In a recent article on The Boston Business Journal’s website, there were details of Oxford Properties’ recent redevelopment of the building lobby at 125 Summer Street in Boston. By the looks of things the project was a MASSIVE undertaking … the $10 million redevelopment completely repositioned the building’s lobby and entrance, providing a more welcoming entry to the building and connecting the building’s interior with its vibrant surroundings. In the article, the head of Oxford’s Boston office, Chad Remis, explained that Oxford is “taking more of a hospitality approach to the lobby, in the sense that we want it to be a third space. We want our tenant base to feel comfortable and to want to use it, want to interact in it, and want to have meetings in it.”
Chad’s reference to “the third space” (also known as “the third place”) refers to a term first coined by Harvard academic Homi K. Bhabha to describe the area that develops when two or more people or cultures interact. (Don’t worry … this is the only time I will use the word “academic”!) Third spaces are outside of your home (the first space) and your work (the second space) … they’re a bridge or conduit between work and home where people engage with others in a dynamic and interactive way. The lobby redevelopment at 125 Summer Street appears to be Oxford’s attempt – seemingly successful! – to provide the tenants and visitors of the building with a third space in which to engage each other in the building lobby in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t. Sounds like a great arrangement for everyone!
We can expect to see more “third space” environments pop up in office buildings as more property managers look for ways to engage their tenants outside of the traditional tenant spaces. While some might describe the local Starbucks – with everyone tapping away on their devices while sipping a latte – as an example of a functional third space, it has its limitations (not the least of which are the massive lineups.) “We’re seeing that all this mobility is hitting a wall and that people will want to return to the office as firms get smarter and have amenities that coffee shops don’t have,” explains Cherie Johnson, Director of Global Design at Steelcase, in an article in Steelcase’s online 360 magazine. “Creating a highly effective corporate third place involves more than access to good coffee and Wi-Fi—it’s about integrating work and life. It’s about creating an environment that supports the well-being of people physically, cognitively and emotionally.”
The message for property managers is that they can help their tenants integrate work and life, and support their well-being, by following Oxford’s lead to develop third spaces in their buildings. I’m interested in hearing your take on the concept of the third space and its impact on tenant interactions, so please post your comments!
Kirk Layton is the president of Eservus, an online corporate concierge company servicing over 30 property management companies in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Boston.