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Not surprisingly, the commercial real estate industry has started to feel the effect of the weakening economy. The tightening credit markets have made acquisitions more difficult and lengthened the financing process in general. The competition for triple-A tenants is heating up as owners look to solidify their rent roles with stable, long term companies. This has created a shift toward the tenant in many of the new lease transactions. In this environment, it is more important than ever for owners and managers to differentiate their buildings in order to attract and keep tenants.

To attract and keep tenants during slow economic times, property owners are focusing more on the building environment as a way to create a sense of community. Owners and managers are adding café services and personal touches like dry-cleaning drop off and pick up in an effort to differentiate their building. They are looking to add amenities that will save their tenants time and make life easier. To insure that tenants are aware of these services, we see more commercial properties investing in tenant communication efforts.

As the cost of energy increases and tenants focus on environmental issues, building owners and managers are considering green initiatives for their properties. LEED certification, decreasing paper communication and doing their part to lower the buildings environmental impact have become important considerations. These trends have stuck a chord with other like-minded companies and are giving rise to a renewed focus on amenities and services that help deliver on the green promise.

In New York City, we have seen an increase in properties being modernized to move up in class. Owners are taking B or B+ class buildings and moving them to B+ or A- properties. In most of these situations its curb appeal that drives the process. Typically it includes the lobby, the façade and the elevators, but more and more it also involves amenity services. They are striving to create more open air space and develop common areas that foster interaction and add energy to the building.

One amenity that ties many of these trends together is digital signage. A popular execution of this technology is screens installed into elevators or lobbies, like the product from Captivate Network. These screens help build community and provide benefit to both the building owner and the tenant. For the building owner, these screens provide them with a cost effective and eco-conscious way to communicate with all of their tenants to keep them abreast of building developments. The tenants in turn watch the screens to garner up-to-date news and information; helping them to stay informed throughout their workday. These systems can act as powerful tools in the owners’ efforts to create and maintain excitement in their assets. They are also important to their marketing efforts; whether its community events going on at the property or progress they are making towards LEED certification. Owners are taking advantage of the power and simplicity of these technologies to aggregate their communication efforts.

Attracting and retaining tenants is always a challenge, especially in a difficult market. However, we see many innovative owners that are investing in projects and amenities to differentiate themselves in this market. Proper application of these can position a building (and its ownership) as a market leader; with an ability to capture a greater share of the increasingly competitive leasing opportunities.

Todd Newville is vice president, technology and real estate for Captivate Network, a digital at-work news and entertainment network.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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