In the commercial real estate and planning domains, vibrancy is a term often applied to street life but rarely to office lobbies. Particularly in suburban settings, Class A office building lobbies tend to be grand and polished but also quiet and sometimes intimidating.
While thinking about how to attract tenants with more and more millennial employees to its buildings, Dallas-based Granite Properties recently reconceptualized the lobby of a new office building by turning it into a useable common area. The concept and design were heavily influenced by the vibrancy of today’s hotel lobbies, according to Greg Fuller, Granite’s chief operating officer.
Recognizing that mobile technology now enables people to work from virtually any location, and that many office employees like to experience a change of environment while remaining connected to work, Granite devised a lobby for Granite Park Four that includes a host of amenities in one accessible location. Fuller refers to this lobby as “the corporate living room.”
According to Fuller, Granite’s goal was “to create multiple venues for multiple people and multiple uses.” The entire lobby is served by Wi-Fi and features electrical outlets throughout to enable tenants to recharge their devices and remain connected. The result is “hotel lobby meets office building,” Fuller added. The activated lobby is just one element that is helping to transform Granite Park, an otherwise traditional suburban office park in Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas, into a denser, more urban-style office environment. When complete, the park will have over 2 million square feet of built space on 65 acres.
Floor-to-ceiling windows offer natural light and attractive views; Granite Park Five will feature a folding glass wall that can be opened to the outdoors on pleasant days.
Rather than situate food and fitness facilities in the least desirable part of the building in order to preserve leasable space, Granite placed these often hard-to-find amenities front and center on the lobby level. The company has integrated these offerings with additional amenities, including a coffee bar, a conference center, a preconference area (where less disruptive food service can be provided), comfortable seating areas, and a tech bar equipped with computers. The lobby food service provider serves individuals in both the conference center and the common area.
The lobby takes up the majority of the first floor of the 306,200-square-foot building, with a floor plate of roughly 26,400 square feet. The conference and fitness centers each take up about 3,500 square feet and the cafe sits on 1,100 square feet. The remainder of the lobby not dedicated to the core (elevators, restrooms, etc.) features couches and comfortable chairs arranged in multiple seating groups, dining-height tables and chairs for a typical dining experience, cocktail tables for a more ”bar-like” experience and a long dining or “social” table for large groups or random gatherings.
Granite Park Four opened in June 2014. Lobby usage peaks during breakfast, lunch and dinner hours, as expected, “but at other times of the day, we are finding that impromptu meetings are occurring there,” said Fuller. He added that configuring the lobby this way “was a bit of an experiment,” but does not consider it a bold departure.
A preconference area just outside the conference center can be used for meals or more casual gatherings.
The cost of providing a nicer fitness center and conference facility on the lobby level added roughly $3 per square foot to the cost of the building. Granite currently achieves rents that are $2 per square foot higher than pro forma rents, and the building has leased up faster than its competitors. But Fuller noted that this performance “can’t be attributed exclusively to the lobby design, because other factors, such as a great location, a new Hilton hotel across the street, and a strong economy” also factor into the building’s appeal. Tenants are not charged fees to use the fitness center, conference facilities or other common areas.
Retrofitting a building to accommodate this type of lobby space is not impossible, Fuller added, but it is easier to create in a new building. Granite has broken ground on its next office building at the park, Granite Park Five, whose lobby will mirror that of Granite Park Four and will include additional elements, such as a folding glass NanaWall that can be opened to the outdoors, enabling users to enjoy the weather on nice days. Even when closed, the glass wall will bring the outside in, encouraging tenants to use the lobby for parties and other office engagements after hours. This constant activity will help create the sense of vibrancy and life that Granite is working to achieve for its tenants.