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HED Architectural Firm Moves to Mission Valley

REAL ESTATE: Leases 10,000 Sq. Ft. in $40M Ampersand Complex

SAN DIEGO – A Michigan-based architectural firm has moved its San Diego headquarters from downtown to a renovated Mission Valley office building that was once home to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

HED, based in Royal Oak, Michigan, has leased 10,693 square feet of space in the former newspaper complex that was redeveloped into offices in a $40 million project by The Casey Brown Co. and renamed Ampersand.

The architectural firm had been leasing about half as much space in a downtown office tower, but when the lease ran out, HED decided to find a new location.

Neville Willsmore
Managing Principal
HED San Diego

“We liked the classical architecture of the building and the convenience, but it was hermetically sealed”, said Neville Willsmore, managing principal of HED in San Diego.

HED’s San Diego office “is the third in the series of our national office relocations and reinvention,” Willsmore added.

Heavily influenced by the firm’s experience during COVID, the new San Diego office emphasizes connections to the outdoors. HED also shifted to a hybrid work model where people work remotely part of the week and in the office part of the week.

HED had narrowed its search to Ampersand and a downtown office building, but Willsmore said that HED picked the Mission Valley site because it offered free parking, and employees would have to pay to park at the downtown location.

“That was a big decision-maker,” Willsmore said. “No one wanted to pay to go to work.”
Mission Valley has easy access to freeways.

Finding a location with outdoor space was also a key concern.

“What we learned during COVID or as a result of that is there’s a greater concern now for wellness and wellbeing for people in the workplace,” Willsmore said.

$1.8M Reno ‘Good for Marketing’

When HED leased the space, it was in shell condition with concrete walls, concrete floors and concrete waffle ceilings.

Willsmore estimated that HED spent about $1.8 million on tenant improvements.
With their office on the fifth floor of Ampersand, HED has an outdoor patio of about 3,000 square feet that wraps around part of the building.

HED also installed movable glass walls, “so it’s an indoor, outdoor environment all day long and we do actually have it open every day,” Willsmore said. “The advantage is, we’re in the northwest corner of the building and so therefore we get the prevailing breezes that are coming in from the coast.”

The office has an open floor plan with workstations along a northern glass wall with no private offices.

“The workstations that we have or the flex desks that we have are all mobile, so they can be reconfigured if a team wants to do that,” Willsmore said. “There’s an assortment of conference rooms, ranging from a one-person focus room to a 12-person, regular conference room.”

The workstations have desks that can be raised or lowered. There also are about 50 lockers for personal effects.

“We do have a desk reservation system. However, we’ve not yet been required to use it,” Willsmore said. “People seem to have found the balance and their comfort level that whenever they come in, there’s a space available.”

The color palette of the office is blue and gray, offset with some tan with a splash of yellow where the corporate logo is displayed.

Amenities within HED’s offices include a kitchen. Ampersand also has an onsite café, fitness center and planted courtyards.

Since HED designed their offices, “It’s been good for marketing for us, too, because people come to see the space, they’re excited by what they see. We’ve actually had a number of our industry partners contact us wanting to be able to host events in our space,” Willsmore said.

‘Multiple Market Sectors’ Expansion

With a current staff of about 45, HED has had offices in San Diego for about 20 years, starting with a staff of 10 to 12 people, Willsmore said, adding that the firm would like to add to its local staff, growing to have about 60 people locally.

“We’ve been challenged to find people,” Willsmore said. “That’s something that’s happening across our industry.”

The firm’s initial focus was on elementary school projects, “then, over the past two decades, we have grown into multiple market sectors,” Willsmore said.

That includes science, higher education, government, data centers, healthcare, multi-family mixed-use projects, mechanical and electrical engineering and plumbing.

High interest rates have put a crimp on construction activity, but Willsmore said that 2023 was a good year for HED in San Diego.

“We’re still actively pursuing multiple projects in multiple markets,” Willsmore said. “We met our revenue goals, and we hired some people, so we’re happy about the progress.”

HED
FOUNDED: 1908
CO-CEOs: Tania Van Herle and Enrique Suarez
HEADQUARTERS: Royal Oak, Michigan
BUSINESS: architecture, engineering and design firm
EMPLOYEES: 400
WEBSITE: www.hed.design
CONTACT: 619-398-3800
NOTABLE: HED has nine offices in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento in California

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