Specialist Insight: Richard Previdi, Alliance Partners HSP

Alliance Partners HSP has been creating uniquely trending office environments since the mid-1990s.

Workspaces that promote employee collaboration, corporate branding and retention of talented team members sound like Silicon Valley stuff – and if you’ve watched the HBO sitcom with that name, the fictional company Hooli could offer up plenty of interior design ideas.

But tech isn’t the only industry driving creative commercial real estate innovation. Philadelphia-based commercial real estate firm, Alliance Partners HSP, has been creating uniquely trending office environments since the mid-1990s.

Along the way, they’ve learned much about what tenants want and how to save money on redevelopment while still producing an attractive and flexible final product. Read on to learn how Richard Previdi and his team have done just that at SoNo, a warehouse conversion adjacent to Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood.

CPE: Tell us about Alliance Partners HSP and your areas of specialization?

Previdi: We’re an innovator. We’re a boutique firm. We try to have acquisition strategies, development strategies, and financing strategies that are unique and give us a competitive advantage. Using those strategies, we have purchased large office buildings in Chicago, Nashville and Tampa. We bought warehouses that were so cheap, they really were not interesting to most people. But when fixed up and redeveloped, they turned to be profitable for us in a meaningful way.

CPE: Is this a frequent opportunity, to convert a warehouse into a modern office space?

Previdi: It’s hard to find warehouses in infill locations that can be converted to office buildings, that’s a pretty rare thing. But we’ve been working this way for a couple of decades now. We’ve learned that you have to do this kind of business regionally, so we’ve focused on the mid-Atlantic. Recently, it’s become more fashionable.

We take under-utilized properties in infill locations and convert them into Class A- pooled space for our value conscious tenants, creating a win for the communities, a win for our investors, and a win for our tenants.

CPE: What do you think has changed to influence that popularity?

Previdi: Over the last 3 to 5 years, pooled space has become the norm and people want to position the office horizontally vs. vertically. The big trends that we’ve seen are the tenants caring more about densification: wanting to put more people into an office space and having common work areas; a desire for collaboration areas for working together and with other companies; and recruitment and branding.

CPE: What have you created at SoNo in Philadelphia?

Previdi: We were blessed that we could find a space like this, so well-located, in our home city of Philadelphia. It’s the kind of space that’s hard to find. It is located just 3-4 blocks from the Independence Mall, its 8 blocks from City Hall and the Center City/train stations, and its right in this growing and upcoming area of Northern Liberties. Hence the name SoNo – South of Northern Liberties. We have 260,000 square feet here that will house 5 to 10 tenants.

CPE: Is this type of development trending in the area?

Previdi: We found out this last week that (co-working office space provider) WeWork is actually doing their first Philadelphia space in Northern Liberties. That’s a seminal validation of where that area is going.

CPE: What are you offering at SoNo to attract tenants?

Previdi: High open ceilings above seating areas allow companies to truly brand their space in a unique, personal way that fits their culture. A warehouse, with a big open floor plan, is ideal for that.

Recruitment perks for Millennial employees include a bike room for commuters with lockers and showers, healthy food on site, and visiting food trucks. We also have theater seating for meetings, and a lot of room specifically for group collaboration. We have a spinning/yoga room and a fitness area. These are all things that facilitate branding, recruitment and collaboration.

CPE: Is there any outside space?

Previdi: One challenge is creating the access to sunlight and natural light. Tenants really value seeing the sky, night and day, and they aren’t as concerned about window lines or views into the parking lot.

There’s also a rooftop balcony, a common area space, with views to the surrounding area, including the Delaware River, Philadelphia skyline, Northern Liberties and Old City. Comfortable seating, fire pits, planters, and a barbecue area make it perfect for outdoor socializing or casual meetings.

CPE: Who are the potential tenants?

Previdi: In Philadelphia, pharmaceuticals and pharma-related marketing is very big. We’ve also seen traditional companies that want to enhance their recruiting and branding. If the company really wants to attract millennials to their workforce and that’s a big part of their business, then this space is very appealing to them.

CPE: What have you learned over many years of this type of work?

Previdi: When you put up a new building, I would say it is 20 percent art and 80 percent science. When you take an old building and you try to renovate it, it’s 80 percent art and 20 percent science. We have to obsess, a lot, to make sure that it ends up looking really great.