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What CRE developers overlook when art planning.

In over 20 years of art consulting for the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, we’ve seen developers overlook crucial details that cost them in the long run. In today’s commercial real estate market, artwork can no longer be an afterthought. Commercial tenants are trading up for locations that provide experiences others can’t. Custom artwork, if executed properly, holds the key to placemaking that keeps people in your building. But some developers drop the ball in the execution. To save you from a missed opportunity or future headache, here’s a list of the top 5 things developers overlook when planning for art on their projects.

1. Developers wait too long to start planning for artwork

It takes up to 18 months to cost-effectively acquire large, statement art. Even a year can be cutting it close because your preferred artist might need a year to produce the piece, especially if they’re in high demand. By the time you engage an art consultant, they research artists, you finalize your art selection, or have multiple artists create proposals to help you decide, three months could go by. Then you’re only 9 months away from your installation deadline and that’s not always enough time to produce a custom statement piece. Engaging an art consultant during the design phase of your development gives you the best chance of finding availability from the artist you want at the most cost-effective rate. If you only want framed artwork, 4-6 months is a reasonable lead time for the most cost-effective acquisition.

2. Developers don’t include a separate line item for art in their budget

What CRE developers often overlook when art planning ​is a separate line item for art in their budget. Instead, they often lump the art budget in with FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment). This is a big mistake because it means you’re waiting until the FF&E procurement phase to begin planning for art acquisition. As we learned in item number one on this list, that’s too late. Plus, when art is lumped in with FF&E, development teams often find the money for art has run out, or there’s not enough money for art that makes the impact they want. Create a unique line item for art and bring an art consultant on during the design phase so that you are prompted to make concrete decisions and put your art plan into action while funds are still available, and the best options are still at your disposal.

3. Developers forget art can be a selling point for their property.

What CRE Developers Overlook When Art Planning

Image: American Campus Communities razed a building to the ground for their latest development at the University of Texas at Austin, save for one wall featuring the 1993 mural by Daniel Johnston that has become an icon of the city.

There is perhaps no greater example of developers understanding the value artwork brings to a commercial property than the story of American Campus Communities, the nation’s largest student housing company. They recently razed a building in Austin, Texas for a new development—save for one wall containing a 1993 mural by artist Daniel Johnston. According to a press release, the company is in the early conceptual design phase to turn the building into a new student housing community with ground floor retail. “There is no definitive timeline for redevelopment, but there is a definitive plan for the mural: it will be preserved in its current state and protected throughout construction,” the release says.¹ Since the mural was commissioned 30 years ago, it has become a symbol of pride for the eclectic city. One that draws much foot traffic from those seeking a photo. And although the building has changed hands multiple times in 30 years, each new occupant has committed to preserving the work.² Often at the urging of the community. The Daniel Johnston mural is a prime example of how artwork executed properly can elevate a property’s value for decades to come.

4. Developers forget to give their interior designers this valuable resource.

An interior designer’s area of expertise is the design of the entire space. While they want to find the most unique pieces of art, they don’t have the time or database. Which is why they want to work with us. Unlike an interior designer, an art consultant has deep knowledge and resources in one area—art. When designers can delegate the art procurement process to us and move on with the rest of their duties, it’s a far more productive use of their time and everyone wins. Especially the developer who is getting the best art for their development in the most cost-effective way possible.

In the above video, Kaitlyn Melton, the lead interior designer on our HillTop student housing project for developers Johnson Trube & Associates, shares how bringing the art consultants at Art + Artisans onto the project from the beginning benefited everyone.

5. Developers wait until they’re planning the grand opening.

Developers that wait until they’re planning the grand opening to think about art have missed the opportunity to create a truly unique space where people want to spend their time. To get the right art for your property, you must begin planning for it as you’re planning the development itself. “Every project we do has a focus of art,” says David Martin, president of Miami-based development giant Terra Group.³ “Our customers want to know that [the development group] is making decisions that are well thought out. That doesn’t just mean hiring the right architect. It means making the right decisions on product, down to the doorknobs. I think the more we do that, the more trust and confidence we can get from our customers, and art is one of the significant elements that people connect with.”

Resources to Learn More about Planning for Art in Commercial Real Estate

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