Hard work has paid off and you have been able to build a successful business. However, the space which has provided you and your employees with a productive, comfortable work environment for years is starting to look dated and feel cramped, and the technology features are reflective of the stone age. An office renovation may be a necessary investment, but where do you start and how do you avoid business downtime?
Steve Koewler, president of Miller-Valentine Group, a design-build-contractor company and a real estate and development firm, says, “Before you go too far down the path of renovating, it’s a good idea to try to understand how real estate fits into your business plan. Are you expanding or contracting? Will you lease the space or own it?”
These are important considerations because, if you lease, it’s not just up to you if you want to renovate. Any renovations must be approved by the property owner, and the issue of who pays for what must be negotiated. If you’re currently occupying the space that you intend to renovate, your property owner may want you to renew your lease for a longer period. As a business owner you must determine if the newly renovated space will still fill your needs that far into the future.
If you own your building, you’ve got more flexibility to do what you want, but you should be mindful of your renovation’s scope. “Too over the top or out there, and you won’t recoup your investment should you decide to sell at a later date,” Steve says.
Once you’ve decided that renovation is the best choice for your business, you should map out exactly what you want to get out of your space, being sure to consider whether your business is growing. If you plan to expand your business in the future, you may want to consider going larger and renting out the extra space until you need it. That way you’ve got flexibility, plus some extra income in the interim.
There is a seemingly endless list of considerations that need to be addressed. And once the renovation process starts, an untold number of issues might arise. For instance, when Miller-Valentine Group renovated an office at 823 Gervais Street in the Vista, they were presented with a rather significant obstacle. “The property was in the overlay district,” Steve explains, “which means there was some historical significance, so we were limited as to what we could do to the exterior and facade. The requirements from several review boards had to be met.”
Miller-Valentine Group renovated a historic building in the overlay district of the Vista. This image is before the renovations.
He continues, “We wanted to capitalize on the historic features, but we had our work cut out for us. The front of the building was built in the 1890s and an addition in the back was built in the 1940s. There were two different elevations in these two parts, plus a 30-inch difference between the floors on the second level. We incorporated these inconsistencies into our design.” The clients chose to keep all of the exposed brick and exposed ceiling, as well as the heart pine floors (except in the space on the first floor where Jason’s Deli is located, due to the traffic density).
Miller Valentine Group’s office after renovations.
Tripp Riley, an architect with Studio 2LR, advises business owners looking to upgrade to consider moving to temporary space if it looks like there might be too much downtime, or to consider doing the renovation in phases in order to avoid work disruption. He also underscores the importance of working with the right people for the job: “Hire the right architect for your particular business, as there are plenty of architects who specialize in different areas. It is an important relationship because goals must be understood and visions need to be brought to life.”
Studio 2LR was the architect for the mixed use project at the corner of Pulaski and Gervais streets across from the Vista Publix. The design included the renovation of the former antique mall and the construction of a new office building which replaced the old Hood Tire building. A courtyard was incorporated between the renovated structure and the new building. This mixed use project now houses such businesses as a spa, TD Ameritrade and conference space.
Studio 2LR was the architect for the mixed use project at the corner of Pulaski and Gervais. The space before renovations began.
Dr. Richard Boyd is an orthodontist whose father was a builder, and Richard also happens to have his homebuilder’s license. He knows the building lingo and has done many renovations himself, but when he decided to convert a bank on the corner of Beltline and Devine into his new orthodontic office, he sought the advice of experts. He hired a specialized firm to remodel the interior space. Joyce Matlack of Matlack-Van Every Design, an interior design firm that specializes in orthodontic and dental office design, fit the bill. Seemingly simple things like chair selection – what kind, how many and placement – are more of a science than just a decorating concern in an orthodontic and dental office.
Dr. Boyd hired a firm that specializes in dental office design to remodel the interior space.
Richard also hired a local architect for the exterior and structural engineering aspects of the building and used Mark Hood of Hood Construction as his builder. Mark worked closely with Richard in order to assure him as little downtime as possible.
Dr. Richard Boyd decided to convert a bank into his new orthodontic office.
“It was all money well spent because I had a very old building, including the challenge of what to do with the bank vault, and I needed a detailed plan,” Richard says. “I had sketched out a rough idea, but I wanted the result to be something of which the city would be proud. I also paid very close attention to what would make my staff enjoy being at work, and I wanted the atmosphere to be very comfortable and soothing for my patients and their families.” Being eco-friendly was a big priority in the building process.
Cheryl Holland, president of Abacus Planning Group, made the decision to buy and renovate a building on the corner of Queen and Devine streets instead of renovating her existing office space, which was also located on Devine Street. “This worked out best for us because we only had to shut down one day while we packed and moved, and we were open and ready for business by noon the next day,” Cheryl says.
Abacus Planning Group’s Renovated Office Space
She advises that a business use a renovation as an opportunity not only for space change, but also for technology change by integrating the newest, most appropriate technology for your particular business. Abacus Planning Group’s new building features open space floor plans and an abundance of natural lighting. It is a bright, warm, inviting office and each work area has the feel of being next to a window even if it is not. Cheryl also shares some good advice on where to start when choosing your office color: “Take your company’s brand colors and use them for your palette in the renovation.”
Cheryl Holland, owner of Abacus Planning Group, bought and renovated a building at the corner of Queen and Devine streets instead of renovating her previous space.
Cheryl has been very pleased with the results of the new office space and says, “Our open, functional floor plan and technology upgrades, coupled with the new facade and other enrichments, have been a big morale boost for all of us.” Cheryl’s husband, Doug Quackenbush, is an architect and co-owner of the building, and she learned from him how to effectively communicate with building professionals on what she wanted done, rather than how she wanted things done. Cheryl also says, “Consider green issues where possible. Our energy costs are now two-thirds what they were in our previous space. We are not completely LEED certified, but only because our heating and cooling system is practically brand new, and it is not financially advantageous to change that at this point.”
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a nonprofit “green” certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Tripp Riley says, “Business interest in the LEED certification has grown tremendously since its inception in the early 90s. The program educates people about sustainability and how small changes in certain habits make sense. It’s more than just using low VOCs in paint; it is a lifestyle change.”
Richard’s new space has allowed him to become the only Eco-Dental certified orthodontic office in the country. “The Eco-Dentistry Association, based out of Berkeley, Calif., encourages green dentistry in an effort to reduce waste and pollution and to save on water and energy,” he says.
Each and every business displays its own needs, culture and personality. Business space needs to support and reflect these attributes. If your business space is below par, resulting in a loss of productivity, and office morale is reflecting frustration and anxiety, then it may be time to consider a change. A collaborative effort between the business owner, architects, designers and contractors will aid in a smooth transition and renovation project, and more than likely the pros of the ending result will far outweigh any frustrations and downtime.