Cassidy Turley: High-Tech Broker

Cassidy Turley leverages technology and scenic views to gain competitive edge


| By Michele Chandler |

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast year marked enormous change for two prominent Silicon Valley commercial real estate brokers, CPS CORFAC International, a longtime boutique shop based in Santa Clara, and Cassidy Turley BT Commercial in San Jose. Following their 2010 merger, the group now known as Cassidy Turley wanted to combine its two corporate cultures and to do so in a highly visible space where all 80 agents and staff could work comfortably under one roof.

The search led them to the heart of a thriving San Jose retail district that itself embodies transformation. In September, the brokerage moved its headquarters to the top floor of 300 Santana Row, a five-story office building in the eponymous upscale shopping, residential, dining and business district.

The 80,000 square-foot, mixed-use building, encased with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, is located at a marquee entrance to Santana Row near the busy intersection of Stevens Creek and Winchester boulevards. It was designed by Studios Architecture to be a high-tech, modern announcement to the development. “If you look at European cities, which Santana Row emulates, when they do new buildings, they do modern, and it works very well,” said Charles Dilworth, a principal at HMC Architects in its San Francisco office. Dilworth oversaw the building’s design while at Studios.

The brokerage operates from a 16,300-square-foot office encompassing the entire top floor. The high-profile location employs sleek design and functionality to smooth the merged companies’ transition to one. “Clients love coming here,” said Todd Beatty, an executive vice president and the managing partner of the brokerage. “That’s been a huge benefit for us because it’s such an energetic place.”

The building itself, by design and functionality, has a sharp high-tech edge. The northwest corner is bombarded with sunlight, particularly in the summer, so the architects employed double-wall construction, including blinds that come down between the two layers of glass to deflect heat and light and help keep the building warmer in the winter. Those same blinds, operational across the top three floors of the building, double as a screen where images and words can be projected and seen by passersby on the sidewalks below.

[pullquote_right] Sweeping glass walls set off by 10-foot and 12-foot ceiling heights drench much of the office’s interior in natural light. Workers also gain an expansive, nearly 360-degree view of the valley.[/pullquote_right]The brokerage’s tone is set as soon as visitors step from the building’s elevator directly into its lobby. A custom-made white Carrera marble reception desk spans nearly half the room and is finished with a countertop of warm-hued wood. Most of the walls are cream-colored, a subtle contrast to the dark porcelain tile floors. One wall, made of polished steel, is mounted with three, 55-inch flat-screen televisions, placed side-by-side and usually tuned to CNBC. Clients crave stock market news, the brokerage has found.

The uncluttered, modern sensibility foreshadows the firm’s technology focus, an important theme that reverberates throughout the space and reflects workers’ habits. “We’re a Silicon Valley office, and we wanted a high-tech feel,” Beatty said.

Beatty’s desk alone sports two laptop computers and three, 30-inch monitors. A 65-inch, flat-screen television is mounted on his office wall. All that electronic gear helps him close deals, he said. “If we send an offer out on a piece of property, and we get a counteroffer back, I can put the offer and the counter-offer side by side on one 30-inch screen and put the floor plan on another screen and the comments from the attorney on another screen,” he explained. “It allows me to follow everything pretty crisply.” The television’s placement—behind him, but facing his client—is another strategic tool. Beatty loads information into his iPad and synchs the device with the TV, and the information in his presentations is duplicated there.

Conference rooms and meeting spaces interspersed throughout the office also are tech-abundant, containing sophisticated audio-visual equipment to enhance client presentations. “When we talk about specific properties, I can put the buildings up on Google Maps to show the specific plot we are talking about,” said Beatty. “It has been a huge help to show where the competition to a building is, what is around that building, and how it relates to the market.”

A tech-inspired mural covers an entire wall illustrating famous Silicon Valley images including the iconic Palo Alto garage where Stanford University classmates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their company in 1939 and an original Apple Macintosh computer, developed by Steve Jobs, from 1989.

Sweeping glass walls set off by 10-foot and 12-foot ceiling heights drench much of the office’s interior in natural light. Workers also gain an expansive, nearly 360-degree view of the valley. Santana Row’s shops and bustling sidewalks are immediately below, the wide, car-filled and business-lined Stevens Creek Boulevard stretches to the west; and the skyline of downtown San Jose is visible due east, five miles in the distance. “You stand there and feel like you can almost grab a cloud. It’s fantastic,” said Lisa Kohler, one of three of designers from San Jose interior design house ReelGrobman. Kohler worked with Beatty to conceive the headquarters’ look. “The open office is vast, but the goal was not to interrupt those amazing views,” she said.

Beatty is certain the abundance of cutting-edge technology and those spectacular views enhance office performance. “I don’t know that I could tell you that quantitatively I have measured how much more actual business is generated as a result. That would be pretty tough,” Beatty said. “But I can tell you there are considerably more clients that prefer to come to our office and have meetings, presentations and social engagements with us here than ever did in our old office. It lends credibility. There’s no question about it, and that’s going to translate to more business.”

The Santana Row office, while 30 percent smaller than the two prior locations combined, incorporates several features conceived to help the two groups mesh into one. The change has required flexibility and tolerance from workers at both companies, said Beatty, who was chief executive of CPS before the merger. At the former Cassidy Turley BT Commercial, for example, some high-performing brokers were rewarded with private offices. The new location’s smaller size meant agents couldn’t retain that perk, Beatty said. Only he and two other executives have private offices.

However, every broker now has a semi-private cubicle, which has 7 inches of frosted glass atop 50-inch movable walls to give workers visual privacy but not cut off their view while seated at their desks. When needing to have a group discussion or confidential conversation, they can head to one of 12 conference rooms, three of them located just off of the lobby, so clients don’t have to walk far. The result is an airy, expansive and open environment.

One unique feature that carried over from the old days is a massive eat-in kitchen that encompasses about 10 percent of the office’s total space and serves as central meeting place for employees to trade business observations as they prepare and eat informal meals. “At any time of the morning, you will walk in there and somebody’s making eggs,” Beatty said, in a double entendre that refers to what’s being served up for breakfast as well as the serving up of business deals.

Photos courtesy of Chad Ziemendorf

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