By: Chad Lonski
Where would Apple Computers be without the iPhone? Where would Tesla Motors be without the Model S? Where would The Walt Disney Company be without Mickey Mouse? The answer is, probably not far. The same question can be asked for Real Estate. Where would the Real Estate industry be without great architecture and urban design? The answer again is, probably not far.
In a sea of proformas, asset valuation, and other financial practices, the aesthetic itself can be lost in the shuffle. As a real estate industry, we should be focused on creating and maintaining a better built environment that not only serves its communities and users better initially, but also serves as an enduring investment for owners and communities at large.
Money is a means to an end, not the end. In the words of entrepreneur Ray Kroc, “If you work just for the money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.” Building better communities and becoming strong champions of place should always be the industry’s primary goals. With that in mind - success is sure to follow.
When Henry Segerstrom decided to donate a five acre parcel of his family's former lima bean field, for a performing arts center complex adjacent to his Costa Mesa based South Coast Plaza shopping center development, he did so to make a better community. Ultimately, Segerstrom’s role in making a strong central cultural complex in the heart of Orange County provided a positive feedback loop for the South Coast Metro district as a whole.
Besides the walkable downtown style urban plan, Segerstrom also decided to hire some of the largest names in the design community. Cesar Pelli, senior principal and founder of architectural firm Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, was hired to design multiple prominent performing arts and high rise office structures in the area. Segerstrom also hired renowned landscape architect Isamu Noguchi to design “California Scenario”; a public square with a sculpture garden dedicated to the uniqueness of California’s natural and man made environment.
The focal point of Segerstrom’s business plan is to hire the best designers and craftsmen in their field and to put urban design first. He believes that there is real value creation behind great communities transformed and improved through a beautifully built environment. What was once a patch of lima bean fields is now home to a world class destination hosting some of the finest retail, performing arts and architecture in not only California but also the western United States at large. The syllogism can be stated thusly:
With great design comes great communities; and with great communities, comes an attractive environment for business.