Anatomy of a Building

04/08/2002 |

Planning For CIBC World Markets’ New U.S. Headquarters - Part 1

By Linda K. Monroe

Check out the website of CIBC World Markets, the investment banking arm of Toronto, Ontario-based Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), and the company information is telling. “Our clients aim high, as we do. Our people are entrepreneurial, energetic, and innovative, with a passion for serving the needs of their clients. We combine the global resources of a top-tier investment bank with the client-centered focus of a smaller, entrepreneurial firm.”

With such a clear-cut, enterprising approach, it’s not surprising that such values were employed in what will become the most visible evidence of CIBC World Markets in Midtown Manhattan. As steel rises above ground level at the site on 42nd Street and Madison Avenue, CIBC World Markets’ new U.S. headquarters at 300 Madison Avenue physically represents the creativity, sensitivity, and commitment of this financial giant.

More importantly, it has tested the flexibility and wisdom of those charged with its creation – and won. A wise man once said, “Quality is no accident. It is deliberate, planned, measurable, and achievable only through the conscious efforts of all involved.” While dynamic, fluid solutions become an opportunity when such a credo is employed, it’s clearly the reality for the project team involved in the 35-story, 1.105 million-square-foot 300 Madison Avenue project.

Thinking Through the Design

A euphoric groundbreaking in late June signaled the project start to New Yorkers, but nearly two prior years of careful examination and needs analyses were involved before those shovels turned the earth. John T. Griffin, project executive for CIBC World Markets, assembled a programming team to evaluate the facility requirements in consolidating two building locations.

When the one operation at World Financial Center was ravaged by the events of September 11, these professionals had to not only rethink the long-term wisdom of amalgamating all the bank’s employees in one building, but also direct their attention to relocating displaced workers to interim space – a challenge further compounded by the need to replace a trading floor. Unbelievably, they were able to do so in five weeks (at 417 Fifth Avenue)  – without delaying the construction schedule at 300 Madison Avenue.

Post-9/11, completed questionnaires of a group’s space needs and requirements became invaluable to the team. “We have been doing the programming from the old floorplans at the World Financial Center,” says CIBC World Markets Executive Director, Premises, Edward F. Norton. “It’s not ‘How many files do you have?’ but rather a matter of ‘How many files did you have?’”

Mancini•Duffy Chairman Ralph Mancini, interior architect, has spearheaded the programming process. He explains: “Programming is really the basis of the start of the formality of a project. We are able to take a description, in words and numbers, and apply it to a floorplate  so we can come up with a scenario of how we’re going to proceed. Although we all come in with ideas, it’s the programming that helps us develop the concept. You design from the inside out because it has to meet the requirements of the occupant.”

Griffin agrees, noting the additional impact surveying the facilities of other major financial houses in Manhattan has had on project development. “We had a benchmark of every other [area] investment bank – how many square feet per person for this function, for that function. We could look across the lines of the program [and] note our standard size office against industry standards. You go in making decisions to know that you are on a par with the rest of your industry – that you’re not too tight, not too opulent – because every square foot costs a lot of money. If you are too generous in your space allocation, you’re going to rent that space – for the next 30 years. It’s important to put in the time to make these types of decisions.” Growth patterns, adjacencies, HR issues, and other criteria were also used in determining square-footage needs.

Although Griffin brings 25-plus years of experience in building headquarters for major corporations, he does not take his responsibilities lightly or without due diligence. “Every inch counts. One of the things we did with our developer Brookfield Financial Properties is redesign the building core to make it as tight as possible. The technology people believe they need a room three times larger; the air-conditioning engineer wants a space that won’t be congested. We make sure we have all the functionality in that core to support the company’s needs, but tighten it up to pick up additional square footage through designing and redesigning the core for maximum efficiency.”

Through this process, the team gained 5,000 additional square feet of usable space at 300 Madison Avenue. “That’s 5,000 times $70 a square foot times 30 years,” notes Griffin. “That’s serious savings.”


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