A fast-paced marketing company needed more space and was looking possibly to relocate while also eyeing adjacent space for expansion. One problem: Another company, albeit troubled, was already in that space. There were also complicated design issues relating to the marketing company’s operations. There were permits to be obtained, and other issues to be addressed.

Indeed, “this was a project with a lot of ‘moving parts’,” says Darren Lizzack of NAI James E. Hanson in Hackensack, NJ. In other words, it was perfectly aligned for the teamwork that personifies the members of the New Jersey Commercial Real Estate Alliance (NJCREA), who readily call upon each other’s skills in time of need.

“I received a phone call from Jim Heuer of Heuer & Company [Waldwick, NJ], who said he had a client that needed to do something, and asked Joel Ives of the Ives Architecture Studio [Fair Lawn, NJ] and I to meet with the client’s two principals,” says Lizzack.

All, of course, are members of NJCREA. In this case, the client was Decision Drivers, a client-based marketing research firm that specializes in providing a venue for focus groups. The firm’s location then – and now – is 221 West Grand Avenue in Montvale. Those phone calls among NJCREA members set in motion a teamwork-based effort to get those “moving parts” – everything from a complicated lease, to construction costs and estimates, to getting building permits and completing an actual build-out – in sync.

“Decision Drivers had been at this location for four years and was looking to expand,” Heuer explains. “They had been a client of ours for five years – we did their original fit-out. One possibility for expansion was moving to New York. Another was space next door to their existing location. It was occupied by another tenant, but that tenant was in some financial trouble. Decision Drivers had already been contacted by the landlord’s broker about the space, but they wanted someone specifically representing them. That’s when I called Darren.”

“The fact that there was an existing tenant in the adjacent space was just one of the issues we had to work through on the lease,” says Lizzack. “They were in financial trouble but with a few years left on their lease, so it wasn’t a unique situation where we had the leverage to tell the landlord that we’re ‘going down the street.’ When the lease was put into effect, there was an amendment extending the term for a period of time.

“It was fortunate that the landlord was cooperating, knowing this was an opportunity to take a long-term tenant already here and expand their space while getting rid of a troubled tenant,” Lizzack says. “Once the other tenant departed, we were able to structure a lease at a reduced rent with a series of renewal options with the rent locked in. So, they’re protected for the next 20 years.

“To help offset the construction cost of more than $200,000, we were also able to work out an arrangement for six months of free rent in lieu of the landlord contributing to the improvements,” he says. “The tenant paid for all of the construction.”

With the lease agreement pending, Joel Ives had already begun working on preliminary drawings for the expansion’s design. With the lease signed, the wand was passed over to Ives, who began working on a full set of construction drawings, and Jim Heuer, whose construction firm took over for the actual build-out.

“It was a challenge—we doubled the size of their space, and they had some very particular requirements,” says Ives. “We had to go through different sets of schemes and interact with Jim throughout the process, of course. With Darren finalizing the lease, there were a lot of things coming together at once. Everyone was working together for the greater good of the client—an NJCREA trademark.

“A recent visit to Decision Drivers’ expanded office was first time I’ve actually been there,” Ives says. “It’s unusual for an architect not to come on-site during construction, but that’s really because we were working as a team.”

“Several things about the construction were very particular and needed to work properly in order for Decision Drivers to have good relationships with their clients,” says Heuer. One of those unusual requirements: A viewing window stretching across one wall of a conference room, behind which is a room the actual client sits in and watches a focus group meeting taking place. In the meeting room itself, the viewing window is, in effect, a very large mirror.

“The firm’s corporate clients are looking for advertising, marketing or product feedback,” Heuer explains. “They not only want to see, but hear what’s going on in here, so the one-way sound has to work very well. At the same time, there were limitations on getting the mirror in, relating to cost and simply getting it up the stairs and into the building in one piece.

“The bottom line is that we all brought some good ideas to the table,” says Heuer. “Once the decision was made for Decision Drivers to expand into the space adjacent to their existing space, the project provided the opportunity to bring in some additional trusted resources that we could vouch for, and also to think about who else in NJCREA could help with this and future projects.

“This group is a full resource of all aspects of the things that we do,” Heuer says.

“It’s really about teamwork,” says Ives. “That’s the message – doing a project like this as a team is a lot different than having an adversarial relationship in bidding a job.”

“We continue to think about how can we expand this concept with other clients and get even more of us involved,” Lizzack concludes. “That’s what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Republished from  To read this article on the NJCREA website, click here.

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The Ives Architecture Studio (TIAS), based in Fair Lawn, NJ, has over 30 years experience in the disciplines of architecture, interior design & planning.

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