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New Strategies For Commercial Real Estate

October 10, 2001


It used to be the innocent name of an organization. But now, the words "Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat" have taken on a new meaning.

That's why the group is making changes to the agenda of its upcoming December conference, dubbed "Building for the 21st Century." The revised schedule reflects the new concerns of the real estate world, where executives' foremost concerns have changed from rents and occupancies to safety and security.

These renewed concerns have opened up opportunities for some vendors to the real estate world. For example, two technology companies, essention, Inc., a Seattle-based application service provider of property and facility management solutions, and WPS Emergency Planning, a developer of online facility emergency response and recovery programs, have formed a partnership to help real estate firms provide better communication, emergency response planning and recovery services for tenants.

The two companies have combined their products into a new package that will allow commercial facility and property management professionals to implement and manage emergency plans and procedures online, while being able to quickly communicate in case of a disaster.

"The unfortunate events we have recently witnessed at the World Trade Center remind all of us of the importance of disaster preparedness," said Elizabeth Gessel, president of Phase Management Inc. "In the event of a crisis situation, we hope our conscious effort to educate and remind our tenants of the proper procedures will not only help our tenants handle situations better, but potentially save lives as well."

Disaster preparedness will similarly be top-of-mind for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

"The horrific events witnessed by the world on 11 September 2001 are forever impressed in our minds," said Ron Klemencic, chairman of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat and president of Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire. "Although these actions occurred in the United States, the impact continues to be felt by all in our global community. The shock, outrage, sorrow, fear, and anxiety tens of thousands have experienced since the moment of the attack is so profound that it is nearly impossible to convey."

The council says it has received hundreds of e-mails, phone calls and letters from all corners of the globe. These missives have come from the general public, members of the high-rise industry and the press. The majority of those contacting the council are asking just what the organization intends to do to prevent future attacks. They also want to know how the future of high-rise buildings has been impacted.

"Since the first announcement of 'Building for the 21st Century,' the [council] has continually communicated that the content of the conference encompasses what it means for humans to live, work, and raise a family in a taller building," said Valerie Richardson, conference marketing chairperson. "As discovered from the tragic Pentagon strike, the conference topics apply to mid-rise buildings as well."

The first two adjustments to the agenda involve the conference's keynote addresses. And while these speeches will only be heard by conference attendees, their subject matter would benefit real estate owners and managers around the globe.

The opening speaker is Klemencic, who will lead an international panel on topics relative to the World Trade Center towers. This includes architectural, structural, mechanical, fire protection, security, egress, smoke evacuation, vertical transportation and building management issues surrounding the attacks.

The closing keynote is Michael Golden, vice chairman and senior vice president of The New York Times Company. Golden's session will focus on the issues of primary interest to the business owner/occupier of high rise buildings. The NY Times currently occupies a 14-story building in Manhattan but is building a 52-story high rise.

Golden will address the business productivity and efficiency issues surrounding tall building design and also give a view of the World Trade Center attack from the perspective of a resident business on Manhattan.

The need for dialogue among global real estate leaders on issues surrounding structure, safety, security, infrastructure and communications is clearly more important now than ever, no matter what the height of the building. We can only hope that more conferences and discussions like these continue to dominate the conversations between real estate executives, especially as the impending war begins.

Lesley Hensell covers commercial real estate and financial issues for Realty Times. Based outside of Dallas, Lesley works with high-tech and real estate clients as an independent marketing and public relations consultant. She also writes for several publications, including the Dallas Morning News. E-mail Lesley at: [email protected]

Copyright © 2001 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

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