Set to begin immediately and completed by September 30, 2021, the grant will facilitate early design assistance supporting the analysis of embodied carbon for Building Number 2 on Parcel 17 at Saint Elizabeths. Embodied carbon will be tracked and priced in three structural systems and building envelope details, thereby providing Redbrick LMD with sufficient data to minimize embodied carbon in the project at hand. Long-term, these insights will offer members in the local development community a model for assessing embodied carbon in their own projects. The ultimate goal is to establish a broader framework for future building valuation, including the development of carbon neutrality resources, policies, and code.
“We’re honored to be the recipients of this grant and to have the support of the DOEE once again. It’s a privilege to be selected to contribute our research and insights towards achieving DC’s progressive climate goals,” said Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. “We’re especially thankful for forward-focused partners like Redbrick who are committed to promoting sustainable development and pursuing decarbonization strategies to secure a bright future for this historic campus.”
The project team includes structural engineers from Arup and high-performance construction experts from DPR. Arup will take the lead on documenting the structure with low embodied carbon concrete and cross-laminated timber; Hickok Cole will generate building façade details with similar criteria. Data will be managed using modeling software, One Click LCA. Following this study, DPR will conduct a cost comparison of the three structural assemblies. Final project deliverables include a report summarizing the activities undertaken in pursuit of reducing embodied carbon, a copy of the Life Cycle Analysis, and standard information contribution towards an official case study.
The announcement comes following Holly Lennihan’s appointment to the Advisory Board at the DC Building Innovation Hub, where she will act as one of the primary high-performance design experts. Under her leadership, Holly and her team have won a series of state and federal grants focused on sustainability, resilience, and urban ecological systems including a $20,000 grant to explore net-zero energy potential for 800 9th Street in July of last year.
About Hickok Cole Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. We’ve called DC home for more than 30 years and are proud to have designed some of the area’s leading sustainable projects, including the American Geophysical Union’s net zero energy renovation and 80 M Street SE, the first mass timber commercial renovation in the District.
Much like the rest of the world, the coworking industry had a tumultuous 2020. Coming off the heels of WeWork’s collapse in 2019, it entered straight into a pandemic that didn’t exactly welcome strangers working in close quarters. But, over a year later, with vaccine rollouts moving at warp speed, coworking’s future is bright once again. The pillars that make up the original model – community, flexibility, and convenience – are exactly what the workforce is seeking in their return to the physical. In fact, according to CBRE, 82% of companies will favor buildings that offer flexible office space and shared meeting space, especially as they test out long-term hybrid work policies.
That’s not to say coworking won’t look different upon our return. The original model provided tenants a standard set of amenities designed to appeal to a wide audience, a catch-all strategy that didn’t consider industries requiring more tailored solutions. This next generation addresses what the modern workforce craved throughout the pandemic and accelerates the trends driving coworking well before: hyper-niche, hyper-curated spaces that attract and cater to targeted tenant types.
Communities seeing some of the most exciting new offerings are smaller markets like Richmond responding to the ongoing influx of mobile workers and creative talent migrating out of major cities. Our local team of coworking experts – Studio Director, Jessica Zullo, NCIDQ, IIDA, Senior Designer, Patrick Gegen, and Interior Designer, Jordan Camp, IIDA – share some of the trends and providers helping shape the post-pandemic flexible office landscape in RVA.
The Home Grown Hero
Beyond serving as office space, coworking is leaning hard into its ability to foster a sense of belonging within communities, seeking to expand opportunities for member bonding outside of the 9-5 window – especially for those new to the area. Convenience, inspirational design, and dynamic programming that serve member interests are key. At Gather, the Richmond-based coworking platform, each location pays homage to the city with design details specific to the individual neighborhood and its history. Programming caters to their membership of start-ups and entrepreneurs while engaging with the community through cross-promotion of local brands or Richmond-based services. Some examples include headshots by a local photographer or pop-up gallery events that feature local artists and provide a unique venue for members to meet with clients.
Following a year (or what feels like decades) in near isolation, many are anxious to make up for lost time. Richmond’s Common House, a local gathering and social hub, offers a coworking model emphasizing exclusivity on top of convenience and shared interests. Their members-only cultural experiences are designed for entertainment – spa and fitness services, wine tastings, live music, fine dining – all offered under one roof. These curated environments act as third places for both business and social pursuits, injecting creativity and lifestyle into the work experience to expose clients and colleagues to an additional layer of brand identity, status, and personality.
The Test Kitchen
Though essential to a typical coworking environment, the standard combo of open office, private huddle rooms, and shared conference amenities overlook the needs of entire industries – industries whose membership would benefit from specialty tools, technology, and spaces they don’t bear the brunt to finance and maintain. One of our favorite new examples is food hall, Hatch Local at The Current, a Richmond-based residency program catering to a rotation of food and beverage startups under one roof. Off the heels of a pandemic that made the restaurant industry particularly vulnerable, this coworking concept allows up-and-coming chefs and entrepreneurs to conduct market research and gather intel from consumers in a high-traffic area before committing to a retail front of their own. Members also have access to a commercial kitchen, office, and storage space as well as mentorship and advisory opportunities.
