Magazine

A Shade Above the Rest

B.J. Hobbs

In today's competitive commercial office market, every amenity is important. With rates at a new low in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, many tenants are scrambling to move "up" to a higher-caliber office building. Brokers pull together information on all buildings that meet the prospective tenant's criteria, and it is the extras that are tipping the scales in favor of one site over another. Covered parking is one of the premium amenities that companies are seeking for their employees.
At Prestonwood Tower in North Dallas, Property Manager Kathi Schneider recently completed the construction of an additional parking garage. Wanting to achieve the highest ratio possible for covered parking, the owner chose to install cloth canopies to the top level of the new four-story garage and to the upper deck of an existing two-story garage, thus increasing the covered parking ratio from 2/1000 to 3/1000. The new parking canopies added not only to the number of covered parking spaces, but to the aesthetics of the building as well.
"There were several varieties of canopies to consider," said Schneider. "The canopies we selected, installed by Sun Ports International, provides up to 95 percent shade, while being porous enough not to trap heat below it. It also is less likely to be blown down in bad weather conditions, while protecting from the Texas hail."
The new canopies have attracted the attention of drivers passing the location, enough that there are frequent calls to the management office to inquire about the covers. Most were property managers or owners who were interested in installing the product on their own sites. Schneider's original interest in the canopies was sparked by the sight of them at a Metroplex car dealership.
The reaction of the building tenants has been very positive. Hot Texas summer temperatures make cars extremely unpleasant by the end of the workday, and potential hail damage is not a pleasant thought, either. High winds may damage heavier wooden or metal covers, causing considerable damage to automobiles. For these reasons, the tenants appreciate the finer points of the fabric canopies.
Aesthetic qualities increase the value of the fabric covers, as they add much to the overall attractiveness of a site. It makes the "plain Jane" concrete parking garage appear more "artsy." The bright colors available and the potential design possibilities widen the construction choices for a facilities manager, since the covers can be a marketing tool as well as a tenant amenity.
The economy of the initial cost is followed by low replacement and upkeep cost. The fabric has a six-year warranty with an eight- to 12-year life expectancy, and the structure has a 10-year warranty. The poles are powder-coated and cantilevered from the rear with no front poles, and thus very little maintenance is required.
Installation of the system is quick, as these covers require support only every 27 feet as opposed to the more frequent support of canvas, wood or metal. Even with the need for lighting fixtures, the time involved in setup is less than that usually required for parking structures.
"The canopies are a win-win proposition for Prestonwood Tower," concluded Schneider. "They saved us money, improved the aesthetics of the building, increased the covered parking ratio and attracted attention to the site. They not only are pleasant to look at from the street, but improve the view of the garages from the building. They also have increased the marketability of the building and given the property a great return on our investment."

B.J. Hobbs is the Assistant to the Property Manager at Prestonwood Tower. She can be reached at
bhobbs@prestonwoodtower.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2004




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