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Cool Spaces: ScanlanKemperBard Cos. sheds its downtown image

Wendy Culverwell
Business Journal staff writer- Portland Business

ScanlanKemperBard Cos. thrived in the real estate business the old fashioned way. It marshaled investments by wealthy individuals and families and the occasional institution to buy income-producing real estate.

The model succeeded until the Great Recession.

SKB, a long-time tenant of traditional offices at PacWest Center, needed to downsize.

Enter the Ziba Design Inc. building at Northwest Ninth and Marshall Streets, in the Pearl District.

The traditional investment firm leased 10,000 square feet and traded its banks of private offices for an open floor plan where cubicles (salvaged from one of its own office buildings) out number private spaces. Notably, president Todd Gooding works in a cubicle, surrounded by the company’s investment team.

Chairman Bob Scanlan said the architects at Holst Architecture struck the right note, emphasizing openness and a cutting-edge vibe without making investors wonder about the company’s viability.

Portland Business Journal: Tell us about the old space.

Bob Scanlan: We started in the PacWest building in 1993 and moved six times to everlarger spaces until we had the entire 26th floor. When we began, there was a reason for a traditional office space. Banks have nice lobbies to assure their clients. It’s the same.

PBJ: Do neighborhoods count?

Scanlan: Absolutely. There was one space we really liked in the west end. But you walk out the front door the building across the street was ugly and looked like it was going to fall down. That doesn’t convey the message we want to send. We get a lot of Eastern money here.

PBJ: What did you tell your architects?

Scanlan: We want a space that looks like a company that is confident and on their game and cutting edge in the market. I was nervous that he would go too far. But they just nailed it.

PBJ: What do clients and visitors think?

Scanlan: Every visitor has commented on it. That never happened in the old office.

PBJ: Does the open floor plan really foster teamwork?

Scanlan: We wanted to promote impromptu meetings and conversations. It happens and it works.”

PBJ: Tech firms say they need fun, collaborative offices to recruit employees. Is that true for SKB?

Scanlan: Yes. Young, creative smart people don’t want to live and work in the suburbs. One of the things I’m thinking about is younger people joining the firm.

PBJ: How come you still have a private office and Todd Gooding is in a cubicle?

Scanlan: We weren’t going to have any private offices, but the lender on the tenant improvement project said we had to have permanent improvements. Otherwise we would all be in cubicles.

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