Beyond physical resources, the networking and mentorship opportunities available in a coworking environment grow ten-fold when offered among like-minded professionals. At the Collaboratory of Virginia (CVA), nonprofit organizations work alongside each other in a neutral shared space designed to facilitate innovation and collaboration among members and prioritize efficient use of networks and resources. In addition to receiving consultation or mentorship, members benefit from the exchange of information and experiences of others within a shared community which helps build stronger platforms by uniting support around similar causes.
Remote work has granted us an unprecedented level of flexibility – in our schedules, our furniture, and just about every inch of our lives. Untethered to our desks, we can work from anywhere, in our beds or at the beach. Even as we return to the physical workplace, that level of independence remains of paramount importance and some professionals will maintain the transient habits they’ve grown accustomed to. To accommodate those workers, we anticipate a greater need for coworking locations that offer daily or even hourly rates for drop-in guests.
On-demand services like LiquidSpace, connect professionals directly with a temporary desk or office space in the city of their choosing, including our fan favorite, Gather. This agile model serves mobile professionals with tasks that require focus like participating in an interview or when they need specific tools like photocopiers. Even workers who do have a designated office space may look for a third-space or touch-down location for off-site collaboration or retreats. Finally, short-term rentals allow coworking brands to capture unleashed space while exposing them to a new set of clientele, ones that could easily convert to long-term members down the line. Because now we know that so long as there’s Wi-Fi, nothing can stand in our way.
Just last month, over 1,300 tons of mass timber arrived on site at 80 M Street in Washington, DC’s Capitol Riverfront district. Having completed its journey from the forests of the Pacific Northwest and Eastern Canada, the timber was hoisted atop the commercial office building and, over the course of a few short months, will result in 105,000-SF of additional leasable tenant and amenity space. The 80 M Street renovation, the District of Columbia’s first mass timber and glass vertical expansion project, is a triumph for a number of reasons, the most crucial of which is its signaling to the real estate industry the possibility for further development of its kind.
The culmination of extensive research and a lengthy entitlement process including the approval for code modifications and community review, 80 M Street came to fruition under the guidance of a client with vision and the collaboration of an invested project team who saw the sustainable material’s long-term potential. And the potential is endless, insists the senior designer behind 80 M Street, Tom Corrado, LEED AP, who, in partnership with John Lang, AIA, a senior associate at Hickok Cole, has been exploring the next opportunity for mass timber development in DC.
“We’re at a point where every conversation we have with a client begins with mass timber,” Tom stated. Having witnessed the rise in remote workers this past year, and well aware of the housing crisis in the District, Tom and John venture that timber could reconcile these issues.
“Residential construction is primed for timber, especially when you need housing fast,” comments John. Having specialized in residential design throughout his tenure at Hickok Cole, John is an advocate for affordable and attainable housing and sees it as timber’s next step. “The module for housing is smaller than office and timber construction excels on shorter structural systems. Better still, mass timber comes in pre-fabricated panels that speed up construction and reduce the amount of labor on-site. Consequently, that usually means improved quality control.” With labor costs skyrocketing and skilled labor dwindling, this could ultimately help drive down or at least steady rent prices, he pointed out.
“Not to mention the biophilic element and connection to nature these residences would provide,” adds Tom. “Humans are not meant to live in these 600-SF boxes. We need access to greenery and sunlight. And just being surrounded by wood accomplishes that – it’s definitely better for you than concrete and dry wall.”
With the increased attention to health and wellness due to the pandemic, John explains, it’s obvious that the housing industry will require a shift as well. “That includes everything from better HVAC systems and ventilation to availability of outdoor amenities and remote work accommodations. But, we’ve also seen how drastically our presence impacts the planet. With nowhere to go this past year, the roads were clearer and so were the skies – we can’t ignore that.”
It’s true that our definition of a healthy lifestyle has expanded to include a focus on climate change and reducing our carbon footprint – and that of buildings. It’s especially true when you consider that the construction and building industry accounts for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions annually. Not only is wood the only building material that is 100% renewable but as they grow, forests actually sequester nearly 13% of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions per year. As a result, buildings made from wood store that carbon throughout their lifespans.
The case for timber is clear and has been made countless times. So, if it seems so obvious, then why has it been so challenging convincing developers and building owners to pursue mass timber construction? As is usual with the early stages of any new technology, the biggest hurdles are cost and the associated risks (including a decent learning curve in this case) with being the first. But, as Tom points out, we’re not the first. We’re not even close – at least not globally. In fact, most of Europe and Canada, and even parts of Asia, including China despite its robust steel economy, have been investing in the material for some time now. In West Coast states like California and Washington, where timber is easily accessible and often cheaper, experimenting with timber in a variety of project types including schools, hotels, and even entertainment venues began almost a decade ago.
