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Tishman Speyer Masters the Art (and Science) of Placemaking at New York City’s Iconic Rockefeller Center

There are few buildings that shape a neighborhood, or a city, like Rockefeller Center. If you walk around midtown Manhattan you always know when you are getting close to it. The sidewalks get a bit busier as tourists stop to crane their heads to see the famous architecture and all of the inspiring murals and seasonal decorations that come with it. The plaza’s surrounded by towering Art Deco masterpieces of twentieth-century design and engineering, giving it a surprisingly cozy feel. Between the tasteful retail stores, the dramatic art installations, and the non-stop schedule of televised events the center seems to have a personality of its own, one that spills over into the blocks of buildings around it.

Rockefeller Center is the original urban campus, conceived as a “city within a city” by John D. Rockefeller Jr. It opened its doors in 1933, and has since been a hub of commerce, culture, art and community. In 1996, Tishman Speyer led a partnership with other investors to acquire the Center out of bankruptcy and immediately embarked on an ambitious redevelopment plan to refurbish and revitalize the Center to bring it back to its original glory, making way for a future of exciting enhancements. 

The Speyer family has remained committed to making the center a place that connects everyone, New Yorkers who come to work here every day and starry-eyed tourist alike. Being more than a building is something that has always been to Tishman Speyer’s core values. Unlike many other landlords of their size, they don’t buy properties with the goal of selling them once they appreciate. Rather, Tishman Speyer has a long term view of asset value. This has allowed them to make extensive investments in the historic buildings they own and manage  and fund things that benefit the neighborhood like the famous tree that get ceremoniously lit every year as the world watches from home.

When it comes to their offices this long term mentality has translated into the development of a number of programs. It starts when you enter a building. The lobbies of Tishman Speyer buildings are carefully considered community spaces filled with curated music, hand-selected furniture, a friendly concierge. It stands in stark contrast to the uninviting and unfriendly welcome that many office buildings unwittingly create. A key component of Tishman Speyer’s offerings is its suite of amenities including a proprietary mobile app called ZO that brings an array of services directly to tenants.

Another component is a flexible work suite offering called Studio that they are rolling out in many of their locations. I toured their flagship Studio space, at Rockefeller Center of course, and was struck by the polished yes comfy look and feel. “As real estate people, we tend to obsess a bit over the details,” Thais Galli admitted. She is a managing director in charge of innovation at Tishman Speyer. Anyone who has ever designed a space knows this to be true, things that others might not see jump out at you in a way that is hard to ignore. 

The commitment to providing a comfortable space goes far beyond the stuffed cushioned leather couches and full service bar. It starts with a concept that the Tishman Speyer team likes to call “homing from work.” Our personal lives are becoming inseparable from our professional ones. It isn’t just working long hours, that is nothing new. It is about a new breed of workers who want to be connected to their workplace, physically and emotionally. They want to know that their offices, and by proxy their employers, are doing their best to make their work hours more productive and their non-work ones more enjoyable. As part of ZO. Tishman has created a number of benefits like on-site daycare, dog walking and personal services.

Being an involved landlord takes effort and Tishman Speyer is the definition of an involved landlord. Unlike other asset managers who want to find ways to outsource all of their high-touch services, Tishman Speyer has gone the complete opposite direction. I was shocked to learn that even the observation deck experience, Top of the Rock, is overseen by management and staffed with in-house employees. While being an active part of a modern building’s more hospitable form of management add operational complexity it also allows them to understand their tenants on a much higher level. By creating a dialogue with their customers they have learned the importance of tailoring their offerings based on each location’s culture. For example dog walking has become a way of life in their California locations while daycare was much more of a priority for their New York clientele. 

If you ever want to see Tishman Speyer’s ethos on display, visit Rockefeller Center. By creating a center of gravity for the neighborhood it is able to bridge public and private interests. By investing in the future of not only a building but an entire district they have able to make an office tower become more than just a place to work. All you have to do is walk down the block, feel the energy and look at all that the campus has to offer. Just remember to not stop in the sidewalks to admire the details, the locals hate that.

Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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