DTC celebrates employees’ return to the office + Downtown news

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Pat Contreras, McCownGordon Construction, greets Mike Kress, Generator Studio, during the Downtown Council’s Welcome Back event for Downtown employees on May 5 at the Town Pavilion.

DTC celebrates with business intelligence + reception

The Downtown Council dedicated its latest Board of Directors meeting last week at the Town Pavilion to the business (and celebration) of welcoming employees back to the office.
The May 5th board meeting was loaded with realities about the return to Downtown offices, including a panel discussion with business leaders and a recognition of businesses that have chosen to relocate or renew their presence in Downtown. This special occasion concluded with a reception for Downtown employers and employees.
Gib Kerr, Managing Principal, Cushman Wakefield, and Vice-Chair of the DTC Board of Directors, got the ball rolling with data and research on the future of office space. His presentation highlighted the following new realities of the office:
  • Reality One: Demand for office space is accelerating – An improving economy paired with strong office-using employment growth is driving office space demand. Leaders recognize the value of bringing employees together, even if less frequently. Tenants are taking advantage of a favorable market with an eye to long-term space needs, especially in the technology, financial services, healthcare, and life sciences industries.
  • Reality Two: Hybrid is here to say – Now is the time to embrace hybrid; close expectation gaps between leaders and employees; and cultivate a common understanding to optimize employee experiences. Organizations must answer “What does hybrid mean for us,” or run the risk of eroding employee engagement and business performance.
  • Reality Three: The role of the office has changed – Culture, collaboration, and innovation now drive the office purpose. As offices and portfolios built for another time catch up to new needs, it is forcing different kinds of business conversations and relationships between leadership, and employees around the workplace.
Kerr also reported the following data about Kansas City:
  • Shortest commute times of any major city in the United States
  • 8th hottest job market in the U.S.  by The Wall Street Journal and Moody’s Analytics
  • 55% of all employees in Kansas City have returned to the office, ranking KC 5th among the largest cities in the United States. This data was collected by Kastle, which collected key card swipe data from office buildings and workplaces.

Tommy Wilson, who oversees business recruitment for the DTC, added to Kerr’s data by reporting that more than 70 businesses have either relocated or renewed their lease in Downtown Kansas City since March 2020. In addition, more than 50 new retailers have opened throughout Downtown neighborhoods and districts.

“This growth in the midst of the pandemic speaks loudly to Downtown Kansas City’s resilience,” Wilson said. “Together, these businesses are moving Downtown forward and setting the stage for an exciting future.”

For a full list of businesses that opened during the pandemic, visit the DTC’s new webpage – downtownkc.org/welcome-back/.

“Welcome Back” panelists included (from left) Christina Franklin, Generator Studio; Vince Bryant, 3D Development; Kevin Kramer, BOK Financial; and Shawna Wright, Commerce Bank.

A highlight of the board meeting was the “Return to the Office” panel discussion. Speakers focused on how businesses and developers are approaching the post-COVID environment and evaluating the impacts on both employees and future tenants.

The panel was led by Christina Franklin, Director of Interior Design, at Generator Studio. Christina has considerable experience working with companies across the country, as they make decisions on how to return to the office.

The panel featured three Downtown leaders, including:

  • Vince Bryant, Founder of 3D Development. Vince is currently redeveloping the former Kansas City Star headquarters at 18th & Grand into a new mixed-use building. Grand Place will be the first WELL Certified building in the metropolitan region.
  • Kevin Kramer, Kansas City Market CEO, BOK Financial. BOK Financial is expanding its Downtown presence and designing a new office building at 17th & Grand.
  • Shawna Wright, Director of Talent Management, Commerce Bank, one of Downtown’s largest employers. Shawna provided insights about how Commerce navigated the pandemic, stayed connected to their employees while they were working from home, as well as how they rolled out a strategic return-to-the-office plan.
The panelists provided valuable insights into how they are returning to the office, as well as how future space could be designed to include health and wellness amenities. For a recording of the board meeting, including the panel discussion, click here.
Following the panel, the DTC recognized the following business for their commitment to relocate or renew their presence in Downtown Kansas City –
  • BOK Financial – BOK Financial purchased part of the Grand Place redevelopment site at 17th & Grand in the heart of the Crossroads Arts District. They will build a new 10,000-square-foot, two-story building and be part of the Grand Place campus.
  • Menlo – In 2019, Menlo, a growing tech services company, purchased and renovated the 22,000 square foot former Derma Doctor building at 19th & McGee in the Crossroads. The building was nearly five times larger than their former office in the Northland to accommodate their growth. Currently employing 65 people, Menlo plans to grow to more than 100 employees over the next 5 years.
  • State Street – State Street, one of Downtown’s larger employers, has been located in Quality Hill for the past 25 years and recently renewed its commitment to Downtown by announcing they will move into WeWork inside Lightwell at 12th & Main. They will now occupy 30,000 square feet at WeWork to accommodate their new hybrid working model.
Following the board meeting, the Downtown CouncilCopaken Brooks, and Generator Studio hosted a “Welcome Back Downtown” happy hour for employees who have recently returned to the office. With more than 100 people in attendance, we celebrated the return of employees and the vibrancy they add to the Downtown environment.
The happy hour featured beer donated by Boulevard Brewing Company, Mexican food from Wrap It Up, and music from Everday Strangers.
All attendees to the happy hour were provided the following gifts cards and discounts from Downtown retailers that opened during the pandemic, including:

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