When Marty Sillen joined Coty Beauty Lancaster Group’s Coty U.S. division as facilities director in 1999, he didn’t unpack his belongings and settle into his new office space for long.
Instead, he helped the cosmetics and fragrance giant consolidate much of its New York operations from three locations throughout Midtown into one building on Park Avenue. The task also included overseeing a major renovation.
Sillen and his department oversaw the bulk of the construction of the cosmetic manufacturer’s new offices in 110,000 square feet of space at 1 Park Avenue in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood just south of Grand Central Station. Coty leases two floors in the building for its Lancaster North America, Coty North America, Coty Operations, and Coty Beauty U.S. divisions.
When Sillen joined the company in May 1999, the New York City corporate employees were housed in subleased space at 237 Park Avenue, a space in the Chrysler Building, and 1325 Avenue of Americas (Coty’s global headquarters). All were within a 20-block radius of each other.
Sillen came on-board after programming and planning for the move to 1 Park Avenue had begun. He arrived just in time for construction preparation. Plans called for a complete gutting and rebuilding of the new space. “They hired me with this project in mind,” says Sillen.
Sillen and his team also weathered the typical construction-related challenges during the transition.
For one thing, tenants below and above Coty’s two floors complained about the construction noise. Most leases in the city stipulate what kind of work can be done at what time of day in an occupied facility. “We were complying with that,” Sillen explains. “They were complaining about the normal construction noises. We tried to convince them that one day they might have a project, too, and they did.”
There were a few “major problems” at the end of the project that required some construction to continue as Coty employees were moving into the offices in August 2000: Not all of the light fixtures had been installed, door frames needed to go up, and some of the main conference rooms hadn’t been completed. Sillen recalls: “We dealt with it, and we were able to work around it.”
Construction aside, one of the biggest challenges was combining the company’s 200 corporate employees from three distinct office cultures into one space. Each of the buildings from which the staff was moving had varying atmospheres. The goal of Coty leadership, including the facilities department, was to change the operating philosophy of these three programs and get them to realize they were all one family at Coty.
Originally, 237 Park Avenue was designed for a law firm. Offices there were large and boasted rich finishes and larger workstations. The Chrysler Building space had large open offices and “a lot of dead, unusable space,” Sillen says. He refers to the global headquarters at 1325 Avenue of the Americas as a “white glove space ... lots of glass, elegant offices.” All employees in the 237 Park Avenue and Chrysler Building offices moved to 1 Park Avenue, while 30 people moved there from the global headquarters space.
The employees had to adjust. Offices at 1 Park Avenue are built in “cookie-cutter spaces,” Sillen says. “Everyone’s offices were the same size, including the presidents [of three divisions] housed in the facility.”
Sillen says not only did the new facility have smaller offices than the previous three spaces, but it also had a completely different look. “We went for the SoHo loft look,” he says. “It’s a lot of wood, a lot of plastic. We were trying to give the offices an open feeling. That was completely different from what our users were used to.”
There were growing pains at first as the staff adjusted to the new space. “It took us a year or so to get everyone on the same page,” Sillen says. “We did accomplish that. Some of the folks came into the space kicking and screaming, but we have a lot of happy campers now. It was just a matter of people getting used to it.”
Sillen credits the success of the move, in part, to the fact that Coty’s facilities team established relationships with other key departments within the corporate structure - most importantly, with human resources. He also credits his involvement with IFMA’s Greater New York Chapter as a source of much-needed networking and support.
“Don’t try to become a one-department show,” he says. “It won’t work. Your life will be miserable. The more people you can work into your network, the better off you are going to be. If you go at it alone, you’re going to be an old person before your time.”
Robin Suttell ([email protected]), based in Cleveland, is contributing editor at Buildings magazine.