Sculptures and paintings in and around high-visibility downtown office buildings are nothing new, but art in the workplace is still relatively uncommon in suburban office centers.
If Robert F. (Rob) MacLeod has his way, his development in the northern Orange County city of Brea will take its place as a trend setter in suburban office development.
His firm, Brentwood-based Lowe Development Corp., has just celebrated the grand opening of its Brea Place development with the dedication of Gideon Graetz's stainless steel and bronze sculpture "The Rise of Icarus."
It is the second piece by the world-renowned Israeli sculptor in the $220-million, 55-acre development, where more than 25 pieces of art, with an estimated value of $300,000, are on display in halls and lobbies.
Cartoons in Restrooms
Even a trip to the restroom gives employees a chance to catch up on a quintessentially American art: cartoons and comic strips. Framed enlargements of strips ranging from "Doonesbury" to "The Far Side" are strategically placed in all the restrooms in the development.
"Art, in my philosophy, isn't just something for a museum or a gallery," MacLeod said. "It's a part of my life and a part of everyone's life. There is no reason why the workplace can't be enjoyable."
Putting a human face on the all too often faceless suburban office complex is a passion with MacLeod. He calls it the "holistic approach" to development.
"We have a health and fitness center--complete with a lap pool--that is open to everyone for a nominal monthly fee, not just the top executives like so many others of this type," he explained during a tour of the development across Birch Street from the Brea Mall regional shopping center.
"We have two employee cafeterias that serve excellent food, as well as a child-care center. The landscaping is scaled to human needs, giving people a chance to get away from their desks and enjoy the fresh air."
The architecture, by Andrews/Rothenberger, Santa Ana, and Bissel & Associates, Newport Beach, is designed to complement the landscape plan by Fong & Associates, Costa Mesa, which encourages workers to eat their lunches outside when the weather is good.
So far, Brea Place's Corporate Plaza segment has a 173,000-square-foot building occupied by Travelers Insurance and a 175,000-square-foot building occupied by the Capitol Group, according to Lowe's marketing executive, Bradley R. Hillgren.
An additional 520,000 square feet of office space will be available in "the near future," he said, adding that Brea's location north of the congestion of central Orange County will attract insurance companies and similar employers of large numbers of clerical workers.
Less Tiring Commute
"Many of the people who work here live in the Pomona/Diamond Bar area or even farther away in the Inland Empire, and the drive to Brea is far less tiring than, say, Irvine or Orange," Hillgren said.
Currently in construction is Brea Market Place, a three-story retail center that will include an Irvine Ranch Farmer's Market, a United Artists eight-screen movie theater, as well as specialty stores and restaurants.
Across State College Boulevard from the retail element and the "corporate" office buildings of Brea Corporate Plaza is Brea Financial Commons, with four office buildings totaling 210,000 square feet, room for more office space and a Rusty Pelican Restaurant. A Bobby McGee's restaurant is across the street from the Rusty Pelican, on property not owned by Lowe.
Development plans call for two more buildings totaling 225,000 square feet on the corporate plaza property and a 224-room Embassy Suites Hotel to be in construction by the end of this year across from the Market Place, on the Brea Mall side of Birch Street.
MacLeod cites Brea Place's location near the confluence of four freeways--the Orange, Newport (55), Riverside (91) and Santa Ana (5)--as a major location for firms that typically have employees living in a large number of areas.
Jeanette George of Travelers said that Brea Place was chosen for the insurance company's Orange County field office because of the accessibility of the site. Too, she added, it doesn't have the congestion that is typically associated with other parts of Orange and Los Angeles counties.
All this development is taking place on land owned by the Brea/Olinda School District. The old high school, fronting on Birch Street, will be replaced this fall by new one in the hills to the north, along the Orange Freeway.
Allowed Background Check
The school district, realizing the value of its property in the center of Brea's business district, interviewed seven firms before choosing Lowe Development Corp., according to School Supt. Edward Seal.
"The deciding factor for us was Lowe's willingness to cooperate," Seal said. "They agreed to supply us with financial statements and allowed us to do an extensive background check on their company."
Negotiations with the school district took a year and a half, and construction began on Brea Place in 1981. Lowe Development owns or is buying about half the site and has a 99-year lease on 28 acres. The school district participates in the rental income at Brea Place.