Written by Justin Shupp

Jackie Buhn Lends Her Expertise in CRE Consulting Corps Engagement at New Mexico State University

In July 2013, AthenianRazak’s Principal & CEO, Jackie Buhn, a longtime member of the Counselors of Real Estate and their Consulting Corps group, served as the group leader of a team of experts for an engagement in New Mexico. Together the team offered their expertise on effective management of New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) extensive land holdings. NMSU owns numerous parcels of land within the University boundaries, in or near the city of Las Cruces, and throughout the state. NMSU has sufficient land within the core of its Las Cruces campus to accommodate expansion requirements for many years.

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Chicago, Big Servers, and AthenianRazak

In a recent article Chicago:  The City of Big Servers, by Urban Land, the author discusses how Chicago is re-purposing buildings from its industrial past to use as data centers.  This conversion trend and the city’s location have helped Chicago become the fifth-largest data center market in North America.  A main player in this trend is the Lakeside Technology Center at 350 East Cermak, a location often cited as the world’s largest data center. This 1.1 million sq ft multi-tenant data center hub is owned by Digital Realty Trust, who partnered with AthenianRazak to quickly build out five data centers in this historic building in five months. Not only did we help to complete the job on time, we also brought it in 8% under an aggressive budget.

Green is the New Black at AthenianRazak – Why We Are Excited for Greenbuild 2013

Greenbuild is coming to Philadelphia from November 20th to 22nd and we couldn’t be more excited.  Not only is Greenbuild the world’s largest conference on green building, but it is here in our hometown. This will give Philadelphia the opportunity to show the world all we have done so far in sustainable building, and even better, what our vision is for the future.

Here at AthenianRazak, we are proud to say that our blood runs green (and not just for the Philadelphia Eagles), as stewardship of the environment is our true passion – both in terms of our business ethos – promoting viable and exciting urban density, reusing existing buildings, and providing attractive cityscapes – and our personal practices, like biking, walking, or taking public transportation to work.

A few members of our team will be attending Greenbuild, Michael Brookshier has been serving on the Community Engagement Committee, and some others will be volunteering.  And, Lenfest Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, where we served as Development Manager, will be featured in the conference’s half-day tours in a session called Liberty and Justice for All: Innovative Multifamily Housing on Monday, November 18th from 1 pm – 6 pm.

Welcome to Philadelphia Greenbuild Nation.  We hope to see you around town.

Tenant Satisfaction as a Business Driver

Tenant satisfaction and high levels of service delivery are key factors to success in the property management industry.   Tenant satisfaction contributes to multiple aspects of the industry including increased retention rates, decreased expenses, and better overall positioning of the physical asset.  As property and construction managers of 833 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, PA, AthenianRazak was among the highest tenant satisfaction ratings of all 122 buildings in the Owner’s global portfolio for 2012. You can read more about this distinction here. This is especially significant as within that timeframe, there were renovations to occupied clinical spaces, where the work was completed off hours and operations were continued uninterrupted.   The renovations were coordinated with, among other factors, environmental abatement and infection control.  All clinics continued to see patients throughout the construction process.

Unfinished Center City

A few months ago, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission released its Central District Plan, which, among other things, identifies a number of ‘areas with development potential in the City.  With Philadelphia’s recent  trend reversing decades of population decline, it is not surprising that many of the indicated areas are located at the edges of Center City, as development activity begins to creep outward in search of new opportunities.

However, while it is certainly true that many of these peripheral areas, like North Broad Street or the Delaware Waterfront, have development potential, and that the City would benefit greatly from their revitalization, it is important to remember that the development of Center City itself is not yet complete.

This is not to say that the plan ignores more central locations, quite the contrary, East Market St. / Chestnut St. and Franklin Square are both specifically listed.  Rather, the point is that these locations might deserve special consideration.  At some level, North Broad simply has to wait for development to catch up with it, at least that’s the impression one could get from grand proposals like the renovation of Divine Lorraine or The Provence casino and entertainment complex.  By contrast, something seems to be actively holding places like East Market and Old City back.

