Martin Place – designing with tenants

by Mitch Ziems
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The transformation of Sydney’s No.1 Martin Place isn’t just historic because of the results. It also marks an important step forward for tenant-facility manager relations, writes MITCH ZIEMS.

In November of 2018, Charter Hall Office Trust unveiled The Portico, the newly transformed lobby and mezzanine at the historic No.1 Martin Place. The prestigious location of the first General Post Office in Sydney, its presence is credited with turning the area into one of Australia’s most iconic commercial and public spaces. What makes it worthy of note today, however, is not what it represents on the outside, but what it has come to represent inside: an important step forward for tenant-facility manager relations.

A new breed of tenant

Once the heart of Sydney’s legal and finance sectors, the offices along Martin Place are now home to some of the world’s leading technological titans.

LinkedIn, Expedia, Macquarie and DLA Piper can be found here, as can Microsoft, which opened its stunning, state-of-the-art technology centre at No.1 earlier this year. So popular is the area for companies looking to establish an Australasian base of operations that the locals have come to call it ‘Silicon Place’.

Tenants of such high renown bring with them a unique collection of needs and, with so many high-tech developments nearing completion in the area – especially in North Sydney, the tech heartland of Australia prior to the bursting of the dot-com bubble – it’s important for facility managers to ensure their properties are capable of satisfying them.

While some may have seen it as a necessary but costly expense, Charter Hall was different. The company saw an opportunity to connect with this new breed of tenants and rethink the office experience not just for them, but with them.

The feedback was immediate and clear: retain the historic structure of the precinct while providing for the modern way of working.

The transformed lobby of No.1 Martin Place.


The third place

Charter Hall launched a competition, calling for concepts that reflected the needs of a progressive, cutting edge tenant base.

Ultimately, Adriano Pupilli Architects (APA) and Mia Feasey, co-founder and CEO of Siren Design, were chosen to collaborate on the project. Siren Design would focus on the interior design, APA on the architecture, but the companies had a common goal: turn what was essentially a thoroughfare into a ‘third place’ – a communal area where tenants could work and socialise outside the office.

Flexibility was key. If The Portico was to be seen as a true extension of a tenant’s office, the space would need to provide a variety of options to ensure they would be comfortable, and their needs met. The team accommodated this by using furniture and lighting to denote different settings. Warm pendant lamps hang directly above the long tables in the centre of the room, providing plenty of light to work by, while the lounges near the opposite wall are less illuminated, creating a more intimate atmosphere.

The sense of community was further heightened through the inclusion of Portal Café, which delivers 100 percent of its profits to benevolent causes, and a pop-up art gallery space developed in collaboration with community art initiative Project [504].

The transformed lobby of No.1 Martin Place.


The value of connection

“I think it’s been a great example of how interior designers, architects, property groups and customers can work together to design truly great spaces,” says Feasey.

More than that, the transformation represents the potential that comes when those leading it allow their decisions to be informed by the needs of those for whom the transformation is designed.

Charter Hall’s collaborative approach gives a competitive edge. Not only does it demonstrate that it has its tenants’ needs in mind, but it also creates the kind of connection that could make the difference between a tenant staying, and leaving for a trendier district of the city.

“The Martin Place precinct has been going through a revitalisation, bringing with it a new breed of tenant in what was once the heart of the legal, finance and banking precinct of Sydney’s CBD. Charter Hall co-creates with its tenant customers to create truly unique ‘third spaces’ that are an extension of their workplace. No.1 Martin Place is a shining example of the vibrant, multi-functional spaces being created for our people, customers and the broader community,” says Charter Hall Office Trust fund manager, Trent James.

“As the way we work continues to change, Charter Hall is responding to our customers evolving needs by designing flexible work spaces that spark innovative thinking, enhance productivity and create a better workplace experience.”

On a broader scale, all facility managers can learn something from this case. Whether you manage a commercial property or one focused on a specific organisation, the value of connection between you and your tenant cannot be overstated. Look for ways to take a collaborative approach in your process, however small it may be, and you’re likely to see immediate benefits.

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