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Parking Management Seminar Spotlight: 520 Pike Tower

by | Mar 26, 2021 | Commute Trip Reduction, News, Property Managers

Read on for the full interview with Allison Delong, a General Manager at Tishman Speyer.

On March 4, 2021, Commute Seattle hosted the Parking Management Seminar featuring experts on workplace EV charging, bicycle parking, and the Transportation Management Program policy. Our guest speaker, Allison Delong, spoke to how to put it all to practice as a property manager at a busy office and retail location in downtown Seattle.

Allison Delong is a General Manager for Tishman Speyer and has managed 520 Pike Tower in downtown Seattle since 1999. Seattle born and raised, Allison has been riding Metro busses since her teenage years and has used LINK light rail to commute to work since it began operating.  She used to own a Prius and expects that her next car will be an EV!

520 Pike Tower is in the heart of Downtown Seattle and was built in 1983. At the time, it was the cusp of the Transportation Management Program, which is a policy that affects new development through their Master Use Permit process. 520 Pike Tower’s commitment outlined fundamental strategies like priority parking and discounted parking rates for carpools. Property Managers like Allison wear many hats. One of which is to work to implement the transportation management program, while also keep the building’s facilities fresh and modern for tenants.

Olivia: Allison, you grew up in Seattle, and have been commuting to downtown for some time. You have had the privilege to see Seattle’s transportation network expand immensely and see new commute options change people’s lives for the better. Likewise, I am sure the building has seen many iterations of its own facilities and amenities. Tell us a little more about 520 Pike Tower and how it has evolved to keep up with Seattle’s competitive real estate market.

Allison: In 1983 6th & Pike where 520 Pike sits, wasn’t much; but Westlake Center opened in 1988 and US Bank Center in about 1989, moving the center of town from the courthouse area up toward Pike Street. Some folks may not know that the existing light rail tunnel started as a bus tunnel only.  It opened in 1990 and we were lucky to be a block from the Westlake station. Light rail opened using the same tunnel in 2009 and further made 520 Pike Tower the center of the Seattle universe.

When I began here in 1999 we were pretty much the only building in town with a gym and showers and light rail didn’t exist yet. We had a very small bike parking area in our garage and offered carpool parking as required by our Transportation Management Plan. Around 2015-2018 other buildings started to add gyms and we expanded ours to keep pace.  We gradually added more bike parking to meet tenant demand but I remember weighing the costs versus benefits of giving up parking stalls.  We’ve been LEED Gold for at least 10 years, and our high public transportation usage by tenants, as well as bike cage, shower and EV chargers have helped us earn LEED credits.

Olivia: So there have been a great many changes to keep things fresh and modern. But I assume routine maintenance like paint an:d repaving also happens on a regular basis. Show us how a little paint can make a tenant amenity more visible.

Allison:

Olivia: How can you leverage routine maintenance as an opportunity to make additional changes or upgrades?
Allison: As property managers we’re always walking around our buildings looking for things to fix and we should be keeping our eye on other buildings too.  Some of us are granted parking in our buildings so that we understand the parking experience our tenants have and it’s useful to have both the experience of being a transit user and a garage user.  We listen to our tenants and peers to figure out what tenants want and what our competition are doing.  But unless we have ownership that can get behind bigger investments, it can be hard to make a huge difference on our own.  But we can advocate for things like EV parking and if we have documented tenant requests, that makes a big difference.
Olivia:  You mentioned earlier about gradually needing to expand bicycle parking at 520 Pike Tower. And back in 2016, you toured other properties with great bicycle parking facilities and worked with Commute Seattle understand what your options were. What did you learn from this experience?
Allison: We were aware that as a 1980s building we had new buildings coming up on our heels and we needed to be aware of our place in the market.  There were a lot of buildings that went up in the 80s and so many of us went through this process in the past 5-10 years as our properties aged and we needed to keep up with the competition.  As Seattle has grown to a tech power house the nature of our tenants has changed with workers who are more inclined to bike, walk or run to work and need showers and bike parking, and have employers who want to make them happy.
Olivia:  Looking back on the changes made at 520 Pike Tower over the years, what changes would you still recommend today?
Allison: We took advantage of government grants to install EV charging stations. As you mentioned I shopped my competitors to see what they were doing with bike parking and gyms.  I think most of my peers were doing the same things and we were all keeping up with each other progress and changes.
Olivia:  What is the best resource for people who want to dive in deeper or someone new to this?
Allison: I would see if your company has a Sustainability Committee or get involved in BOMA committees or their mentorship program to help become acquainted with peers in the industry, especially those in LEED certified buildings.  Don’t be shy to reach out to other Property Managers you may encounter on ZOOM meetings or BOMA events.  We’re pretty friendly competition around here and always happy to help up-and-coming property managers. For more information on BOMA Seattle King County visit https://www.bomaseattle.org/.
Olivia:  Tishman Speyer employees are working to become LEED Green Associates and you told us how LEED can be a great way to keep a building’s transportation management program modern and competitive. How has LEED impacted your work and the 520 Pike Tower?
Allison: When I started in the industry and at 520 Pike, LEED was considered an extra and kind of a pie in the sky idea.  Over the past 15 years I think it has evolved into such an expectation with our tenants that it’s no longer an option, but a necessity.  When we first got LEED certified, we had to direct our GCs to recycle and use Low VOC products, but now the city mandates that contractors submit waste diversion reports.  So I have to give a lot of credit to the City of Seattle for helping to raise the bar. Our entire Property Management and Engineering team at 520 Pike and in our SF and LA properties have just completed our LEED Green Associates training.  We haven’t all taken the exam yet but we’ve all been exposed to the concepts and requirements so that no one can think of these things as an extra anymore.  The concepts are all in our heads and become part of our new normal, whether we get LEED credits for them or not.
Olivia:  What advice would you give to others looking to become LEED certified?
Allison: Your company must support it because the consulting fees for building certification are steep.  It would be tough to accomplish without professional help.  But if you need to convince ownership, letting them know how you compare to your competitive set should help.  And your leasing rep may be able to support the idea based on the number of inquiries they get from tenants who only want to see LEED certified buildings. For more information on LEED visit https://www.usgbc.org/leed.
Olivia:  Allison, considering Seattle’s growth, the expansion of LINK Light Rail, office recalibration, and all the other changes constantly happening it can be a lot to keep up with. What are the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively?
Allison: I always say I try to use my powers for good and not for evil.  So in our jobs that can mean educating our tenants and staff about property recycling and composting.  Supporting blood drives in our buildings.  Encouraging ownership to provide space for bike racks or mothers rooms.  Making sure our tenants realize we have EV charging in case they might be in the market for a new car but don’t have charging facilities in their apartments or condos.  If we have emails from tenants asking for these things, then we have back-up to show our ownership that our customers are asking for these things and that it’s not just our personal wish-list.

How You Can Help

As a property manager you can help a building be welcoming of all modes of travel and educate tenants on their transportation options. Reach out to Commute Seattle for a free consultation to discuss an upcoming educational event or mobility fair to keep the conversation going, and keep Seattle moving.

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