“We’re looking into medical office buildings as well,” Tom added. “There’s been a shift in the medical community away from single practitioners occupying a portion of a larger building towards several providing care under one roof. We predict folks will be going to a single location for all their health and wellness needs in the future so why not create a better environment and improve the user experience holistically?” Mass timber can improve air quality and acoustics, and has been proven to elicit a positive human response from occupants.
Now that timber has made it to the nation’s capital, the question remains: how can we propel the timber movement forward? Cutting down costs is one way – but that comes with increased supply. One of the biggest factors contributing to the premium on wood is limited resources on the East Coast. “We need to make the case for forests on this side of the country. Areas in the northeast like Maine and Vermont are well suited for it,” says John.
The next step is understanding the International Building Code and navigating jurisdictional zoning laws and safety regulations. “Form your project team early on, involve local representatives and jurisdictions right away, and educate the community,” Tom suggests. “Every project is different, but it only takes a few early adopters to remove uncertainty from the equation.” From there, he says, the knowledge is public, and you now have a pool of experts who can take the lead on the entitlement process or negotiating code modifications, as needed.
“It’s true that sustainability alone isn’t enough of a motive for development to occur, especially if the dollars don’t lean in your favor,” says John. “And developers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of these costs. That’s why it’s crucial to have an open dialogue with your jurisdiction.” Putting your cards on the table and seeing how your goals align can prompt the introduction of sustainable incentive programs, tax credits, grants, and other forms of government support.
“The results are in on timber. We should no longer be concerned with early adoption,” Tom contended. “In fact, our biggest risk is being last to get on board.”
Want to explore mass timber for your next project? Contact Laura Roth, Director of Business Development, to schedule a conversation with the team.
From visioning with clients and designers to coordinating with fabricators and artists, Rebecca Kelly, Art Director for Hickok Cole Creative, and our resident Experiential Graphic Design (EGD) expert, orchestrates a team of creatives to bring delightful, educational, and emotionally compelling content to every project. Today, Rebecca shares her insights on the value of thoughtful EGD strategies and why right now is an excellent time to reevaluate how brand is expressed throughout your space.
Understanding Experiential Graphic Design
Simply put, Experiential Graphic Design is the intersection of graphic design and the built environment. By communicating through a variety of static and digital graphics and content solutions including signage, wayfinding systems, and artwork, EGD brings environments to life with engaging and memorable experiences.
Whether it’s through a welcoming reception experience, interactive exhibits, or a colorful mural, the main driver behind EGD is to improve day-to-day experiences for the end-user. In a corporate environment, EGD contributes to overall satisfaction and improves retention by reminding employees of their value and the many ways they contribute to their organization’s overall mission and culture.
As employers look towards a return to the physical office, Rebecca recommends they reflect on their evolution over the past year working remotely and whether the incorporation of EGD strategies could make the transition back more comfortable for their team. “Think: How has this time away changed our culture and what can we do to re-unify and motivate employees?” she suggests. “This is an opportunity to generate excitement and give them something to look forward to. Something that makes them proud when they step back into the workplace environment. Being back will feel like a luxury.” She adds that it’s okay to start small like, “procuring new art that supports your company culture or prominently displaying your mission statement in a high-traffic area.” However subtle, what’s important is that these visual cues connect to the brand and evoke a sense of place and community.
Likewise, EGD can help distinguish multi-family properties. A branded lobby is an expression of the residence and provides a glimpse at a potential lifestyle. “There’s definitely a cool-factor associated with certain design concepts,” Rebecca adds. “You’re signifying a brand and creating a place that resonates so that by the third or fourth apartment tour, prospective residents can easily recall the details that made your property special.”
Going Beyond Signage
A common misconception is that EGD focuses solely on graphics and signage but it’s really the whole experiential package and can extend to the subtlest of details. Often, the EGD team seeks elements from the interior design they can respond to in their marketing materials and collateral. Sourcing inspiration from the texture and materiality of a design concept and re-interpreting them for graphic assets creates another touch point that reinforces or complements the brand.
In some instances, uncommon materials can be woven into experiential design. Patterns, tactile elements, and origin all have a story to tell. Rebecca recalls working with a GSA client to source fabrics from the various countries that they serve as a way to layer authenticity into the project. These colorful textiles became featured elements in an exhibit design, creating an emotional connection for teams to their shared purpose. Other examples of expressing your brand include using sustainably sourced, recycled, or local materials. “These small details combine to tell a cohesive story and a tangible articulation of your brand. It’s about practicing what you preach,” she adds.
While EGD is an effective storytelling tool, sometimes it’s a matter of bringing beauty into a space, making it a cooler and more enjoyable experience. A parking garage is the perfect blank slate and often-missed opportunity to bring a brand to life. To complement the multifamily marketing package for Kingston McLean Crossing, hand-painted botanical murals were located at each level for wayfinding and improved resident experience.
