A collection of beautiful but neglected historic buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront was crying out for a new purpose 10 years ago. They had suffered considerably – first from divestment, then from Super Hurricane Sandy.
Following a $450 million redevelopment and adaptive reuse program, these 6.5 million square foot buildings have become Industry City, a neighborhood destination teeming with retail, restaurants, amenities, art and culture.
Industry City was my professional home for four years, where I helped build not only one of Brooklyn’s premier examples of active technology and maker culture, but also a testament to the possibilities of thoughtful adaptive reuse. .
In 2018, when Florida’s largest office owner, CP Group, acquired 5000 T-Rex Avenue in Boca Raton, IBM’s once-iconic headquarters suffered from decades of neglect, much like Industry City.
The birthplace of the personal computer, a sprawling building designed by brutalist architect Marcel Breuer, had turned into a sprawling, poorly maintained repository of Class C office space. The building’s tenants, mostly back-office, occupied only two-thirds of the building. Interiors were pure 1980s, with worn carpets, low ceilings, and dim lighting. The only convenience? Ample parking.
Fast forward to now, and the gleaming white hexagonal building renamed Boca Raton Innovation Campus (BRiC) is almost fully occupied. BRiC’s 1.7 million square feet and 123 acres currently house 18 national headquarters and 19 regional offices.
What changed? We rebranded, repositioned, renovated and landscaped the campus to attract and retain today’s workforce.
Now that remote work has reduced the need for office space, we believe our approach is what it takes to attract employees to their office. The separation between work and life has blurred. Landlords who don’t provide the amenities that cater to this change will be stuck with big vacancies.
Much of our work to date has focused on building a team to meet the needs of BRiC tenants, managing deferred maintenance and installing equipment to provide our tenants with amenities they can’t get in a typical office building. We also replaced and upgraded chillers, elevators, generators and transformers to support our 10 megawatt generator plant, which can run the 1.7 million square feet for two weeks without refueling. .
If municipal government authorities approve CP Group’s proposed master plan, the campus will be transformed over the next decade into a live-work-play environment, fully open to the public and integrating residential and hospitality components.
The goal? Create a Class-A desktop experience comparable to what tech giants such as Google or Facebook offer, but accessible to smaller tech and R&D-focused businesses, to resurrect the concept of Boca Raton as “Silicon Beach to surpass even IBM’s vision. during the day.
Our plans include cutting out part of the building to create a large main campus entrance and improve vehicular circulation. Although demolition and reconstruction are planned until 2023, the rest of the building will remain fully operational.
Construction has begun of a 1,000-seat food hall and event space, which will be made available to tenants upon completion. One thing I learned at Industry City: staying open nights and weekends was critical to success. If the rezoning allows it to be open to the public seven days a week and after hours, the hall will accommodate large meetings, galas, the state science fair and TedXBocaRaton.
It used to be that people parked, entered the building through the door closest to where they worked, exited through the same door at the end of the day, and drove home. Now, scattered amenities encourage employees to explore, while organized events and art exhibits, including an NFT exhibit, encourage them to meet and mingle.
We’ve created an outdoor patio connected to a cafe where people can eat, socialize, or use the powerful outdoor Wi-Fi to get some focused work done. There are also walking trails. As part of the next phase, which depends on municipal approval, we plan to add more amenities: a grocery store, doctors’ offices, retail businesses and a performance hall.
Once our tech-conscious tenants experience the benefits and conveniences of a micro-city, we expect it to create a positive network effect that will nurture a tech ecosystem beyond the confines of BRiC’s 123 acres.
Michael Perrette is CEO of CP group, owner-operator of the Boca Raton Innovation Campus. He previously served as Director of Operations at Industry City.