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Art’s Role in Commercial Real Estate

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.” 

The Belgard residence located in DC’s NoMa neighborhood

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.”

Hickok Cole’s Richmond Studio Re-Locates to the Arts District Neighborhood

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.

The Power of Purchase: Investing in Consumer Values for Long Term Success

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.”

Hickok Cole Awarded DOEE Net Zero Energy Study Grant

This continues the forward-focused design firm’s development of net zero energy design acumen for projects in the DMV.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 13, 2020) – Today, Hickok Cole announced it received a $20,000 grant from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and with funding provided from the Green Building Fund. The funds will facilitate early design assistance supporting the pursuit of net zero energy performance renovations for an existing commercial office building in The District. The grant period will run through the end of September this year and yield a case study for DOEE’s use.

Spearheaded by the firm’s High-Performance Design practice, Hickok Cole applied for the grant shortly after being engaged by the office building’s management firm for a full Conceptual Design process. This marks the firm’s third major net zero energy focused project since the American Geophysical Union (AGU) headquarters renovation, Washington, DC’s first-ever commercial office renovation targeting net zero energy.  

“We’re thrilled to be awarded the opportunity to further explore net zero energy performance,” said Holly Lennihan, RA, LEED AP, Senior Associate and Director of Sustainable Design at Hickok Cole. “Thanks to the DOEE and Green Building Fund grant, we can test the application of these design strategies and provide a path for our industry partners to engage in sustainable energy initiatives in the future.”

Initial grant activities include a design charrette in coordination with the engineers and general contractor. The project team will then create and study architectural and energy models, identify energy reduction opportunities, establish efficient building systems design and develop a conceptual budget in alignment with the renovation narratives generated during the charette. Throughout the four-month grant period, Hickok Cole will provide regular progress reports and conduct monthly meetings with the DOEE. Final deliverables include a case study created in collaboration with the client and grant team.

“The DOEE’s grant program is an excellent step towards achieving the climate action goals as outlined by the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act of 2018,” said Yolanda Cole, IIDA, LEED AP, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “As champions of high-performance design in the District, we’re committed to reducing the environmental impact of our industry and are proud to play a role in this historic movement.”

In June, DOEE also awarded Hickok Cole and MCN Build with the Design Build services for Kingman Island following the planning and feasibility study it conducted with the firm in 2017. The winning proposal presented a vision to enhance the island as “a unique educational and recreational asset for children and residents of the District, an oasis in the city that will protect critical habitats and species representing the District, and work towards the goals of a healthy restored Anacostia River and an engaged community.”

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.

Hickok Cole Announces Headquarters Relocation to DC’s Union Market Neighborhood

The forward-focused design practice plans to relocate from its current Georgetown location in the spring of next year.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 3, 2020) – Hickok Cole announced today that it has signed a lease for a new 25,000 square-foot office, owned by Foulger Pratt in Washington, DC’s Union Market neighborhood. The 32-year old design firm has plans to move its 100-person staff from its current Georgetown location to 301 N Street NE by April 2021.

Image courtesy of Foulger Pratt

“We’ve loved being part of the Georgetown community for the past twenty years, so leaving is bittersweet. But, as the firm has grown and changed, so have our needs,” said Mike Hickok, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “We’ve been searching for new space and have always felt the character of the Union Market neighborhood aligns with our creative culture. The move provides a unique opportunity to invest in what’s next for DC and contribute to the revitalization of one of the city’s most interesting new neighborhoods.”

Press House first came to Hickok Cole’s attention several years ago while they were designing an adjacent mixed-use project at 300 M Street NE. Since then, Foulger Pratt purchased the property and is developing a multi-building mixed-use project on the site. Hickok Cole approached Foulger Pratt to learn more about their vision for the property, eventually striking a deal to lease office space on the top two floors of the historic Press House building that gives the development its name.

“At our core is a drive to do work that matters,” added Yolanda Cole, Co-Owner and Senior Principal of Hickok Cole. “We pride ourselves on our local expertise and the ability to make an impact in our own backyard. This transition marks a pivotal moment as we design our new home to reflect both who we are today, and who we strive to be in the future. I am confident in the talent, creativity, and passion of our team to position the firm for the next generation of success.”

Built in 1931, the three-story industrial building originally served as home to National Capital Press, the company responsible for printing training manuals for the government’s War Department. Nearly a century later, Foulger Pratt is seeking to landmark the building and has preserved its historic character by maintaining and restoring the original façade, while adapting the interior to function as state-of-the-market retail and office space. Interior details, including the original mushroom columns on the second floor, will remain. The most distinctive feature will be the five saw-tooth monitor skylights. At their peak, the skylights span a total floor-to-ceiling height of 30 feet and provide an abundance of natural light throughout the space.

Image courtesy of Foulger Pratt

“We are thrilled that Hickok Cole selected 301 N Street as the location of their new headquarters,” said Cameron Pratt, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Foulger Pratt. “The historical architectural features of the building, centered at the heart of a rapidly changing Union Market neighborhood, provides the ideal setting for a leading-edge design firm like Hickok Cole.”

Hickok Cole will design their new interior office space to LEED Gold certification. Spearheaded by the firm’s Workplace Interiors practice, the new design will be informed by an internal vision and discovery process and seek to unify the entire design studio on one floor, in an open-office concept intended to promote collaboration, communication, and connectivity among sectors and services.

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 homes for some of the area’s leading organizations, including National Geographic, NPR, and American Geophysical Union, the first net zero energy building in the District.