A Cohesive Story: From Start to Finish
For maximum impact, plan to engage a creative team early in the design process. “When we work together with the design teams early on, we’re able to weave storytelling opportunities into the design in a more integral way,” explains Rebecca. “Each decision informs another and through collaboration, we’re able to trigger creative innovation and expose opportunities to strengthen the entire experience.”
Each touch point serves a purpose. Throughout the design process, think about the end-user and envision their perception of the environment. Consider how they might interact with it and how each touchpoint might make them feel. The most effective EGD projects are human-centric. Whether attracting a future resident, communicating with an employee, or welcoming a guest, EGD serves to immerse people in an engaging and custom environment designed to educate, orient, inspire, and entertain.
The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.
Our final Art Month panel, Art + Progress, examined how a renewed focus on social equity and justice in the arts is impacting creative communities in our region. Host Peter Nesbett, Executive Director at Washington Project for the Arts was joined by Cara Ober, Founding Editor at BeMore Art, Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art, and Charles Jean-Pierre, a Washington, DC-based artist.
If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art + Progress.
Our definition of progress is changing
“Today, progress is increasingly about issues of inclusion, accessibility, social equity, and justice,” says Peter Nesbett, Executive Director and Keeper of Imaginative Futures at Washington Project for the Arts,“which puts the attention on the context of art, and the biography and experience of the artist, as much as on the object.” Technology and social media have increased access to the artist themselves, carrying the artist’s voice and the messages behind their work further and than ever before. A recent example of this phenomenon is the reach and impact of the street mural at Black Lives Matter Plaza here in DC. Sandy Bellamy, Director of the General Services Administration’s Percent for Art program touched on the project’s virality, noting “it inspired people to emulate that particular work of art and express its simple yet complicated notion that Black lives matter.”
Artwork, within the context of current events, politics, and today’s human rights issues, helps to tell a more holistic story by increasing exposure to a diverse set of voices and experiences. So as these experiences influence the artist, so does it influence their work, making it impossible to appreciate art without appreciating what’s happening in the world around us. “I’m finally at an age where I can recognize patterns in my work,” commented Charles Jean-Pierre, AKA JP, a DC-based artist. “And I feel like we’re in the same position as we were four years ago, heading into the 2016 news cycle. I feel like our Black bodies are politicized. But I think globally, darker people have been suffering and it’s not just an American problem. People are dying everywhere at the hands of people that look like them so I think this climate is based on racism but also on power dynamics. And that’s where I use my works to try to understand.” Today’s definition of progress calls on everyone to share in the burden because of how frequently we witness it’s presence – or lack thereof.
The message behind art can withstand the test of time
Governments have long commissioned artwork to reflect the ideals of the people in power. Sandy makes the argument that because of the lifespan of most public art, it’s important to commission culturally diverse artists and promote culturally diverse perspectives within our society. “When you look at neoclassical architecture and artwork in DC, there’s a lot of white men on horses, very few women and even fewer works commissioned by artists of color,” she adds. “But that doesn’t reflect who we are as a people today.”
This is an opportunity for artists to break through the noise of divisiveness and realize the true definition of America. “Artists have always had the ability to speak directly to the soul and that will reveal the truth and the underlying humanity that we all have,” she says. “The more perspectives we have and the more artists of color at the table, the faster our journey towards embodying the true sense of freedom and democracy will be.”
Cara Ober, Editor at BeMore Art agreed, adding “By their nature, artists are comfortable saying things others are not capable of and they’re able to do it in a way that resonates.” She shares that the magazine’s community based and community accountable approach to local art has lent more people a voice when they want to express themselves while highlighting diverse talents and raising their profiles.
How to create more equity within the art world
Working as an artist in a region with no shortage of established museums is an incredible privilege and undoubtedly provides inspiration to many. But Peter notes that they’re also seen as a point of contention in that they “embody the structural biases of the nation that gave birth to them.” “Museums have the most power of any entity in the art world,” Cara explains. “They have the power to legitimize careers. They have the money and the resources to invest in them and therefore it’s the job of museums to provide context and education and explain to people what they are seeing.” She pointed to declining attendance and membership as proof that these institutions are losing sight of their audience and the types of works today’s museum-goers hope to see.
The hierarchy of decision-makers in the art world, including museums, elite galleries, and private curators, can create a barrier for contemporary artists seeking to broaden their reach. One solution to create a more democratic landscape is by expanding our approach to public art programs to increase representation and participation. “I’m currently working on a project with the Haitian Embassy where we’re commissioning Haitian artists to come to DC to create a public art installation,” JP shared. “I operate from a global perspective and from a place of privilege as an artist with an American passport. When I’m abroad, I’m constantly told how lucky I am to be an American so I leverage my privilege and access to help more people to create.”
Sandy adds that she’s working on a project that enlists the community’s perspective to make sure the work that’s installed reflects their lives and individual experiences. “I see it as a pragmatic decision. It’s important to meet people where they are instead of just plopping a work of art in their community selected by people who are not members of that community,” she explains. “Each property we commission art for has its own group of stakeholders made up of teachers, principals, architects, members of the ANC’s, and even high-schoolers. They select artists from a very diverse database of every demographic you could think of. And to me, they are perfectly capable of selecting outstanding works of art for their own community enjoyment.”
