When lease renewal negotiations began for our Austin office in early 2020, the internal Workplace Strategy team at Husch Blackwell was optimistic, excited, and eager to begin the demolition and full renovation of our two floors, including the interim move to a staging space within the building. Then COVID happened and our perfectly curated HB internal team consisting of real estate professionals, tenured project managers, and designers were unable to travel to Austin, grounded in our four respective cities for months during preconstruction activities. Our architects, engineers, and furniture dealers were also literally a thousand+ miles away. The HB team is a close-knit, small professional group who are used to being hands-on and very involved in the design and CA phases of our projects so not being able to visit the site or meet our consultants in person added to our growing list of concerns.
As fate and fortune would have it, we decided to invest in Aquila Commercial’s project management team and hire Miles Whitten to serve as our local eyes and ears and Owner’s Rep for our renovation. Our interior design and finishes were high-end (even for law firm standards) and our schedule was aggressive with costly penalties of lease hold-over in the staging suite we occupied during construction. Miles accepted the challenge with gusto, professionalism, personality, warmth, sense of humor, and helped steer the project several times when we risked falling behind due to unforeseen supply shortages or other challenges beyond our control. Miles exhibited genuine care for us, the project, the GC, and the consultants. His expertise, response times, problem-solving, and results-driven attitude was truly exceptional. It was a pleasure getting to know him as a person while working aside him as our representative. We never questioned if he had our best interest in mind when making recommendations or negotiations on our behalf.
Husch Blackwell is built on relationships. We value collaboration, teamwork, and enjoy making lasting connections with good people. Miles is a talented, savvy, honest, kind, interesting, good human who managed a difficult project and delivered exceptional results. Truly a class act. We appreciate you, Miles and when we reflect on the Austin renovation, we hold you in high regard.“
– Samantha Puckett, Senior Manager of Workplace Strategy at Husch Blackwell
Husch Blackwell is a prominent national law firm with an Austin location at 111 Congress. Husch Blackwell entered the Austin market in 2013 by acquiring Brown McCarroll (a repeat AQUILA client) shortly after our project management team had built out their space
When their lease was nearing expiration, Husch Blackwell began looking at different office options in Austin. After a market survey, they decided to stay in their space at 111 Congress. With this new lease and the negotiated tenant improvement allowance, a big goal for the firm was to renovate their office space to Husch Blackwell’s corporate standards. Because of this, the design and construction scope was essentially a full remodel.
Additionally, a decision was made to reduce the overall footprint of the premises in part due to the pandemic’s introduction of remote work practices as Husch Blackwell started a virtual office for attorneys to opt-in to if desired (in lieu of a physical location).
Husch Blackwell’s national real estate team has a relationship with Colliers International. However, due to AQUILA’s previous relationship with Brown McCarroll, the Husch Blackwell team decided to hire both Colliers and AQUILA to co-broker the lease and manage the construction project.
Halfway through the project, while navigating the challenges of the work-from-home environment, several of the attorneys who had elected to work in the virtual office decided they wanted to rejoin the in-person Austin office. Husch Blackwell expanded into 1,500 additional square feet, which extended the construction project accordingly mostly due to design and permitting timelines. The AQUILA team worked with a specialized permit expediter to navigate this unique situation as efficiently as possible, which was made more difficult by new code provisions that had been adopted by the City of Austin around the same time as this second permit submission.
This project involved several unforeseen challenges that the team needed to overcome. The local market office had employees in Austin but the larger corporate Husch Blackwell organization is managed by a national team of decision-makers. Typically, Husch Blackwell’s internal real estate team would fly in frequently to check on the progress of the project. However, due to corporate COVID-19 travel restrictions, the team was only able to come into town twice during the nearly year-long duration.
The architect, MEP engineer, and many of the vendors were all employees of out-of-market companies with national connections to Husch Blackwell, creating similar complications. And, of course, as a result of COVID-19, supply chain delays and procurement issues created problems with construction supplies.
Despite the challenges, the AQUILA and Colliers teams established significant trust with Husch Blackwell’s national team and ensured that the project was completed to their standards.
Ultimately, we were able to work hand-in-hand with an owner’s representative project management professional from another commercial real estate firm to deliver a beautiful space for Husch Blackwell. The project was completed on budget and on time.
|Property Name||111 Congress|
|Schedule||Q2 2021 to Q4 2021|
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