Placemaking is a word that has popped up often in the last few years in reference to community development, but it’s an idea that is still lost on many developers.
The Project for Public Spaces defines placemaking as a concept that “inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community” and “facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution … and is a crucial and deeply-valued process for those who feel intimately connected to the places in their lives.”
Placemaking turns an office complex from a place where people conduct business into a landmark that celebrates a city and its community. It gives, as the Project for Public Spaces puts it, “planners, designers, and engineers the broad value of moving beyond the narrow focus of their own professions, disciplines [and] agendas.”
Placemaking may not be top of mind for office developers, but it should be. As companies strive to retain top talent while looking for ways to encourage employees to come back to the office, they need to create a different type of environment if they want to stay ahead of the game. A survey Microsoft conducted in 2021 found that 41% of the global workforce would consider switching jobs in the next year and 55% reported that work environment would play a role in their decisions.
“Placemaking is a nice metaphor for how we want the office to function,” Georgia Collins, co-lead of CBRE’s Workplace Strategy practice, told BOMA magazine. “In cities, we have places where people gather and the community comes together, such as parks or civic spaces. In offices, café spaces or hubs serve a similar purpose. There are a lot of great parallels to be drawn between what makes great cities and the creation of purpose-built office spaces.”
For an office building to truly stand out in today’s market, the offices and employee common areas must create a sense of community and connection for employees and tenants but also for the community as a whole.
One office complex that has accomplished this is Rosslyn City Center, in Rosslyn, Virginia. Built 40 years ago, this 22-story office tower and obsolete mall underwent a $35M transformation as part of American Real Estate Partners’ vision for the property. Today, it is a space that not only embraces the personal and social needs of its tenants but of the entire community of Rosslyn, with reimagined workspaces, experiential shared environments and a two-floor indoor and outdoor dining and social space that is open to the public and designed to be the center of gravity in the neighborhood.
“Placemaking is personal for us and is embedded in AREP’s DNA,” said Louise Boulton-Lear, AREP vice president of brand marketing. “There is no business as usual, we are always looking for ways to elevate. Simply put, we want our buildings — and our customers’ experience in them, to be engaging, comfortable and connected to their needs. At the root of Rosslyn’s transformation is creative and thoughtful people-centric placemaking.”
Rosslyn City Center is situated on top of one of the Washington region’s busiest Metro stations at 1700 North Moore St., which is how it got the nickname “the gateway to Rosslyn.” It includes move-in ready spec suites to suit a variety of companies’ needs and a host of features and amenities that were crafted with wellness in mind. The building has received WELL Health-Safety rating and UL Healthy Building verification for Indoor Air and Water, as well as LEED Gold certification for its commitment to sustainability.
Among the features that are open to the public are the 30K SF Gold’s Gym with boutique-style classes, 3D body scanning and a 1,400 SF training terrace, and Assembly, a two-floor dining experience. Assembly can host 625 customers in its indoor and outdoor spaces and includes eight different food concepts and a wine cellar.
To further embrace the placemaking concept, AREP partnered with local artists No Kings Collective to create a 67-by-50-foot mural titled “Dream Big.” This massive piece of public art boasts clouds with vectored shapes to create an ethereal image to inspire the entire community.
“Rosslyn’s bold future is built on transformation,” said Paul Schulman, principal and chief operating officer for AREP. “The past decade has seen Rosslyn grow into a major commercial center and an exciting place to live. AREP is proud to be part of this transformation with projects like Rosslyn City Center.”
The idea behind RCC, Schulman notes, is not just to create an office space for companies, but a communal space that Rosslyn residents can be proud to call their own.
“We want RCC to be a place to connect with experiential shared environments and exciting new food options unlike any other in Rosslyn or the DMV,” Schulman said. “It’s all about connection and community. We thoughtfully redeveloped Rosslyn City Center to provide flexibility and adaptability and embrace personal and social needs of our tenant customers, and community who work and live in Rosslyn.”