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Realogy's new headquarters designed with collaboration in mind

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From left, Jon Hanson, of Hampshire; Gov, Chris Christie; and Realogy CEO Richard Smith at Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony opening Realogy's Madison headquarters.
From left, Jon Hanson, of Hampshire; Gov, Chris Christie; and Realogy CEO Richard Smith at Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony opening Realogy's Madison headquarters. - ()

Visitors to Realogy Corp.’s new Madison headquarters will find what they might expect to see in the offices of a technology startup or an ad agency: low-profile work stations, glass-walled executive suites and more than 100 conference or huddle rooms.

The design is a nod toward close collaboration despite the company’s global reach and its role as a franchisor of some of the best known real estate brands, like Century 21, Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s International. But Dave Weaving, Realogy’s chief administrative officer, said the business units have plenty of reasons to come together.

“Each of those brands is collaborative in terms of how they work, in terms of defining marketing, technology, training and things like that for their franchisees,” he said. “So they want to have the ability to interact with each other on a more free-form basis.”

More than 900 Realogy employees have since moved from nearby Parsippany to the new 270,000-square-foot headquarters, which was built by the Hampshire Cos., of Morristown. Weaving said its key features include the shift toward communal work areas, an interior design that helps define each of its six brands and unfinished space to accommodate growth.

Weaving conceded that “we had employees who logically had some trepidation by going to more open environment,” in some cases losing private offices or external windows. But he said the staff has taken the relocation in stride.

“In a move when you’re talking about close to 1,000 people, you expect potentially to have some concerns raised,” Weaving said. “They have been fascinatingly minimal.”

The all-glass headquarters also is a window into one of the most critical trends in commercial real estate: high-profile tenants want modern, more efficient space, leading to opportunities for new projects. But they also leave behind large, vacant and sometimes functionally obsolete buildings that can be a headache for the company or its landlord.

The Madison building is 100,000 square feet smaller than Realogy’s previous space, which it does not own. Weaving said the landlord has put the property up for sale.

Realogy’s move, which was completed about a month ago, was punctuated earlier this week at ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Chris Christie. The relocation is among the Christie administration’s signature “saves” in job retention: Realogy chief Richard Smith has said he was all but ready to move the company to North Carolina in 2010, when the state stepped in with a $12 million incentive package to keep it here.

The company, which has about 1,300 employees in New Jersey, owns and franchises real estate brands that also include ERA and Better Homes and Gardens. The global firm also has business units specializing in corporate relocation and title and settlement services.

Realogy’s parent company, Domus Holding Corp., announced last year that it would go public and subsequently launched a $1 billion offering of common stock. The company said it planned to use the proceeds to pay off debt.

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