By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange
The trend toward active, open and collaborative spaces in modern office development has firmly taken hold, and it’s not just a Millennial thing.
As part of its renovations at the iconic 18-story Monroe Building, 111 W. Monroe St., Phoenix, Rialto Capital chose an innovative open plan for the building lobby with a modern design that eschews nearly everything traditionally associated with “office” planning.
The lobby features a hip arrangement with amenities targeting the up and coming downtown experience, such as a wired community table, 24-7 news feed, water features and wi-fi. The terrazzo floor has been restored and the interior walls resurfaced. Retail ground floor space is fully leased and includes a coffee shop, wine store, pizzeria and a fitness studio that is set to open in January.
Two suites on the sixth floor were initially created at risk as “Creative Suites”. They were leased before construction even began. A third suite was added, and Rialto is creating two more for a total of five.
Site amenities include a garage valet service with pay by text, on-site property management, 24-7 security, high speed internet and shared conference facilities.
Rialto Vice President Matt Avrhami is proud of the renovation and sees the approach undertaken at the Monroe Building as a coming standard.
“We’ve seen a change where the office finishings and design has shifted from something more traditional where you would have a receptionist desk, offices and cubicles to where tenants are saying they don’t want that,” said Avrhami. “They want to be able to walk in and see everybody. You’ll see aspects where teams are starting to sit together at community tables with no cubicles or assigned seating at all.”
The structural design is accompanied by more invigorating aesthetics.
“You’re seeing brighter colors and more raw and varied textures,” Avrhami said. “You’re seeing things that promote a greater feeling of a more creative space. This isn’t as much a ‘Millennial’ niche as it is the direction that a large concentration of office users seem to be going.”
Avrhami attributes the change not so much to the influx of younger workers as to the advance of technologies that promote and encourage mobility.
“Hyper-connected Millennials get all the press, but we see these changes carrying all the way through Gen X,” he said. “There are lot of dynamics that play into that, and one of the most interesting to me is the advance of technology. Before, there were a lot of aspects to workers’ roles that have been supplanted by technology that is integrating and streamlining systems for knowledge-based and creative jobs. We’ve shifted into a world where the computers do the production. The fact is that we’re no longer anchored to our equipment and our desks. We no longer have a desktop computer that we have to be sitting in front of that makes the desk and the cubicle necessary and even desirable. Now, it’s more about the skills you can use anywhere as a worker that is a primary driver, and space design trends reflect that.”
He added, “This is still a strongly growing segment, and it’s not just technology companies. If we look at the national trends it does seem that all types of businesses are seeing this trend influence their space needs. For example, we’re seeing law firms that in today’s changing team environment are calling for more collaborative, open work space. The old work environment is nothing like what you see today. Space planners, CFOs, CEOs and even HR departments are directing real estate decisions, and the way people work is increasingly different. People are increasingly more collaborative.”
Branching into more open and collaborative design, with more amenities and features catering to employees’ lifestyles, makes time spent at work more creative and enjoyable. “Our hours at work are increasing and wages aren’t seeing major growth, so how do you compete for talent in that dynamic? It’s really about creating a space that people are excited to be in and being located in amenity-rich, walkable locations,” Avrhami said.
He sees Rialto’s approach as a great fit for the ongoing growth and changing dynamics of the downtown Phoenix area.
“There are things to do when you’re done with work and interesting places to live [in downtown Phoenix] that cater to all your needs. We’ve made a lot of changes, and we’re going to see a lot more in the next few years. There’s a lot of housing in the pipeline for downtown, and as you add people you’re going to see a lot of growth in work spaces,” he said.
Ongoing renovations at the Monroe Building will be executed on a per project basis to fit prospective tenants’ needs. The building is owned and under development as a partnership between Rialto and Ironline Partners. Architects and general contractors will be selected as needed for specific tenant customization needs going forward. More than 30 percent of the building’s approximately 255,500SF is available for lease and renovation. Colliers International is the leasing agent.