In Brief: Commercial Observer Innovators Forum

The Commercial Observer’s inaugural Innovators Forum on December 4 was a veritable who’s who of movers and shakers in New York CRE. Here are the major themes that emerged.

Reinventing workspace amenities

Knotel Co-Founder and CEO Amol Sarva shared the stage with Paul Darrah, Director of Real Estate at Google, Chase Garbarino, CEO & Co-Founder at HqO, and Michael Phillips, President at Jamestown, with Nina Roket, Partner at Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP, moderating. The panelists discussed the new tenant and office amenities, flexible workplace trends, and tech solutions being developed by New York’s major real estate owners.

Darrah explained that the mission of Google’s real estate team is “helping Googlers thrive” by providing access to amenities, fitness, well-being, and more. Sarva noted that Knotel helps less amenity-focused companies access these benefits, too. “We help companies unlock so much desire and value without your having to go reinvent [the workspace] yourself,” he said. “Our system is pushing through innovations.”

Innovating to survive

CRE isn’t known as an early adopter, but there are many strong voices in the industry with compelling reasons to push for innovation. One is simply to stay relevant. According to RXR‘s Seth Pinsky, innovation is how to make commercial real estate relevant to millennials, who are increasingly dominating the workforce: “As long as we can continue to attract talent, we’ll be successful,” he said.

Another reason is profitability. L.D. Salmanson, CEO of Cherre, noted that while increased technology in real estate might not be a lever to increase profits per se, it is a powerful means to an end. “Can you solve it: yes or no?'” is what people ask, he said. “They don’t care if you use artificial intelligence, or have an army of people work on it.”

Teaching old buildings new tricks

William Rudin of Rudin Management Company is known to adopt high-tech information systems for his buildings. Drawing a comparison to automobiles, he asked, “How do you drive a car without knowing how much gas you have, or how fast you’re going?” The same logic should, and can, apply to buildings. While upgrading older buildings might be a challenge, the venerable Larry Silverstein, founder of Silverstein Properties, says it’s necessary. “It’s happening all over New York,” he noted. “There’s a future in the older buildings.”

Read the Commercial Observer recap for more insights from the Forum.

Photo credit: Aaron Adler/Commercial Observer