Creating an Iconic Downtown Plaza on Las Olas Boulevard

 Downtown Fort Lauderdale. Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

As land development opportunities become increasingly scarce, owners and developers are focusing on redevelopment to enhance value for existing properties. Many developers are finding tremendous demand for transforming obsolete office buildings into contemporar y environments boasting natural light, open workspaces and sustainable features.

As a result, owners are realizing the value not only in the asset’s marketability, but also the impact the new space has on corporate culture, with increases in both employee collaboration and satisfaction. Much of this redevelopment is concentrated in urban business corridors that typically generate high tenancy and rental rates, and feature the live, work, play experience.

One such example of a redevelopment that modernized an existing building on one of the most famous streets in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale is the Plaza at Las Olas, also known as PALO. Bringing new sophisticated dimension to the iconic Las Olas Boulevard, PALO is the story of one office building’s remarkable transformation that took place over the course of more than seven decades. Originally built as a twostory structure in the 1940’s, PALO has been renovated four times to achieve its contemporar y style with clean lines and a crisp exterior that has established its place in history and on Las Olas Boulevard.

Market demand prompted PALO’s most recent redevelopment in 2008 and establishment as the new headquarters for Florida full-ser vice commercial development firm Stiles. Stiles’ por tfolio includes Class A office buildings in the downtown Fort Lauderdale business district. Within this particular set of buildings exists PALO as well as Stiles’ previous headquarters at 300 Southeast 2nd street (the 300 Building), a 100,000-square foot office building located on an adjacent property.

When a well-known tenant, Franklin Templeton, began a local search for new office space, the corporate user consulted with Stiles on their needs. Stiles saw an opportunity that would inevitably become a win-win situation for both firms and drive the longterm value of the two assets. The talks culminated with a complex lease deal between Stiles and Franklin Templeton that enabled Franklin Templeton’s subsequent move into the 300 Building after Stiles would move their headquarters into PALO. Stiles set out to perform two projects: the renovation of PALO and the renovation of their former headquarter to fit the needs of Franklin Templeton.

Designed and reconstructed by Stiles, the repositioned PALO has been entirely retrofitted to ser ve as a functional office space with prime retail on the ground floor. Focused on the idea of collaboration and energy, PALO’s interior design is based on an open floor plan that is flexible with very few closed offices. This is a depar ture from the traditional office space Stiles once occupied at its former headquarters. By gutting the interior and modernizing the facade with full-height windows, PALO has become a vibrant office setting where people want to work.

PALO’s Beginnings:
Upon its original form in 1948, PALO served as the headquarters for First Federal Bank. In 1953 two stories were added and then an eight story tower was added in the 1960’s. The building and surrounding properties were purchased by Stiles in the early 1990s. It served as a catalyst for other Stiles developments in the downtown corridor, eventually spawning such recognizable office and residential towers as the Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, 350 Las Olas Condominium, 300 Building and 350 and 450 Las Olas Centre.

Designing an Icon:
The most recent transformation of PALO morphs it from a Mediterranean design to a more contemporary style. Specific renovations include:

  • The small punch-out window openings were altered and replaced with widened and full height floor-to-ceiling energyefficient, hurricane impact windows to allow in 40% more natural light. The old windows were removed and the openings were demolished, re-sized and structurally reinforced.
  • The building’s facade was completely redesigned to exhibit a simplified, clean look. Vertical pilasters with an accent color help to define and showcase the verticality of the building. The cornice shape and locations have also been changed to work in proportion with the height of the building and create a modern exterior.
  • Aluminum Space frames were installed at both the top and bottom of the building, which not only added dimension but also introduced a dynamic architectural focal point. The top frames are illuminated in the evening to draw the eye upward, creating a dramatic, bold statement that sets the building apart.

Sustaining an Icon:
Stiles proudly announced in August 2011 that PALO achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC awarded the 85,439-square foot multi-tenant office building a certification for Commercial Interiors under its stringent rating system. The building earned the prestigious designation from the national, not-for-profit USGBC for meeting LEED standards for energy use, lighting, water and material use, and incorporating a variety of sustainable strategies.