The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond Hickok Cole’s doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world – from curators and artists to developers and more – with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.
Our second Art Month panel, Buying Art: Demystified, focused on making the art buying process more approachable for novel collectors. From assessing quality and determining your style to spotting up-and-coming artists, DC creatives and art experts shared insight on building your collection while reflecting on the value of art beyond the physical object. Host Laura Ewan, Marketing and Communications Director at Hickok Cole was joined by Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting, Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us, Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers, and Regan Billingsley, Founder of Regan Billingsley Interiors.
If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art Buying, Demystified.
Understand what value means to you
Like with most big purchases, you have to do your research before pulling the trigger. Whether through Instagram or by visiting galleries, increased exposure to a wide variety of art is the best way to identify what style and mediums you’re most attracted to–and what you’re willing to spend.
“For some of my more novel collectors, the decision making factor is definitely budget driven,” says Schwanda Rountree, Founder of Rountree Art Consulting. “But, as a consultant, my primary role is to educate the client on what it is they’re purchasing, especially when justifying a larger price tag.” Apart from aesthetic, Schwanda says one thing to consider is sustainability. “It’s important for me to know that this artist is dedicated to their craft and their success isn’t fleeting,” she reflects, adding that if artists have shown in institutions, museums, or certain private collections, that up-ticks the value of their work.
Angie Shah, Director of Marketing at Shah & Shah Jewelers approaches her art collecting with a long-term perspective. “The longevity factor is important to me,” she shares. “I ask myself, is this going to continue to inspire me and challenge me? Can I live with this for the rest of my life?” She advises that new collectors look for artists with a distinct point of view and one that matches their own. “Every piece should be a reflection of someone’s taste, likes, and how they live.”
The bottom line is art buying is a personal process and ultimately we determine the value of having art in our homes. “We all have limited budgets but I chose to put my disposable income towards buying art,” says Philippa Hughes, Founder of Curiosity Connects Us. “You have to decide for yourself, How much of a priority are you going to put on this in your life? How much is it worth to you outside of the monetary value?”
Investing in art goes beyond the physical object
Buying a piece of art is an investment. But you’re not just investing in your happiness or the decor in your home. Your purchase has a direct impact and is a reflection of your values. “It’s bigger than just buying something. I’m an advocate for artists and believe in supporting their livelihood,” says Schwanda. “I have a pretty diverse collection in terms of medium but the common thread throughout is that all the works are made by Black artists and that’s important for me because Black artists are underrepresented in the collecting realm as well as in institutions.”
When you purchase a work of art, you’re investing in that artist, their profession, and the community they’re a part of. “Maybe your investment actually helped pay their rent that month,” Philippa says. “Even buying art at a lower level helps allow that artist to continue creating.” And while art is everywhere these days, rather than purchasing a commercial print, buying locally has an authenticity component to it as well as a higher level of transparency. “I see a lot of cultural appropriation in design and in art. When looking to add a new work to your collection, it’s important that you understand where it’s coming from and are sure the artist is being compensated appropriately,” adds Regan Billingsley, owner of Regan Billingsley Interiors.
Resist the urge to impulse-fill your white space
What comes first, the art or the interior design? According to Regan, both can be true. A piece that holds a lot of value for a client might determine how a particular space is designed. “I recently had a client who had a bunch of old charcoal drawings of New York that we transformed into panels as custom wallpaper in her elevator.” At the opposite end of the spectrum, Angie shared her husband’s recent experience. “Having moved into an office space where the walls were dark grey, he commissioned two large charcoal works of clouds specifically to contrast the office design.”
Whether or not you’re remodeling or just moving into a new space, Regan said to embrace the white space and be patient until you find something that you love to fill it. “I might sit with a dining room table without chairs for six months before I find the right fit. And that’s the same way I approach art.” She emphasized how possible it is to make an impact with just one special piece. “Back up in the space, look at your focal points and really work with that. You can have an entire room centered around just one piece if it elicits joy, especially if you’re working from home. Everything in your space should feel meaningful.”
The virtual adaptation of this year’s Art Month allowed us to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals shaping the District’s art scene and expand the dialogue around the art community beyond our doors. Through a three-part webinar series, we invited key stakeholders in the art world—from curators and artists to developers and more—with diverse backgrounds and perspectives to comment on art’s unification qualities and identify the ways in which it impacts our society on a daily basis.
Our first panel, Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate,focused on the convergence of private and public art to aid with communicating brand identity, distinguishing neighborhoods, and adding tangible value to properties and the communities that surround them. Host Sarah Barr, Principal and Director of Hickok Cole Creative was joined by Stacy Skalver, President of ArtMatters, Ryan Stewart, Senior Development Manager at Grosvenor Americas, and Robin-Eve Jasper, President of NOMA BID.
