By Meghan Hall
The Bay Area is home to some of the world’s most innovate technology and research and development companies, and it is no surprise that their innovation has extended beyond the products they produce into how they design and utilize their office space. Bay Area companies are increasingly looking for spaces that blend modern, efficient designs with increasingly common office amenities such as full kitchens and outdoor space. The shift in demand from traditional offices to more collaborative, open working environments means that Bay Area property owners, such as San Francisco-based real estate investment firm Four Corners Properties are increasingly required to renovate their buildings if they want to receive top dollar from their tenants.
Four Corners Properties worked with NELSON, a global architecture, design and consulting services firm, to reposition and redesign one of its offices located at 110 Rio Robles Street in the Riotech Office Park in San José.
“Reposition work in the Valley is a really big deal, and building owners have been doing it for years,” explained Senior Director of NELSON and the account manager for the Rio Robles project, Mary Jane Marshall. “Any kind of building that’s dated, most clients won’t even go look at it.”
Marshall went on to explain that business park renovations are necessary to keep up with the amount of new space entering the market, and that developing designs that companies haven’t seen before are key to securing tenants.
“The project has all of the ingredients tech companies are looking for. It has the kitchen. It has outdoor space. It’s great where it’s located, because the bike path and running path [are] right behind the site,” said Marshall.
The project site is located in north San José and is surrounded by several other businesses such as Maxim Integrated and SunPower Corporation’s global headquarters. The 237 Freeway is just a few minutes to the north, as is Levi Stadium.
The 110 Rio Robles project took approximately nine months to complete, including 14 to 16 weeks of construction. The repositioning project included creating a new, fresh exterior with extensive landscaping and hardscaping in order to match the other redesigned buildings on the property. The original fountain in front of the 110 Rio Robles was removed in order to improve the building’s visibility and allow for clear site lines into the building’s lobby. At the back of the building, a patio with a barbeque island, lounge area and metal framed shade structure connects the outside to the inside.
“Each building on the property is different, especially this one; the entry position is pretty deep and can be hard to find,” said Freddy Seen, an architect at Nelson. Seen, who was in charge of the exterior design and worked closely with HMH Landscape Architecture. “The whole area in the front got regraded and redesigned. And when you drive by, you see all of the glass and you see from the street the steel wall light up, and there’s all of these layers that draw you in.”
Renovations to the interior of the building included floor-to-ceiling windows, a brand-new break room with built-in banquette seating and stainless steel countertops. The bathrooms were also fully upgraded with new fixtures and energy efficient LED lighting. The building’s 2-story lobby also includes a steel-clad, illuminated feature wall, and is both Seen and Marshall’s favorite part of the project.
“I think every project needs something that is memorable,” said Marshall of the lobby’s feature wall. “A client may see five buildings in one day and at the end of the day, we want the tenant to come back to the building. We’re always pushing to do something unique that we haven’t done before.”
By the time Four Corners Properties acquired the Riotech Office Park from Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, Inc. in November 2016, NELSON had already submitted a permit for the Rio Robles project.
“Four Corners sort of inherited us, because we were already knee-deep in this account from the previous owners,” said Seen.
NELSON had been working with the business park’s various owners to renovate the seven buildings on the property for the past 15 years, beginning with 3445 North First Street and 70 Rio Robles. The entire office park covers 375,000 square feet of office space. According to both Marshall and Seen, Four Corners Properties was very hands-on with the project, but trusted NELSON with the design, only making minor tweaks to the project before proceeding.
“In this Valley, these business parks are bought and sold a lot,” said Marshall. “When a project is sold, the landlords need to show the brokerage community that it’s a new product now, and they all need to put their stamp on it. There’s more money to be made every time the property is bought and sold and leased and sold again.”