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01 The Opportunity
Since 2005, Cushman & Wakefield has enjoyed a close partnership with Unilever. Starting with Transaction Management in North America, the relationship has evolved to Transaction Management and Lease Administration on a global basis with Project Management, Strategic Consulting and Facilities Management services playing an increasingly larger role in more recent years.
A multi-faceted project that raised the bar for future projects was the redesign of Unilever’s North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. With more than 1,700 employees spread across five locations and separate aging buildings totaling 750,000 sf, Unilever needed an innovative solution to foster a more unified and collaborative culture, while simultaneously eliminating cost-prohibitive inefficiencies. The company simply had too much space and needed to adopt a more global and agile way of working – especially to attract and retain top talent. They also wanted to create a stronger identity for Unilever in North America.
02 The Solution
Since the 1960s, Unilever had been located in the 700 and 800 Sylvan Avenue buildings along with two other nearby buildings. When it comes to their office facilities, Unilever's rule of thumb has been to lease and not own. To that end, the company has done a number of sale leasebacks finding that such transactions give them the ability to create more flexible and agile workplaces in the most efficient way possible.
With 365,000 sf in 800 Sylvan Avenue and 300,000 sf at 700 Sylvan Avenue, the time had come to consolidate in a modernized space. After conferring with Cushman & Wakefield advisors, Unilever completed a sale leaseback on the 700 Sylvan building, reinvesting the proceeds into the reconfiguration. Shortly before this, Cushman & Wakefield procured a new buyer for 800 Sylvan and restructured Unilever's lease, protecting the long-term operations and allowing the company to temporarily occupy the entire building as swing space while 700 Sylvan was being redesigned.
03 The Results
Together, Unilever and Cushman & Wakefield developed a creative approach that transformed Unilever's North America headquarters space both culturally and economically, with the added bonus of achieving significant sustainability benefits including LEED and potentially the WELL certification.
Unilever was able to decrease their footprint by 41% while still accommodating the same amount of employees - and creating a work space that is much more collaborative, strategic and thoughtful.
The building design has become the blueprint for all new offices being built out at Unilever, addressing the critical need to both attract and engage its employees. Features include a state-of-the-art gym, nursing mother rooms, an active Diversity & Inclusion program and open-plan seating. The number of printers were reduced to get employees up and moving. Smart technology includes about 3,500 sensors each monitoring five or six data points in the building that interact with mobile phones. Utilizing these smart location services, employees can locate available meeting rooms, locate colleagues and get located by others, driving a new way of working. With such technology in place, the U.S. headquarters is now the smartest building across Unilever’s portfolio.
This headquarters project provided Cushman & Wakefield with a great opportunity to leverage several service lines across our platform to help Unilever realize their vision. Our Brokerage, Investment Sales, Capital Markets, Valuation and Advisory, Project Management, and GOS groups all came together and played integral parts at different points throughout these complex transactions to support Unilever’s real estate strategy. In addition to our cross service teams, Cushman & Wakefield worked with Normandy Real Estate Partners, Edge Technologies and Perkins & Will to deliver results for Unilever.
"Considering we used to own the 700 Sylvan building and we now pay rent, it’s amazing we’ve been able to reduce our operating costs by this much. Driving down significant costs while simultaneously enhancing the quality of the environment and services to our people has been truly remarkable. What a win-win for us."
North American Workplace Director
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Executive Vice Chair
East Rutherford, United States