If you missed the conversation, don’t worry. You can revisit the recording, or read on for our top three takeaways from Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate.
Communicate brand identity and make a good first impression
When trying to appeal to a particular target market, art can serve as a striking differentiator. Commissioned work in particular allows you to have more influence over what goes into your space and helps create an authentic environment. Stacy Sklaver, President of ArtMatters shares that her process begins by asking clients about their vision and mission. “Art is the first thing you see when you walk into an office or lobby and it’s the last thing you see when you’re leaving, so it should speak to who you are.”
The right kind of piece can make a long-lasting impression and contribute to a unique experience for clients or visitors. Sarah Barr, Director of Hickok Cole Creative works frequently with artists on her projects. “Art can be used as a means for storytelling, especially when working on a repositioning project and trying to find ways to renew the space or make it feel different,” she says. “It’s important to think about what the experience will be like for people in the building but also how it impacts the streetscape and passersby.”
Invest in the community to ensure long-term success
A decade ago, graffiti was considered unappealing and devaluing, but in today’s urban landscape murals and even graffiti art have become ubiquitous. In fact, choose any city and a guided tour of street art is certain to be available — visibility that would be attractive to any developer. So what’s changed? For one, the convergence of private and public art in the form of lobby art galleries or entrance plaza sculptures has helped turn ordinary buildings into landmarks.
“The value of these kinds of art pieces help to place properties psychographically in the public mind. They experience a place in a way that’s emotional. Pow! Wow! DC has really come to characterize NOMA, making it known as the mural capitol of DC,” says Robin-Eve Jasper, President of NOMA BID. And that’s translated into a positive for the neighborhood and the city as a whole. “It’s impossible to value at the art piece level but generally, NOMA has contributed well over a billion dollars in fiscal revenue to the city over the past 14 years or so and if there was no identity here, I think we would have seen a much smaller effect. What’s great is that we can enable artists to really express their authentic vision while improving the connectivity and make unappealing spaces appealing.”
Start early to tell the right story (and stay within budget)
As liaison to the gallery or artist and the client, consultants assist with many of the logistics — including installation and maintenance — associated with having an art program and are equipped with the knowledge and network to do so efficiently. They are responsible for sourcing artists and curating works that accurately reflect their client’s brand while adhering to their budget. But all of that takes time. Ryan Stewart, a Senior Development Manager at Grosvenor Americas suggests getting a consultant on board as early as possible to ensure the greatest return on your investment. “The longer the lead times, the more flexibility you have to commission pieces and the easier it is to work with the interior designers to ensure the artwork complements their design and vice versa,” says Ryan.
Cost is an unfamiliar factor for many people purchasing artwork and one that usually goes underestimated. Stacy added that “too often what goes on the walls is the final consideration on a project which usually means there’s little budget left for what the client is trying to achieve.” Stacy stated that the earlier consultants get involved the better. “For many of our clients, this is the first time they’re doing something of this nature. Every medium is different and as consultants, we can advise our clients as to what things cost. We’re educators.”
The 1,500 square foot space reflects the firm’s confidence in the revitalization of downtown Broad Street and commitment to securing a successful future for Richmond.
RICHMOND, VA – November 16, 2020 – Hickok Cole announced the opening of its new Richmond studio at 20 E Broad Street in the city’s Arts District neighborhood this fall. Since launching Hickok Cole RVA in 2016, designers had been operating from the Gather coworking space in Scott’s Addition but had consistently grown in size and were in need of a new space that could support their vision for the future. The new 1,500-SF location offers greater flexibility and improved collaboration with room for a material library and display drawings as well as a wellness room and dedicated meeting space to host clients.
“Our team is deeply rooted in Richmond and passionate about the Arts District neighborhood. We’re invested in this city and wanted our new space to communicate that,” says Jessica Zullo, Associate Principal and Director of RVA Studio. “A ground floor retail setting allows us to interact with pedestrians and contribute to the neighborhood experience. We’re urban designers at heart and relish being a part of this flourishing creative community in Richmond.”
The ground-floor storefront features large windows that showcase the open studio environment inside, which includes shared tables and seating. The hospitality-inspired design features artful lighting, open shelving, and the strategic use of carpet tiles as area rugs to showcase the original wood flooring. A hospitality pantry featuring modern glazed brick tiles, concrete quartz countertops, and matte black plumbing fixtures serves as a sophisticated showroom for clients.
The team discovered the storefront while designing the adjacent Someday Shop and worked with Gareth Jones of JLL to negotiate lease terms. Arts District presented itself as the ideal location due to its proximity to galleries, Virginia Commonwealth University, and other design studios and small businesses. Construction began in April of this year and completed in September. Currently, all Hickok Cole staff are encouraged to work remotely with team members coordinating to phase schedules and following CDC guidelines should they need to be in the office for any reason.
