Part One Q&A Interview: Bixby Land’s Bill Halford Works Magic in Portland
By Dennis Kaiser
Bixby Land Company recently completed a three-building, $44.2 million assemblage in downtown Portland, OR, and is underway with The Crossing at First, an innovative office campus redesign that will transform the project into a vibrant work environment.
The Crossing at First integrates the former CDK Plaza and adjacent Marquam Building into a dynamic 250,000-square-foot office campus that will be connected by an energized one-acre plaza and outdoor amenity area. Connect Media asked Bixby Land’s Bill Halford what led to making a bold move into the Pacific Northwest for the Newport Beach, CA-based firm, as well as how the redevelopment came together in a two-part 3 CRE Q&A.
Q: Bixby has completed more than 30 office redesigns over the years involving extensive work environment transformations. What was behind the decision to shift your focus to the Northwest with The Crossing at First in Portland?
A: We bought CDK Plaza, and as we kept visiting we kept eyeing the adjacent Marquam Building. It is an older building with significant deferred maintenance, but with great bones. When you re-tenant and add a cool restaurant that spills out from the ground floor, it creates something magical.
The project would have been incomplete with just 2/3rds of the site redeveloped, and we’d always be wondering about the neighbor. The existing owner wasn’t wired like us. We feel like if you present a better product, we believe you’ll get paid for it. We are never looking to be the low cost provider.
Q: What are some of the complexities involved in creating a progressive campus like The Crossing at First?
A: Normally it takes us three to four months to finalize design and construction budgets to do what we need to bring a modern feel. We like having projects that are aesthetically successful, but they also have to be economically successful. You can go broke making things pretty, so you have to be very careful.
You may also have to ignore a neighbor if it’s not pretty, and sometimes you just have to buy it. So we bought the third building, and incorporated a design that lays over all three buildings. When we bought the original two buildings we had designed changes to all three, so we didn’t have to start over on the design. The rent economics make sense if it stands as a block unto itself and is modernized with a great vibe.
Q: How will The Crossing at First engage people?
A: What makes it work is it will be different in every way, sense and feel than the basic shape. But we’ve changed the skin of all three buildings, so they look different from top to the bottom ground plane, including the subterranean garage. It is entirely different and a brand new look. Everything from changes like the parking area that’s now light, bright, cheery and inviting. The building doesn’t offer much of a pedestrian experience, since most are vehicular arrivals. The first impression is changed from a bummed-out escalator ride that left a bad impression. We cleaned up the parking structure and the whole ground plane between the buildings with a beautiful plaza. It was run-down and un-interesting, concrete with no plants, no seating – we fixed that.
We reached into both buildings and added new modernized signage. Other than the shape of the buildings, it looks like a new project in every way that we touched it. We had local muralists add two pieces in different areas, an interesting sculpture was installed, rather than a fountain from the 1950s that didn’t work. We reimagined the whole experience, from the moment you enter in a car to when you put the key in your suite door.
Dennis Kaiser is Vice President of Content and Public Relations for Connect Commercial Real Estate. Dennis is a communications leader with more than 30 years of experience including as a journalist and in corporate and agency marketing communications roles. He is responsible for Connect’s client content operations and is involved in a range of initiatives ranging from content strategy, message development, copywriting, media relations, social media and content marketing services.
In his most recent corporate communications roles, he led a regional public relations effort across Southern California for CBRE, played a key marketing role on JLL’s national retail team, and was responsible for directing the global public relations effort at ValleyCrest, the nation’s largest commercial landscape services company.
In addition to his vast commercial real estate experience, Dennis has worked on communications and launch strategies for a number of residential projects such as Disney’s Celebration in Florida, Ritter Ranch in Palmdale California (7,200 homes, 22,000 acres), WaterColor in Florida and PremierGarage in Phoenix.
Dennis’s agency background included firms such as Idea Hall and Macy + Associates. He has earned an outstanding reputation with organization leaders as a trusted advisor, strategic program implementer, consensus builder and exceptional collaborator.
Dennis has developed and managed national communications programs for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, both public and private. He’s successfully worked with journalists across the globe representing clients involved in major-breaking news stories, product launches, media tours, and company news announcements.
Dennis has been involved in a host of charitable and community organizations including the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals, BoyScouts, Chrysalis Foundation, Freedom For Life, HOLA, L.A.’s BEST, Reach Out and Read, Super Bowl Host Committee, and Thunderbirds Charities.