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Food Court Renovation Aims To Make Allen Center More Appealing To Tenants

August 2012

As organizations consider new office space or perhaps the possibility of an office lease renewal, the presence of quality amenities can provide one building a leg up on another, particularly where the rental rates are comparable. One of the amenities that can make the biggest impact is access to quality food in an inspiring setting. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in one of downtown Houston’s most significant food courts, better known as "The Court" in Allen Center. The food court renovation at the Allen Center transformed the 17,000-square-foot space into a bright, sophisticated space with all-new floor and wall finishes, ceilings and lighting, tables and seating.

"The quality of amenities can make the difference in a B/B+ or A/A+ property," notes Wayne Braun of Planning Design Research who led the re-design of the Allen Center food court. "In the case of this project, the goal was to make the food court feel larger and brighter, more active, sophisticated and timeless – even though it is in the tunnel level below grade and without windows."

"The people are the ‘color’ and they create the good vibes for this space — it is all about the people. We set out to create a space that feels inviting to the patrons and ultimately improves the bottom line for all of the food court tenants."

With 500 seats, The Court at Allen Center caters to those working in and around the Allen Center Complex, three buildings which collectively house nearly three million square feet of Class A office space. Allen Center is owned by Brookfield Office Properties.

In looking back on the success of the food court renovation project, Braun is quick to tout the role of the facility executive who was involved in all of the project’s design decisions. He also gathered input from the Allen Center leasing group to secure feedback in terms of what the building’s leasing team heard from both current and prospective food court vendors.

"The feedback was consistent, ‘update it, make it brighter and make it more inviting,’" says Braun.

Besides the active involvement of the facility executive, Braun says there are several "lessons learned" a facility executive can incorporate into a food court renovation.

• If you are considering a food court expansion, egress from the space might be a limiting factor. Before you plan any food court renovation, review the size and number of exits; that information will determine just how many seats a project can add or accommodate.

• Democracy is a good thing, but too much input can mire a food court renovation since so many individual brands will be represented. Ask your food court vendors big-picture questions such as "What would make this a better food court?" and "What do you think your customers would like more?" Don’t ask them what color it should be or what finishes you should select.

• Commission renderings of the project to show current and prospective food court tenants. In addition, make these available for workers so they can envision what’s to come. Everyone needs to feel the project is going to be worth the time and potential disruption.

• Think in phases. Braun suggests renovating small spaces at a time to avoid any of your food tenants needing to shut down during the renovation.

• Think of your food court as more than just a lunch spot. Make it the hub or center of activity. Use lounge seating for those visiting your food court outside of lunch hours. Create places to collaborate or to work remotely so they can perform tasks on their mobile devices. Food vendors will appreciate the additional income these activities can generate.

 Reprint From FacilitiesNet