By Anne Cosgrove
From the February 2021 Issue
When you enter the 100+ year-old building that now houses the offices of Group C Media, Inc. in Red Bank, NJ, the first thing that strikes you is the mix of old and new. The original brick walls and rustic, but gleaming, hardwood floors marry perfectly with the latest workstations and technology installed in the company’s new space. Natural light spills in from floor to ceiling windows, which offer views of the sparkling Navesink River and a nearby theater, restaurants, and shops. After nearly 20 years in our space, Group C Media, Inc., parent company of Facility Executive magazine, moved into this new office in November 2020. Located just two miles from the company’s previous location, the space was carefully planned to serve as the new headquarters for this media company founded in 1968.
Finding The New Location
At 3,600 square feet, the new space has an expansive feel that affords the company’s 20+ employees a layout that fosters both solo work and collaborative tasks. It’s an ideal setting for staff who are busy publishing three magazines. In addition to Facility Executive, Group C is publisher of Business Facilities, for corporate site selectors, and Turf, a publication for lawn care and landscape professionals. As part of these brands, in-person events (that went virtual in 2020), webinars, and online products offer our readers important information they need to do their jobs.
“We flirted with the idea of moving for several years, but the timing was never right,” explains Ted Coene, Co-President and Owner of Group C. “Then, one day while driving through Red Bank, I saw there was availability at one of my favorite buildings in Red Bank, the Galleria.”
Completed in 1917, the Galleria is a 100,000-square-foot, three-story building featuring industrial-style architecture. During World Wars I and II, the building housed a textile factory, producing uniforms worn by American soldiers. Reopened by the current owner in 1991, the brick structure was rehabilitated to modern standards to house offices and retail establishments.
Explains Coene, “We wanted a space with six to eight private offices, a conference room, a lunchroom, and parking for our employees. Once we saw the space—including the river views from our prospective offices, we could see the possibilities and knew this was our new home.”
With uncertainty a concern for many companies in 2020, moving locations may not have been top of mind. But the time was right for a change for Group C, explains Co-President and Owner, Susan Coene. “Even after we had the green light for employees to return to the office [mid-year], there were significantly less employees working in the office than pre-pandemic. Also, Red Bank is a bustling town, very walkable, with restaurants and shops, so that offered benefits.”
The decision was made in August 2020, and the wheels began turning to put the office move in motion. Heading up the logistics with help from the office staff was Danielle DePasquale, Group C Controller. She vetted and hired all the contractors, which included movers, shredding services, and junk removal.
As with any office move, there were many moving parts, which DePasquale kept a close hand on throughout, literally. After choosing kitchen base and wall cabinets from IKEA, she also pitched in to assist with set up once the items were inside. (The IKEA delivery team could not perform this task due to COVID-19 precautions.)
“Overall, the process was pretty smooth,” recalls DePasquale. “And, I love the new space and location.”
Making The Space A Great Fit
The new Group C office reflects the industrial, early 20th Century aesthetic of the entire building. High ceilings, exposed brickwork, ductwork overhead, and chestnut trusses exude a loft-like vibe. Meanwhile, tall windows let in natural light to virtually every square foot of the space.
Still, alterations were needed to fit the vision of the company’s owners. While the space offered many desired features, it was not an open floor plan. Ted Coene explains, “We brought in an architect to reimagine the space, which included demolishing a centrally located conference room, and then creating a new conference room in a more desirable location in the office.”
Grammer Designs, LLC of Red Bank, NJ was brought in to help reimagine the space and to provide designs for the renovation. The firm’s principal, Ron Grammer, AIA/NCARB, LEED-AP, began by walking the space and examining the project goals. “The space needed to be made functional for Group C Media’s work, and the space configuration as it existed did not offer that,” he explains. “As part of this, a number of walls were taken down to create an open space in the center of the office.”
Taking down walls brought natural light deep into the office, but this also meant power and data that had been housed in those walls needed to be installed to serve the workstations planned for this area. Grammer recalls, “Those center workstations needed electrical and data, and part of my design was to ensure that would be successful.”
Another area Grammer mentions as a focus for the renovation plan is the reception area just inside the entrance. “In the previous space, a person had to walk through a second set of doors to reach the reception area. We opened that space up and created a space specific to the reception desk that would be placed there. Now, you see right away who to speak to when visiting the office.”
With six private offices around the perimeter, the newly expanded central portion of the space houses six workstations for employees. This provides the right number of private offices for those who are regularly on-site, along with the workstations for employees who come in on alternating schedules. This includes an enclosed office dedicated as a flex space, intended for employees who worked remotely even before the pandemic. Meanwhile, the spacious central area allows for colleagues to talk face to face, while keeping a safe distance from each other.
Employees with private offices brought their existing furniture from the previous site or purchased new, while the workstations planned for the open, central portion of the office called for special attention. Function, safety, and aesthetics were all important factors for Susan Coene who headed up specifying these units. She explains, “Adhering to COVID guidelines was crucial, with at least six feet of distance between each person and partitions of ample height. Also, because these are in an open space, we wanted to provide visual and sound privacy.”
The six units are remanufactured workstations, sourced from Davies Office, a nationally recognized leader in green remanufacturing and sustainable office solutions. Bill Davies, vice president at Albany, NY-based Davies Office, says, “Susan and I discussed the existing furniture and determined that remanufactured workstations would be the best approach. The product installed in the new Group C office is Steelcase Answer.”
Each workstation features an L-shaped desk surface, with one of its sections providing a sit-stand option. Collaborating with the Davies Office team, Coene ensured the Group C team members working at these spaces were provided ample space with privacy and functionality. And, the fabric panel colors were chosen to match the company’s logo, as well as other visual elements throughout the space.
Commenting on the adjustable desk feature, Davies points out that in recent years more companies have been asking for this type of furniture. “Many clients have been gravitating toward the ergonomic offering of sit-stand capabilities.”
Packing Up, And Moving In
With the majority of Group C employees working from home, packing for our office move required DePasquale to create a schedule for employees to come to the office. “We focused on safety and comfort level for employees,” she explains. “Some staff members came in on weekends, and for remote employees, I was able to video call with them to sort through their spaces as needed.”
The move in primarily took place over two days, with the Group C “moving team” on-site to oversee the contractors needed to set up the new space. And, employees who continue to work from home scheduled a time to set up their desk areas. Now, Facility Executive and the rest of the Group C staff have a new place to call home.
Did you conduct a facility relocation in 2020? Are you currently planning a move? If you’d like to share your story for consideration in a future article, send an e-mail to [email protected].
Do you have a comment on this article? Share it in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor.
Want to learn more about workplace culture and facility management topics?
Looking for updates? Check out all the latest facility management news related to Workplace Culture.