As Stiles’ first Commercial Interior certification, the project tops Stiles’ extraordinary roster of 18 South Florida LEED projects. As a result of Stiles’ commitment to sustainability and over 60-year track record of success, the company decided several years ago to incorporate into the foundation of its operating procedures a series of sustainable practices. Along with the 18 LEED projects, Stiles has integrated these practices throughout its portfolio of projects and has established itself as a leader in designing, building and managing environmentally conscious commercial structures. Sustainability was introduced into PALO during the construction process as the project utilized only low VOC-emitting paints and sealants, carpet and vinyl composite tiles.

With its renovation, PALO is one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the area. Its features include a computer-operated energy management system that controls the air-conditioning and heating while monitoring indoor air quality. Other elements include electricity-reducing technologies, such as light sensors and water-conserving plumbing fixtures. In addition, the building utilizes advanced recycling systems, green cleaning products and an integrated pest management system that are all environmentally safe, Green Seal Certified and bio-renewable.

Overcoming Challenges:
Stiles’ renovation of PALO proposed specific challenges on several levels. Perhaps the most difficult to overcome was the compressed timeframe in which the renovation would be required to take place to accommodate Stiles and the client. Stiles planned the PALO renovation, including a complete demolition of the interior and reconfiguration of the exterior, within a five-month period to allow for a December move-in. The renovation took place all while the building was occupied. Only after its completion could the renovation of the 300 Building commence, which had a target occupancy by Franklin Templeton of July the following year. Adding to the challenge, Stiles would need to be mindful of the heavy foot traffic throughout the buildings and in the surrounding business hub.

To accomplish such a feat, Stiles would work around the clock in three shifts. The team created safe walkways to the south and east and performed most of the work at night when tenants had departed from their offices. In an effort to maintain a working environment that was conducive to the tenants while constructing the very walls that frame their offices, Stiles worked closely with each individual employee to formulate a start/stop schedule that worked around their schedule.

Despite its challenges, PALO stands to epitomize the idea of creative collaboration between clients and tenants with a collective goal to build a structure that creates a positive impact on the community as well as on the lives of those who work in the building.

Impact in the Community:
PALO’s deep roots in the community are reflected in its surroundings and functionality. The eight-story building fronts an impressive Plaza created in the 1990’s that boasts a large scenic fountain at its center. A covered garage and three-story office building that features retail on the ground floor were later built alongside PALO to buffer Las Olas Boulevard. This made-way for the Plaza’s unique position as a central gathering place. Nearly two decades after the construction of these additional components the Plaza’s design philosophy became an industry standard. With the benefit of the adjoining retail shops, eateries, lounges and night clubs, the Plaza has become a lively patron gathering place and host to several exciting charity and community events, such as Riverwalk Get Downtown, Light Up Downtown, and Stiles’ Earth Day Celebration. It is also a popular gathering spot for corporate functions, charity walks and holiday parades.

Creating Value:
After its metamorphosis, Stiles moved into PALO at the end of November 2010 at which point it saw another opportunity to take advantage of the improving real estate market. Several South Florida office buildings were increasing in value and trading at higher than expected returns so Stiles decided to test its former headquarters building in the market. After competitive bids from several potential buyers,
Stiles consummated another deal with Franklin Templeton, this time to sell the 300 Building. The success of Stiles’ sale of its former headquarters and upgrade to PALO is marked by a 100% occupancy rating at both buildings with quality national tenants.

Establishing a Legacy:
Surrounded by skyscrapers of office, residential and educational buildings, PALO’s tropical scenery dotted by palm trees and fountains is an oasis in the midst of Fort Lauderdale’s busy commerce hub. PALO takes you on a trip through the past, and while its face has changed, the building remains a landmark in the city, standing proudly at the prominent intersection of Southeast 3rd Avenue and East Las Olas Boulevard.

Doug Eagon ,President, Stiles

Last modified onMay 15, 2014
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