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GlobeSt.com: How Outdoor Space Makes for Successful Real Estate

by Carrie Rossenfeld

Advances in technology in the last few years have made outdoor space into a realistic extension of the work environment, and this space has become a critical element in attracting and retaining talent, the City of Tustin’s director of economic development John Buchanan tells GlobeSt.com. As we recently reported, the City of Tustin recently announced that work has begun on the initial 26-acre segment of Tustin Legacy Park, which runs from the corner of Red Hill Ave. and Barranca Pkwy. to Armstrong Ave.

Phase one of this segment calls for grading of the entire site and planting of the detention basin area. This phase is estimated to be complete by late spring 2017 at an estimated cost of $5.1 million. Located at the southwest corner of Tustin Legacy, this phase will be a passive park with trails and open space areas and will feature native and naturalized plants and a botanic walk which emphasizes water wise planting. The feature will be designed as somewhat wild, encouraging exploration of the outdoor environment and appreciation of California’s native plants. A small wetlands will be incorporated with bulrush and cattail, and grasses and wildflowers will be planted in the detention basin.

We spoke exclusively with Buchanan about the connection between the development of parks and outdoor amenities and the success of today’s real estate projects.

GlobeSt.com: What’s the connection between the development of parks and outdoor amenities and the success of today’s real estate projects?

Buchanan: Tenants gravitate to those projects that have accessible, convenient and inviting open space and amenities that are appropriate to the tenant’s workforce. Employers are recognizing that access to open space is a critical element in attracting and retaining talent. Advances in technology in the last few years have made outdoor space into a realistic extension of the work environment. At a minimum, the space must consist of wireless network connections, seating in a variety of forms and locations, gathering spots for collaborative efforts, shade/shelter elements and limited recreational options. These adjacent and convenient outdoor areas are generally more recreational or serve as connectors to other buildings or outdoor spaces.

GlobeSt.com: Is there an ideal ratio of outdoor to indoor development in today’s real estate world?

Buchanan: Distance to outdoor space and the amenities associated with the space are more critical than the ratio. Those properties located adjacent to the space will always command higher premiums. For example, residential lots located on golf-course fairways are at a premium. While access to open space has always been a critical element in selling or renting residential units, especially to families, it is now playing a significant role in office leasing. Retail developers are now incorporating open space into their projects because the open space can become a community gathering spot for special events. The most successful public open spaces are differentiated through design and programming, not necessarily size.

GlobeSt.com: How does outdoor space play in a role in climates that are not as pleasant as Southern California’s?

Buchanan: The design of any outdoor space needs to be sensitive to the location of the property while taking into consideration the impact climate has on its usability. No two outdoor spaces should look or feel the same. Outdoor space, if designed appropriately, is an amenity that enhances and complements a property at a relatively inexpensive price. Flexibility and adaptability are important in designing open spaces for events that can occur throughout the year; and in some cases, temporary heating systems or misting systems may be needed along with a variety of shelter structures to protect from sun and rain.

GlobeSt.com: What else should our readers know about the development of parks and outdoor space?

Buchanan: Locating parks closer to active commercial areas should become a more common practice. Often parks are isolated from everyday business hubs and are not used daily but on weekends. At Tustin Legacy, we are using the park system as a pedestrian and bike connection network between retail and commercial hubs to the residential neighborhoods. Legacy Park, which at buildout will be more than 2 miles long, is a featured component in defining the overall Tustin Legacy project. We also believe it will be a sought-after amenity of FLIGHT at Tustin Legacy, a collection of collaborative, non-traditional workplaces planned for approximately 870,000 square feet of office space and related uses.

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