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Property managers remain indispensable.

In an era where the bar has been raised throughout the building industry and excellence is the standard, the project manager has become indispensable. It is a profession that has undergone radical redefinition due to the range of skills required for even the most basic office build-outs. The project manager is responsible for developing an agenda that encompasses identifying and scheduling everything related to the project, from selection of the site, construction, telecommunications installations, coordination between landlord restoration issues and end of term clauses, through the actual move.

The principal mission of a project manager is to ensure a client's business is operational throughout the process of relocating from the old location to the new and, in some cases, within the existing space. To accomplish this, we develop an overall strategy that includes detailing the execution of the construction, filing for permits, reviewing the architects' schematics and coordinating all telecommunications installations. In addition, we are constantly communicating with management in both the old and new buildings in order to review the dynamics of the project, such as landlord obligation issues.

Obviously, the project doesn't end at the completion of the build-out, because the soon-to-be former office has to be readied for the move, which includes disconnecting sensitive equipment, organizing files and furnishings, completing landlord restoration issues, packing and shipping, etc. Then it has to be set up and operative at the new site.

In some cases, there are stacking plans, in which we work within occupied spaces, sometimes on multiple floors. Beyond moving desks and chairs from one end of an office to another, there are such considerations as computer networks and telecommunications systems that must be moved and made operational as quickly as possible. The project manager now has the added responsibility of mitigating the effect of the construction on the client's staff, so that disruption is minimal and the business can function throughout the entire process.

Whether working in partially occupied or completely vacant space, there is nothing rudimentary about any aspect of relocation because office systems are, largely, interdependent. It is no longer a case of moving furniture and finding a place for transitional office files. Rather, a move is orchestrated through the diligent coordination and execution of several office systems and components that are the backbone of every company.

Years ago, coordinating the relocation of hundreds of files was carefully watched and their disposition considered critical. Today, the focus is on computer systems and the most common question we hear may be paraphrased as, "When can I get my E-mail up and running?" Clients need to communicate with the world and the telephone has become secondary to the Internet.

The bottom line issue is that an office cannot open for business without complete installations to run computers or without proper security access. Mid-to-high-tech businesses require fiber optic cables that run from the base building into the offices, which, in today's world, are standard operating requirements. Moreover, a successful installation mandates synchronicity between such disparate parties as construction managers, electrical contractor, carpenters, MEP engineers, architects, computer consultants, moving consultants, furniture suppliers and so on.

Therefore, the most efficient point in which to retain the services of a project manager is prior to choosing a new office site. An experienced project manager is able to view raw or occupied space and determine whether it will fulfill the needs of the client. Not every building features the services and amenities required by some businesses. Even the varying capacities of base buildings can have an impact on a business. When brought into the relocation project from inception, the project manager will discern the appropriateness of the space, estimate the building costs, serve as liaison between client and real estate brokers, and work closely with the architect.

The project manager also participates in the hiring of architects, engineers and general contractors, generates requests for proposal (REP), negotiates contracts and specialized agreements with unions, and works with expediters on filings to ensure the most efficient and cost effective services. An integral part of our role includes coordinating various city, state and federal Incentive Rebate Programs with building owners and clients in order to obtain these benefits. In addition, we address the all-too-overlooked project close-out documents, appropriate agency sign-offs, coordination of landlord reimbursement back-up, et al.

In today's world, the role of project manager has become integral to the process of setting up a new office because the duties have expanded to include all facets of the move -- going and coming. In essence, the project manager manages the assets of the business, temporarily, and actually becomes part of the firm during that period.

So what precipitated this expansion of duties? In New York City, it's a product of several factors, such as technology, the high cost of office space, a proliferation of additional building codes, the growing sophistication of telecommunications networks, and the basic need for the client to actually conduct there business without the worry of these myriad issues.

But every time a trend develops in office build-outs, whether it's the design of an open plan environment or the use of "green" environmentally friendly building products, there are new criteria that have to be understood and implemented. And the first person to review the overall scheme is the project manager.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jan 24, 2001
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