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Developing office parks in the emerging Digital Age

As we embrace a new Digital Age of development, the Internet is only one of many technological tools that are radically transforming the world of commerce -- and real estate development.

Business telecommunications technology, in particular, has been a driving force behind the growth and success of established, as well as new and emerging, businesses. For example, a decade ago, GTE saw the increased demand for business telecommunications services and studied the possibilities of partnering with major developers to create the "SmartPark." The concept provides efficient, state-of-the-art fiber telecommunications infrastructures at low upfront costs to address demand for integrated voice, video and data services.

Smart office park infrastructures Today, more than 53 SmartParks have been developed -- all with an infrastructure that offers tenants access to a fully redundant SONET ring. The SONET ring is a fiber optics system that transmits voice, video and data signals in opposite directions on two fiber loops, so that if one loop is interrupted, the other loop can continue to transmit signals without delay. This infrastructure is particularly critical for medical and financial institutions, manufacturing and distribution, and companies requiring constant communications access and capabilities.

In addition, this infrastructure meets the demands of one of the fastest-growing categories in tenant leasing today: the call center.

Overall, the issue of energy efficiency plays a key role in office park design and development. In terms of construction costs, a developer must balance the requirements for greatest energy efficiency with greatest ease of maintenance. Integrating the design of the most energy-efficient HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems is paramount.

In addition to the new technology and energy demands, tenants still seek safe, secure office parks with ample green space and parking. Aesthetically pleasing green spaces that integrate both pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow enhance the appeal of office parks.

Blending nature and technology In designing the master plan for Hall Financial Group's 162-acre Stonebriar Office Park in Frisco, Texas, we emphasized green space and created a campus setting to appeal to corporate end-users. In addition to the architecturally elegant and modern buildings currently under construction in phase one, the park includes corporate and industrial sites for build-to-suit or other development opportunities.

Water features, landscaped amenities, outdoor sculptures placed at various focal points and a walking trail that winds through ample green space will accent Stonebriar Office Park's tranquil aspect. Most importantly, as developers, we chose a site along the North Dallas Tollway extension with proximity to residential developments and a highly skilled labor pool.

For environmental purposes, too, we viewed recycling as an integral part of the overall master plan. An onsite recycling service encourages the adaptive reuse of paper, aluminum, glass and plastics.

We also designed Stonebriar to reflect the most advanced thinking in communications technology and efficiency. The newest fiber optics, microwave technology, T-3 Internet access and SONET ring service will keep Stonebriar connected to the world. With the growth of today's "digital traffic," Stonebriar's fiber optic infrastructure will provide ultra high speed access and clarity that is paramount to corporate utilization and growth.

For security purposes, our buildings will be equipped with electronic cardkey controlled access and electronically monitored 24 hours daily.

The new generation of tenants will seek office parks that offer sophisticated high-tech applications will al low-tech/high-touch ambiance. With greater emphasis today on the virtual realities of doing business globally, developers must prepare sites that address a wide range of tenant expectations -- from environmental to technological. There are great pressures on developers to adopt new building strategies, but there are equally important decisions to be made in terms of return-on-investment in new technologies.

No doubt developers will be facing a new marketplace that reflects the needs and wants of an emerging "Nintendo" generation -- where technological infrastructures, rapid communications, data security and other high-tech tools must be deployed to maximize growth and success.

Craig Hall is chairman of Dallas-based Hall Financial Group Inc., and he can be reached via the Internet at

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