Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Location, Bandwidth, Location: Rudin's Tech Guru Shares His Insights on the "Smart" Amenities of Today and Infrastructures of Tomorrow

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Location, Bandwidth, Location: Rudin's Tech Guru Shares His Insights on the "Smart" Amenities of Today and Infrastructures of Tomorrow

Article excerpt

John J. Gilbert, III, is executive vice president and chief operating officer at Rudin Management Company, one of New York City's largest privately owned real estate groups. He served as chief technology officer for the company's New York Information Technology Center, a groundbreaking 400,000-sq. ft. building that proved a mecca for tenants seeking a wired business environment in Manhattan's "Silicon Alley," as well as 32 Sixth Avenue, a carrier-neutral facility that allows wired and wireless carriers to access thousands of buildings throughout the city. He recently spoke to the Journal about the value of technology amenities, the telecommunications landscape in office and residential properties and his vision for a wireless broadband network for small businesses.

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JPM: You helped create a prototype for the intelligent building with the launch of the New York Information Technology Center at 55 Broad Street. Is it still ahead of the curve?

John Gilbert: It's interesting to note that it was described as the grandfather of all smart buildings at the Realcomm conference last summer when it was given an award for "industry impact." It really defined how voice, video and data should be distributed throughout a multi-tenant building and the model has stood the test of time. It is all about enhancing and creating choice. Very simply, what do your tenants want and how, ultimately, do you most efficiently deliver that to them? Listen to your customers. They want a choice of carriers. Listen to the carriers who ultimately become your customers. They want easy access to their customer, so give them a just-plug-in infrastructure. Then say, 'What do I want?' and listen to yourself. We want peace of mind knowing the investments we make are for the long term.

JPM: One source estimates as few as four percent of the country's more than 750,000 commercial office buildings are directly connected to fiber. How powerful is a building's technology system as a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining tenants?

Gilbert: I can tell you our most recent ground-up project, 3 Times Square [the Reuters Building], literally was designed from the inside out because of Reuters and who they are and what we learned at 55 Broad Street. The redundant distribution of fiber was the most important component of that building from an invisible design standpoint. Reuters is in the information business and if they aren't able to create information and distribute it or receive information and dissect it, they're out of business. Instead of 'location, location, location,' 'location, bandwidth, location' is really the better moniker. The ability to touch customers across the globe relates directly to your ability to access optical fiber.

JPM: What background analysis do you recommend managers use to assist owners in deciding whether to make a major technology investment to improve the appeal and value of their properties?

Gilbert: Really listen to your customers. When you can say to a tenant one building will give them multiple choices of carriers, all the carriers stacked up and access to wi-fi and redundant wireless networks when they rent a 40,000-sq. ft. space, and next door they will just have the space and will have to figure out all these other things for themselves, the value-add for that first building is clear. The owners have taken the time to try to get inside their customer's head, understand their issues and deliver a level of service those customers want. That's the building people are going to go to.

JPM: When you're working on a new or rehab project, there's flexibility for planning the technology infrastructure. What advice do you have for property managers faced with upgrading telecommunications in retrofit scenarios, possibly in phases to accommodate individual tenants?

Gilbert: It's something we wrestle with every day. That's why we focus on building the trunks. …

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