Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Storefront Office on Franklin

I mentioned the software company at 723 Franklin a few days ago, and now a very similar-looking office is taking shape across the street (at 722, to be precise). I poked my head in and asked what was up, and was told that a "real estate investment firm" was going in. This morning, I asked the woman out front about it, and she made it sound a little more mundane, calling the place a "real estate office."

What's most interesting to me about these places is their aesthetics: a big glass storefront and glass door that expose a single, high-celinged room (almost like a hair salon) with rows of desks and computers neatly lined up, a white-collar terrarium. Employees aren't really set up to do business with the outside world by means of the storefront, but they're on display as much as the wares in the window of a typical retail outlet. They almost look like little boutiques, except that inside, people are pursuing activities typically carried out in midtown high rises.

I don't know enough about trends in business to understand the choice of location, but I'm curious: these places seem a little incongruous on Franklin (the newer of the two sits next door to an archetypical bodega), but I could see several potential upsides: rent is cheap, the space is funky and original, which might attract young workers (folks who might also want to live near their work instead of taking the 2/3/4 to midtown), and the giant windows make for great light (everyone has a window). From a management/human psychology perspective, the open layout is both easy to police and encourages cooperative interaction, and the fishbowl effect might encourage people to work hard as well.

To me, these places evoke either old-school newspaper offices (the Sun--RIP--apparentely maintained one into this millenium) or the accounting office from "The Producers." I'll have to ambush someone on their lunchbreak to find out what it feels like on the other side of the glass one of these days.

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