Friday, February 28, 2014

Developer's proposals aimed at attracting Millennial

By: Joseph N. Distefano, Staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer
Bill Glazer, boss at Keystone Property Group, collects aging office buildings, mostly suburban.
He says his Bala Cynwyd-based firm now controls north of 10 million square feet, about seven times the size of the new tower Comcast wants to build at 18th and Arch Streets.

"It's a big job. But it's a fun job," Glazer told me Wednesday, two days after he agreed to pay $231 million for 12 buildings (2.3 million square feet) in the suburbs of New York.

Keystone last year paid $233 million for buildings totaling 1.6 million square feet in Westlakes Office Park in Berwyn, Sentry Park in Blue Bell, and other suburban sites, from the same seller, Mack-Cali Realty Corp., of Edison, N.J., whose bosses now believe there's more money to be made in apartments.

Glazer convinced some cold-eyed lenders, including Deutsche Bank, to back last year's deals - at prices less than half of what suburban buildings used to fetch, or a third of what new construction would cost.
Cheap for a reason, no? "The whole office sector has been a tough space over the past few years," Glazer acknowledged. U.S. employment hasn't yet recovered to 2007 levels.

So how's he going to turn these deals to profits? "By reinventing the workspace with technology, fitness, and lifestyle," Glazer says cheerfully.
What's that mean? He directed me to his proposal for 100 Independence Mall West, the old Rohm & Haas building, where he's asked restaurant owner Michael Schulson to "craft an outdoor beer garden," plus "a very cool cafe" aiming for the street ambience of the Standard Hotel in New York's Meatpacking District.
Pretty picture. How will he extend it to Blue Bell? Glazer urged me to watch how people my kids' age work - same as they hang out: in open areas instead of cubicles, eating healthy stuff, tapping laptops and handhelds, among a crowd doing the same.

"Baby boomers wanted a sense of entitlement: their own office, in the corner. That's not what the Millennial workforce wants," says Glazer. "They want collaboration. They want connectivity. They want the vibe, the energy you can't get sitting by yourself in the office."
So he's urging suburban townships to zone more eating and drinking establishments, even apartments, for his office buildings. Having bought at bargain prices, he can afford glassy lobbies, hiking trails, landscaping, utility upgrades - and lower rents that appeal to little firms and professional offices that have had to make do with funky unrenovated spaces.
Great. Can I meet some of these cool new tenants? "I'll have plenty to show you in the next few months," he promised.

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