Chicago CRE celebrates tech-forward office assets paving the way for a smarter city

On June 27th, Chicago’s leaders in Commercial Real Estate and technology came together to celebrate the region’s commitment to advancing digital infrastructure and connectivity at Hines’ development River Point at 444 W Lake. David Reifman, Commissioner of Planning & Development for the City of Chicago, kicked off the evening with remarks on Chicago's advancements and announced the city as a flagship market for Wired Certification.

“On a more local level, on a block by block level, or even at the building level, connectivity will continue to influence business decisions," said Reifman. "I think it's entirely appropriate that WiredScore is assessing how local buildings are providing communications technology for tenants."

Similar to how Chicago’s commercial real estate leaders have already seen connectivity and digital infrastructure impact business decisions, there are multiple factors on the horizon set to drive an even greater exponential increase in the rate of society’s progress and innovation. These include massive increases in computing power and AI, the world’s information becoming digital and universally accessible, and the Internet of Things, commented WiredScore CEO & co-founder, Arie Barendrecht in his keynote address to those in attendance.

“While the prospect of technological innovation is exciting for the impact it will have on the way we live, work, and interact, it is inherently frightening, too, as rapid change creates winners and losers. People and companies alike will be left behind,” added Barendrecht.

Chicago is at the beginning of an incredible era of opportunity and has developed a robust tool kit as a city that readies it to reap the benefits from the time of rapid innovation on the horizon. Evidence of such includes a 2017 KPMG report ranking Chicago among the top 10 tech innovation hubs globally, alongside cities like Shanghai, New York, and Berlin. Additionally, Chicago was recently named one of the top cities for Silicon Valley-based tech companies’ outbound expansion. With Chicago clearly already a hotbed for innovation, our decision to designate Chicago a flagship market for Wired Certification was a logical step to align with the work the city has done to ensure its place on the world stage.

To date, WiredScore has certified twenty-five buildings in Chicago totaling over twenty-six million square feet. We have partnered with sixteen leading owners and developers, including EQ Office, Hines, Beacon Capital, and Farpoint Development, among others.

In order for Chicago to continue to thrive as a hub for technological innovation, it is important to prioritize connectivity, because of its role in enabling people to do great things. For example, without great connectivity, advances in telemedicine that connect doctors to patients remotely would not be possible. Similarly, leasing decision makers are already starting to recognize the importance of staying connected as a new report from Radius Global, The Value of Connectivity, found 77% of decision-makers would sign a lease more quickly with assurance that tech infrastructure meets the organization’s business requirements. Brad Weisberg, CEO and founder of Snapsheet, echoed this sentiment during the event’s panel commenting on finding space that both promotes employee productivity and fosters happiness in the office.

“If our internet goes down, we’re losing way more than $100,000 an hour, in productivity,” Weisberg said. "But it also goes past that. When we were looking at office space, it wasn’t just connectivity, but it was also ‘Where can we move that gives my employees happiness and peace of mind and lifestyle?’”

Beyond promoting employee productivity, connectivity is now recognized as crucial in fostering a sense of community akin to what is found in coworking spaces like WeWork, Industrious, and other providers. This was mentioned by panelist Bob Six, COO of Zeller Realty, who shared:

“All of these individual elements that we talk about relative to the amenity arms race, they can't really exist without the connectivity aspect. The connectivity aspect is what allows us to create community. That's your first step, and it's the most important step. All the rest of those things, you can figure out a way to do -- the rooftop decks, the nap pods, and so on.”

Similarly, Brian Atkinson, Managing Director, Hines, built on this, remarking on how Hines is focusing on providing tenants with more than just a real estate product.

“We're trying to stand out in the competition by looking at how wellness, technology, and services can go beyond just a real estate product,” said Atkinson. “What does that mean? It could mean personal business planning for individuals, it could be headshots, or it could be other services that we provide on a day-to-day basis in the building.”

Not only is it important for CRE leaders to understand what tenants are seeking in terms of amenities and connectivity in today’s market, but it is also important to be able to clearly and efficiently showcase an asset’s best-in-class digital infrastructure. Sara Spicklemire, Senior Vice President, CBRE, highlighted on the panel how Wired Certification is bringing transparency into the leasing process.

“I think WiredScore is an important certification to the buildings of Chicago, because it helps people understand very, very quickly, how connected I’ll be and how technology can support my business in a building,” said Spicklemire.

Christine Torres, Head of Chicago, WiredScore, closed out the evening reinforcing just how important a well-connected digital infrastructure ecosystem is for ensuring continued economic growth and corporate relocations to the region. Torres said:

“We discuss what landlords are doing in the current market to stay competitive. What really defines the tenant experience is that it all goes back to one main driver...connectivity and, ultimately, the infrastructure in place to promote that connectivity. Chicago is a tech city. Google and Facebook are expanding. Reddit is opening an office here. Walgreens' tech division is bringing 1,800 jobs to the Post Office. With respect to how we further engage this community and ensure it thrives, it all really goes back to how well-connected a building is and how all the components of the tenant experience talk to each other. It really is the number one priority.”

When the panel discussion concluded, we were able to enjoy some delightful Chicago weather and riverfront views on the plaza at River Point. It was a lively evening to network and mingle. We are grateful for those in the Chicago CRE and technology that were able to attend and make it such a memorable evening. We encourage you to look through the photos below capturing some of the night’s highlights.

Read more about the expansion of Wired Certification in Chicago. 

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