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Two things about development

January 30, 2008

that I learned this morning, from Jon DeVries and
Jennifer McNeil Dhadwal who spoke at an APA session:

(1) The commercial real estate market in recent times is dominated by the demands of national companies, who have their own very specific requirements for space. DeVries mentioned this in the context of market research, which thus can be simpler because one need only ask the prospective tenants what their requirements are. But I think it also implies that the big tenants can put some of their risk onto the developers; if their requirements change, the developers are stuck with projects that might be difficult to market.

(2) “Modern buildings require less space per worker due to structural efficiencies and workflow changes.” For years I have been saying that office buildings require more space per worker than fifty or a hundred years ago. The old office involved row upon row of desks occupied by typists or clerks, with no space for computers, xerox machines, etc. And today more work is done by telephone, requring some space for sound insulation. One implication is that, if the amount of office space in an area does not increase, then the number of office workers will decrease.

Dhadwal’s source seems to be ULI, so I shall have to look into what studies they’ve done (which unfortunately are likely to cost real money). Maybe the trend cited is a reversal just within the past five or ten years. I suppose that just the replacement of CRT with LCD computer monitors could save some space, but there must be other factors too.

These speakers also mentioned that typical densities for manufacturing employment are 300-400 square feet per worker, and for distribution/warehouse at least 1600 square feet/worker.

The other highlight of the session was David Stamm’s description of the redevelopment of the former Kennedy/King College site.   He noted that the site, in Englewood, didn’t have much potential for a lot of uses.  For instance, you couldn’t build a drug store, because of too much competition nearby.

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