Last November marked the completion of a two-year, $20 million renovation of the lobby of the Empire State Building—a pretty hefty sum just to retrofit such a particular space. While the cost was certainly of large proportions, it is not unusual nor unwise for buildings to heavily invest in their lobbies. This space is the first impression guests and potential homeowners receive and it expresses what kind of building residents and visitors are walking into, both in style and in what kind of service residents can expect.
“I've had brokers tell me that potential buyers come in and based on the common areas, the lobby and hallways, people make their decision on whether they want to buy or see the apartment at all,” says Susan D. Lauren, a principal at the Manhattan-based Lauren-Chase Design Group, Inc. “With new construction going up and real estate booming again, buildings need to stay competitive in the marketplace. Doing a renovation of the lobby, hallway and the common areas really does up your market value. Not only aesthetically but financially it has been known to increase it by at least ten percent.”
Putting in a New Look
A lot of thought should go into how a lobby will look. Various factors—the developer, the residents, the neighborhood, the building-will influence what a lobby will become. Howard Zimmerman, AIA, of Manhattan-based Howard L. Zimmerman Architects, P.C., says that in new construction, there is usually an interior firm that designs the lobby, hallways and other common areas. In the case of existing buildings that need a new or updated lobby, there are architectural firms that specialize in redesigning lobbies.
Lots of factors are taken into consideration before a lobby is designed and built. "In a new construction, [the lobby is discussed] at the beginning when they decide what market they're targeting," Zimmerman says. "In existing buildings, boards have a responsibility to maintain the building and fulfill the desires of their shareholders. And as people pay more and more money for their apartments, they're paying for the look of their building."
One architect with experience in lobby design points out that there are practical reasons for determining what a new building's lobby will look like early on.