Smart Detroit promotes alliance partnerships, educational
programs, and global communications.
Feature - Go to other articles like this.
Technology - Go to other articles in this category.
Work hard. Work smart. For the San Diego-based real estate investment firm
Capstone Advisors, pooling the resources and expertise of such companies
as Qwest Communications, SunTel Services, and WorkPlace Integrators/Steelcase
is a sure bet for success when the goal is to offer tenants and area businesses
the finest in high-tech business centers.
In May 1998, Capstone Advisors looked at a number of buildings
in the central business district of downtown Detroit. “There
were things happening in the marketplace of the central business
district that were changing the dynamics of the real estate
market,” says John Keba, senior vice president of asset
management for Capstone Advisors and owner of the Penobscot
building. Among the rejuvenation projects in the downtown
• The relocation of General Motors’ corporate
headquarters to the Renaissance Center.
• The relocation of Compuware’s world headquarters.
• Construction of the MGM Grand and Circus Circus professional gaming and
• Construction of the new Tiger stadium ballpark.
• A proposed football stadium, located next to the new baseball stadium
scheduled to begin construction early this summer.
It was noted, during Capstones Advisors’ due diligence,
that a number of high-tech telecommunications companies were
already tenants of the Penobscot building. Many of them were
web-host companies with few employees. “We found these
companies hidden in the basement and on multiple lower floors
of the building,” says Keba. “They were there
because of the fiber-optics and infrastructure of the building.
The Penobscot building has access to three separate sonet
rings of fiber. Many cities only have one sonet ring. We
just happen to have three in Detroit,” he explains.
Additionally, the Penobscot building offers a variety of
other technologically favorable characteristics that include:
• Floor load capacity of up to 1,250 pounds per foot.
• Generous ceiling heights.
• Ample column spacing.
• Accessible lower floors.
• Three separate power feeds from the local utility.
“If one grid of power goes down, there are two other
alternate grids [able to operate as redundant power sources].
In the history of the building there has never been an outage.
We are totally self-supporting,” says Keba. “In
line with that, we have back-up generator locations and fuel
storage areas off-site.” Tenants of the Penobscot building
also take comfort in an advanced security system — complete
with security monitoring cameras and card access.
According to Keba, the focus then shifted from technology
to alerting the marketplace to what was happening in downtown
Detroit. “We’ve had CEOs of major telecommunications
companies telling us that what we have here is something
special. There are only a handful of buildings in the entire
country that can do what we can do, house what we have, and
are as technologically advanced. What we wanted to do was
showcase the technology, to help break the paradigm and improve
Detroit’s image,” he explains.
With the help of Qwest, a broadband Internet communications
company, Smart Detroit was able to position itself as a showcasing
center for mainstream business. “The building owners
came to us with the vision of creating a different kind of
facility downtown,” says Jill Brady, sales director
for Southfield, MI-based Qwest. “They wanted to provide
a different level of technology to the tenants and to the
building. They wanted to put together a place where there
was a facility for education and where people could come
and learn about technology and also buy technology inside
“We’re the fourth largest long-distance provider
in the United States. Essentially, what we’re moving
toward is offering a complete one-stop shop of communications
services. Through our acquisition of US West Communications,
we’re going to offer local telephone service, in addition
to long-distance telephone service, any type of Internet
web-hosting, and other types of data access,” says
Matt Barkett, corporate spokesperson for Qwest.
Keba’s vision for Smart Detroit is that it will be
a source for business leaders to become educated on how technology
is changing, how they can adopt technology into their business
plan, and how the use of integrated telecommunications can
improve business. “The showcasing center is an education
and training facility. It’s not a sales center. We’re
not selling anything other than the fact that [businesses]
should be downtown in the Penobscot building,” explains
Within the Smart Detroit concept is a second component,
a global conferencing center. “We say global because
it’s hooked into the World Wide Web and the Internet,” adds
Keba. “With all the alliance partners we’ve brought
together, we have built an assortment of high-end global
boardrooms, conference rooms, and videoconferencing rooms,
as well as seminar and training rooms for corporate training
and education. Each room, whether it seats two people or
75 people, all have a common thread: a plug in the wall that
connects to the rest of the world via the Internet. Our bandwidth
access allows us to perform complete studio broadcasting
all the way down to a single person sitting at a desktop
surfing the Web.”
The Smart Detroit conferencing center is a tenant amenity
training and seminar center. Instead of hosting events at
area hotels, tenants log in on the Web and conduct videoconference
meetings with other sales offices utilizing the equipment,
projectors, and laptops — all without ever leaving
Qwest is the broadband Internet communications provider
that brings the information capabilities into the Penobscot
building. It is from that point that Rochester Hills, MI-based
SunTel connects the internal world to the external world. “SunTel
is a systems integrator,” says Gary Jackson, president
of SunTel. “We put together communications systems
for businesses that allow them to access various types of
information: telephone systems, voice systems, local area
networks (LAN), wide area net-
works (WAN), audio, video, and dataconferencing.
“We handle all of the hardware products and services
inside of an office, a building, or a business. Once [tenants]
want to connect to the outside world, they need to locate
a provider such as Qwest. Our product connects to the outside
carrier,” he notes. “We were involved directly
with the building owner, which gives us a much more strategic
relationship to move people in and out of that building smoother,
easier, and with much better access to everything we might
need when installing a communications system.”
For businesses planning a relocation, communications is
an important consideration. Tenants take a close look at
what speed and bandwidth are available at the locations they’re
moving to. “Having access to the Internet and other
types of high-speed communications is so important that offering
tenants real plug-and-play opportunities is essential to
attracting and retaining good tenants,” explains Jackson.
The SmartOffices portion of Smart Detroit is a generic executive
office suite with all the amenities such as a receptionist,
mail service, copy service, overnight delivery, and postage
handling. “The owner was looking for leading-edge products
to incorporate into the vision of how flexible, functional
office space should look and perform,” explains Jeffrey
Block, senior consultant of Advanced Solutions at Grand Rapids,
MI-based Steelcase. “The building owner chose the Pathways
line of office furniture, wall units, and access flooring,
noting that the system would adequately support the type
of infrastructure proposed by Smart Detroit.”
Every desk in a SmartOffice is outfitted with T-1 lines
for top levels of service. A real selling point? T-1 lines
are included in the cost of rent and are less than the normal
cost of the T-1 line on the open market. For installation,
T-1 lines may be $1,200; here, rent for the space might be
$600. “Capstone’s goal was two-fold: first, to
create a space that would demonstrate the flexibility and
accessibility of plug-and-play adaptation; second, [to develop]
a process that would create value for the tenant through
product durability and ease of reconfiguration. The Pathways
system gives the tenant control of the space without the
expense of hiring someone to reconfigure a space as businesses
grow and expand,” says Block.
Within the Smart Detroit concept, the team felt there needed
to be some changes made in the way business was done. “We
have put together Smart Detroit, not only as a repositioning
tool for the real estate, but also as a fundamental concept
of how we do business at Capstone. We believe that it is
our role to make our tenants successful,” says Keba. “It’s
also our role to play a part in the daily life of our tenants.
Whether that’s providing furnishings, telecommunications
access through Qwest to greatly reduce pricing, or how ever
we’re setting that up, that’s our concept as