Gavin Blair, Chief Executive Officer at Iowa Association of Realtors (IAR), talks about relocating to an old bike warehouse to achieve the ideal space for their employees and members.
IAR's membership had grown exponentially in recent years - with it their need for additional area. For 20 years their existing facility has served them well, but their ability to effectively support membership and staff has waned. To fulfill their purpose of “empowering members & associations to achieve excellence”, IAR needed infrastructure improvements. IAR needed to decide if they were going to continue leasing their current space, lease elsewhere, or buy/build new. Purchasing a new with adaptive reuse was selected, with program and plan diagrams identifying a facility match in the Bike World warehouse in West Des Moines, Iowa. To best serve member goals, the design solution needed to meet the program requirements, but more importantly overall budget restrictions to not overly stress membership dues.
Q: What is the IAR Story? What does IAR do?
A: We are Iowa’s largest trade association with over 8,000 members statewide. I like to describe us as the backbone of real estate. We do everything from providing legal assistance, education, forms, lobbying efforts, events, and other items for our Realtor members across Iowa.
Q: How did SHYFT become involved with your company?
A: It is hard to believe but at the beginning of our process of trying to relocate to a new office HQ, we were lost, and started by hiring a Realtor who then connected us to SHYFT to be able to help us from the start line to the finish line in this process. We engaged SHYFT Collective for strategic planning to review all of our options.
Q: How did you and your team come to the decision to move to a different office? What steps were taken to come to this decision?
A: We had leased for 20 years after being bought out by eminent domain by the State. We kept having a hard time and just renewing our lease. We knew that we are in the business of Real Estate and should own, so it all started with that philosophy. Heath Bullock and Brandon Foldes came on board and identified our needs and wants, and the process began.
Q: When you finally decided on the old Bike World Warehouse as your new office location, what were the next steps in the move process? How did SHYFT help?
A: It was a completely empty shell of a building, and was very hard for us to imagine what to do. Jeff, the project architect, came up with some amazing designs, and Alisha, the project manager, helped walk us through those ideas. Then we were off to the races once we settled on design and cost.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges when moving all employees to your new building? How did you overcome them?
A: After being in one spot for 20 years there is a lot of this how-do-we-do-it mentality. Also, the existing facility was smaller than the original program IAR had identified. The previous warehouse design provided an opportunity to leverage the height to create a 2nd-floor mezzanine area. This allowed the existing floorplan to provide almost the entire initial program. The other major challenges were providing for the proper training and educational experience, and the space required for a growing organization. They maximized the 1st-floor area for flexible and specific training requirements.
SHYFT did a great job bringing all our staff on board and getting their wants and desires and finding ways to incorporate them into our design. Once they saw the space it wasn’t hard to get them on board.
Q: Now that you’ve been in your new space for a few years now, what is the best thing about it? What aspects do your employees and members love?
A: We love the open feel and layout of the building. It is bright and inviting and shows very much our culture in a positive way. It also has the flexibility to adapt as we continue to evolve and change for the future.
Q: Is there anything exciting happening at IAR right now?
A: We are beginning a brand-new education model of Hybrid learning. We will have some students in the classroom and then the rest spread out across Iowa virtually. We will be able to do this from our HQ in our large or small classroom.