The challenges of these areas have been noted by local commentators repeatedly.  Vacant storefronts abound in spite of heavy foot traffic and many structures are either in a state of disrepair or present an uninviting façade, contributing to an aura of blight.  East Chestnut Street in particular practically screams with unmet potential and Old City never completed its supposed renaissance that began more than a decade ago.  In a City that still struggles to attract jobs, but has nonetheless managed to establish itself as a great place to live, knitting together the remaining stragglers in its otherwise excellent downtown amounts to a solid economic development strategy.

There is hope, as 229 Arch recently opened in Old City, big things could be afoot on the 1100 block of Chestnut, and the Market8 casino could be a game changer.  Hopefully the momentum will continue, and Philadelphia can go from having a good downtown to a world-class one.

Smart Planning at Lenfest Hall Cited in Recent Inquirer Article

A recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer questioned how to sustain Philadelphia’s vast array of arts and cultural institutions, many of which have undergone expansions or moved to brand new homes over the past two decades.  The article recognizes that while the expanded arts and culture sector has significantly contributed to the revival of Center City, it questions if Philadelphia is able to support this expanded sector with rising operating costs and shrinking contributions and ticket sales.

Many of our renowned institutions, critical to weaving together the fabric of Philadelphia’s arts and culture sector, are now struggling to pay for their expansions, or are seeking significant increases in charitable giving to cover their costs.  This illustrates the need for cultural groups to connect their physical assets with strategic plans and business goals.

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Theater 2 at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute Re-Opens on Schedule

AthenianRazak is proud of our continued role as the Owner’s Representative for the Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI).  As we mentioned in an earlier post, BMFI hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for their final phase of construction in mid-March.  We are excited that all of the work of this final phase is on track for completion and that Theatre 2, which has been closed since July, re-opened on September 13th, following an aggressive schedule, which required several contractors to work around the clock.  You can read more about the re-opening here. Now that Theater 2 has re-opened, BMFI will close Theater 1 to focus on its renovations.  The entire project remains on schedule despite record rainfall to the Philadelphia area that had the potential to slow the construction of the new addition.

As the Owner’s Rep, we are overseeing a dozen specialty consultants with vast experience, working together to ensure that every detail of the new addition and renovation will enhance the visitor experience at the four beautiful state-of the-art theaters.  The project is scheduled for full completion in February 2014.


Celebrating the Last Leg of a Long Journey

When we serve as Development Manager for an institutional development project, often one of our main responsibilities is supporting fundraising and financing efforts, as well as managing cash flow with these factors in mind. This was the case when we were brought on to manage the development of Lenfest Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music. Our team prepared and administered a $15 million Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RACP) grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These grants typically support the acquisition and construction of various types of regional projects. The grants don’t directly pay for project costs; they only reimburse bills already paid. So accurate, timely recordkeeping and organization is critical to smooth the flow of funds and to keep the cost of gap financing to a minimum. This requires diligent tracking, reporting, and piles of paperwork to ensure that all project funds that were originally promised can be secured.

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Dedication Event Set for the Lenfest Center at ChesLen Preserve

Transforming the site from a dilapidated mushroom cannery to a state-of-the-art preserve management center, Natural Lands Trust announces the completion of the Lenfest Center at ChesLen Preserve.

The dedication event for the Lenfest Center took place Saturday, June 15th. AthenianRazak is thrilled to have served as the Development Advisor for this project.  Check out a slideshow of the Lenfest Center here, read more about the project here, or see a recap of the opening reception here.

Economy League Envisions a World Class Greater Philadelphia

The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia is working on a shared agenda to improve the Greater Philadelphia region’s future.  The World Class Greater Philadelphia effort has three main focus areas including Education and Talent, Business Growth and Infrastructure.   AthenianRazak’s Principal Jackie Buhn is on the Board of Directors of the Economy League and is working on the agenda for the World Class Greater Philadelphia effort.

Education and Talent

This area is being worked on in conjunction with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and a host of other partner organizations.  One of the primary concerns of this effort is ensuring that every kid is “kindergarten ready.”  This includes creating an assessment to measure how ready children are for kindergarten by looking at various aspects of early childhood education.  You can read more about this effort here.

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