“We’re so impressed by what the Richmond studio has been able to achieve in its four years of operation. Under Jessica’s leadership, they have truly integrated themselves into the community and developed the kinds of relationships we’ve built our DC office on,” said Mike Hickok, Senior Principal and Co-Founder of Hickok Cole. “Having recently announced plans to move our headquarters location to DC’s Union Market neighborhood, it’s fitting that our Richmond office would find itself moving to a creative community as well. The Arts District embodies our firm culture and poses an excellent opportunity to expand our long-established commitment to the arts.”
About Hickok Cole Hickok Cole is a forward-focused design practice connecting bold ideas, diverse expertise, and partners with vision to do work that matters. Informed by research and fueled by creative rigor, we look beyond today’s trends to help our clients embrace tomorrow’s opportunities. Headquartered in Washington, DC for over 30 years, Hickok Cole expanded its presence beyond the DMV area to open a Richmond Studio in 2016. After nearly five years, Hickok Cole RVA is proud to have designed some of the area’s most sophisticated interior projects including multiple Gather co-working locations, The Current, Brenner Pass, and the Wellsmith at Libbie Mill Midtown.
There’s no question we are re-evaluating the role of the office. Telework was already on the rise prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but now opinions are more conclusive. Companies are discovering remote work to be remarkably successful and sometimes even more productive. In response, discussions around offices downsizing, or decentralizing into multiple, smaller spaces have picked up speed. Some are calling into question the need for a physical office at all. Like many metropolitan areas, the DC office market has taken a hit, with vacancies reaching an all-time high of 15.2% in the second quarter. Meanwhile, supply has continued to increase with the delivery of new office buildings. As companies begin to downsize or sublet unnecessary space, it begs the question, what will we do with these empty buildings?
With a looming housing crisis and general lack of affordable housing impacting major cities across the country, an often-proposed solution is to convert older, underutilized office buildings with more modest floor plans – usually constructed in the 1950-1960s – into residential buildings. In cities like New York and Baltimore, these types of conversions are well underway, but DC had been slow to jump aboard the trend. However, since Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her goal to build 36,000 new units – 12,000 of which will be affordable – by 2025, the DC government and several local organizations, including the Downtown BID and the Golden Triangle BID, have begun to seriously explore conversions as a potential remedy to address affordable housing.
According to Gerry Widdicombe, Director of Economic Development of the Downtown DC BID, “Office vacancies are likely to continue given the current two million-plus square feet of office space under construction or renovation. In Downtown DC, our office vacancy rate is at 15.3% as of July 30, 2020. And we’re expecting it to rise to over 17% over the next 12 to 24 months.” The competition for owners to lease vacant space will be fierce in the foreseeable future, which could lower effective rents “either directly or by increasing rent concessions, tenant improvement allowances, and months of free rent,” he explained. Leona Argouridis, Executive Director of the Golden Triangle BID shared that her district is up to 17.4% vacancy as of last month. Adding that the neighborhood has 34 million square feet of office space, but less than 50 units of residential. “Given the current office rents for leased spaces, office renovation pro formas will show office net operating income per square foot to exceed residential net operating income.” But this might not hold true if rents decrease and, if they do, older office buildings will remain vacant until office demand picks up or we identify another use for them.
Laurence Caudle, Senior Principal and Director of Housing at Hickok Cole, asserts that this is an opportunity to prioritize diversifying and creating more walkable, activated neighborhoods. “Market conditions and previous zoning preferences have limited diversification in the Central Business District, creating dead zones outside of the regular 9-5 work hours, something that may be exacerbated by more people working from home in the future,” he says. “More mixed-use developments, with three-plus uses – like office, residential, and retail – would not only pave the way for more residential units and subsidized housing but create more economic opportunity and make neighborhoods more diverse and financially resilient.”
This is especially prevalent in the Central Business District and along K Street NW, a notoriously rigid area known for its abundance of office space. For decades, K Street housed some of DC’s more prominent companies but has conceded several leases in recent years to the newly developed waterfronts in addition to Northern Virginia, the city’s long-time competitor for new office tenants.
In other areas of the city, like 14th Street NW and Adams Morgan, zoning gives preferential treatment to residential buildings over offices, creating an imbalance between daytime and nighttime traffic. “These neighborhoods have a thriving nightlife, predominantly dominated by bars and restaurants because so few people are there during the day,” adds Laurence. “That’s fine, but wouldn’t it make for a more stable economic landscape if there were more offices in the area? That would ensure restaurants and other retail had patrons 24/7. Instead, activity along 14th Street dies down during work hours. That’s income lost for anyone with a storefront.”
Historically, the operating cost for offices has been less than housing operating costs so, in office-designated zones, the main way in which developers can see a greater return through a conversion is if they add more density and create additional rentable square footage. But a combination of height, and in some cases floor area ratio (FAR) restrictions in the city makes that a far more challenging task. Furthermore, some office owners have never owned residential properties or are not allowed to own them because they are office-owning real estate investment trusts or office restricted investment funds. In that case, Gerry pointed out, “There are the transaction costs of selling to a residential developer. City incentives could help cover this cost and others, including buying out a few office leases, installing plumbing for dozens of kitchens and bathrooms per floor, and possibly cutting out some density to achieve better lighting required by the residential market.”
