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Hi-level investment a must for office parks.

The evolution of the commercial real estate market is nowhere more visible than in the suburban office park. Corporate parks were themselves the creative solution to meet the business challenges of the day: a shifting population center, changing business needs and the humanization of the workplace.

The economic challenge that exists for these parks in the current down market is for ownership and management to maximize their strengths and to create stability. We must maintain a high level of investment in the parks to assure their evolution as premier business environments and to sustain them as cutting-edge solutions to changing corporate needs.

In Westchester County, for example, EastRidge Properties is currently reinvesting $25 million into our 2 million square foot portfolio that includes the Westchester Corporate Park, White Plains Office Park, Rockledge Center and Purchase Park. Our experience with tenants and our market research has pointed to three specific areas in which we can make our working environment more productive: reinvestment in the physical surroundings, upgrading business services and rethinking employee amenities.

First, suburban office parks must use their surroundings to better advantage, making landscaping accessible as well as beautiful. Corporate thinking 25 years ago did not include the outdoor amenities employees have come to expect and deserve. The addition of pedestrian walking paths, picnic areas and park benches, allows tenants and area residents to enjoy being outside for lunch, a coffee break or after working hours.

Management must also explore ways to increase office park activity. For example, dining facilities that tend to be tucked away inside buildings might being given more visibility. By creating active destination points, tenants will have the feeling of greater liveliness and energy.

Business environments should also be enhanced with careful attention being paid to changing tenant needs and common space improvements. Corporate park management should capitalize on potential interoffice cooperation, offering amenities that an individual company may be unable to provide. For example, a centralized conference center with catering abilities offers a larger, more suitable space to hold important meetings than some companies may be able to afford within their own offices.

Finally, management must take advantage of the direct correlation between productivity and worker satisfaction. EastRidge Properties, for example, has instituted a series of plans to upgrade tenant-employee amenities.

A free-standing day-care center is planned as a positive response to employees with children. Sundry shops will be added to offer easy employee access to items they may need throughout the course of the day. We are also exploring ways to provide onsite health club facilities.

Free shuttle bus service to and from the White Plains Transit Center lets workers use public transportation to get to work. Lunch hour shuttle service allows employees to enjoy being downtown without the hassle of finding parking. The corporate park was a creative business solution to the suburban phenomenon. Creative solutions do remain for suburban parks as long as we maintain our commitment to productive and stable environments. The challenge is to keep the corporate park as fresh and innovative now as when it was first conceived. Reinvestment will solidify these parks as viable economic centers for years to come.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Ziatyk, Michael J.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 21, 1992
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