like their office is their “work home” does in fact get leases inked.


This piece is part of our series, "Award-Winning GMs: The Path to Running a Successful Office Building." Click the links below to view the other articles:

Follow us on social media to see our other commercial real estate reports and articles.