Last year, a city-assembled task force developed the Office-to-Affordable Housing Task Force Report, identifying ideal locations according to vacancy rates, while summarizing the barriers keeping developers at an arm’s length. Until recently, the DC office market was thriving and relatively stable, making vacant buildings ripe for conversion few and far between. Though challenges remain, including a lack of financial incentive, the good news is that recent zoning changes allow a mix of uses, including residential, in downtown zones.
“A demand for activated environments has climbed to the top of many tenants’ wish lists. More and more of our projects are going outside of central DC because tenants are enticed by the energy of The Wharf and Navy Yard, neighborhoods that pretty much have it all,” says Laurence. “Now that it’s become more apparent how much time we waste in our cars, on public transportation, and commuting around the city, people value walkability more than ever – whether that be walking to work or the grocery store.”
The pandemic has accelerated behavioral trends across the board and fundamentally changed the way we live and work. DC can use this opportunity to capture underutilized space and meet market needs more efficiently by reimagining downtown areas that are remnants of old market trends and zoning regulations that discourage walkability in addition to offering incentives that make conversions more attractive to developers. These changes would create new jobs and attract new residents to DC’s core, ultimately stimulating the economy for a post-pandemic recovery. More housing, in general, would drive down prices and encourage more of the population to settle down, through a development strategy that prioritizes diversification over gentrification of existing neighborhoods. The District is – and has been – evolving. As members of the real estate and design community, let’s take advantage of available infrastructure and invest in a development program that will help DC thrive.
With the internet at our fingertips, consumers are highly aware of their purchasing power and attuned to the policies, principles, and values of the brands they support. When it comes to major social issues, consumers don’t just want companies to address them in a statement. They demand action and accountability, expecting to see radical improvement throughout the supply chain. And they’re applying this level of scrutiny to most aspects of their life: from what they eat to who they vote for.
The narrowing gap between commercial real estate (CRE) firms and the end-user suggests that our industry is no exception. While most CRE firms have adopted a value-based approach for their corporate branding strategy, according to Sarah Barr, Director of Hickok Cole Creative, “The movement towards informed consumerism requires firms to embody their mission, wholeheartedly through philanthropy, hiring practices, and partnerships.” She adds, “This is an opportunity to reflect on core values, improve processes, and embrace transparency for future growth and success.”
When done effectively, CRE businesses can build brand equity and cultivate deeper connections with their end-users, who in turn serve as brand advocates, and valuable outlets for sourcing ideas and keeping abreast of major trends. Most importantly, purpose-driven brand strategies can influence how residents select their apartment communities or how tenants select their workplace.
Comparatively, potential residents and tenants may look beyond unit and office layout, pricing, and amenities, to conduct their own research into the property development teams, construction materials, and how the building is marketed.
“Consumers want to see commitment,” says Sarah. “How are you evaluating your supply chain to ensure your building’s brand purpose and story stack up? And once the building is complete, how does it live that purpose on a day-to-day basis?”
She references NOVEL South Capitol, co-developed by Crescent Communities and RCP, and managed by Bozzuto, whose brand strategy centers around being a community-driven and community-focused third place. The apartments sit above Chef Erik Bruner Yang’s ABC Pony, which at the onset of COVID, pivoted to help keep restaurant workers employed preparing meals for healthcare heroes, firefighters and those in need through a project called Power of 10 Initiative.
NOVEL publicly aligned itself with the project on social media and provided Erik an extended platform to promote the effort with an Instagram takeover and ongoing social media integrations. Through the takeover, followers and residents were able to connect with Erik’s story, learn more about the initiative, and if compelled, donate. “Though NOVEL is not directly tied to Power of 10 Initiative, Erik is part of NOVEL’s community and it’s who I think about when I think of NOVEL. The project aligned with NOVEL’s community-focused strategy, creating a sense of pride for current residents and interest for potential residents who want to be part of something bigger,” she concluded. NOVEL has continued to have programs to support their community through this strange time that goes beyond the traditional experience, as well as promoting the unique benefit of Erik’s restaurant just downstairs for a full work-from-home menu.
Apart from growth potential, your decisions can drive real change. Take LEED for example. At the start of the certification program, LEED played a major role in differentiating buildings in the marketplace. Organizations who identified as sustainably-focused began to seek out LEED-certified buildings as one way to solidify their commitment and live out their purpose—helping LEED grow in popularity and pave the way for other sustainability and wellness programs like WELL, Fitwel, and the Living Building Challenge.
It won’t be long before most tenants take into account what their broker, building owner, and property management team stand for when their lease is up for renewal. Whether you define the end-user as an association, commercial tenant, resident, dog-lover, decision-maker, social advocate, or a good neighbor, their decision-making process lies with the collective stories you tell and live. “This is no longer walking the walk,” Sarah adds. “It’s running an ultra-marathon.”