Nate Franje Builds an Office Unlike Any Other

R&R Realty’s Nate Franje offers an inside look at the luxurious features that the Westfield Campus has to offer Iowan workers

Des Moines, Iowa’s premier office property is The Westfield Campus, a unique office space that boasts high-end features and accommodations for attracting and retaining top talent in the workplace. Jacob Sharp Photo

With the average full-time worker clocking in nearly 2,080 hours per year—not including overtime—it makes sense that the office would feel like a second home. These days, there’s a greater focus from companies to refine workplace offerings so they can attract and retain the best talent.

Nate Franje, VP, Operations for Development Services, R&R Realty Courtesy of R&R Realty Group

So what kind of environment will draw in the best? American Builders Quarterly asked Nate Franje, the vice president of operations for development services at R&R Realty, and who was responsible for creating Iowa’s premier office property, The Westfield Campus.

A pacesetter in the Des Moines, Iowa, region, the Westfield Campus is a 180,000-square-foot modern office complex, conveniently situated near both downtown and the Des Moines International Airport.

What qualities and features set the Westfield apart from the rest?

Westfield is a one-of-a-kind building within R&R’s portfolio. The use of metal and glass as exterior design elements make the building stand out from R&R’s traditionally brick-built buildings. We also incorporated common areas that are rarely seen in speculative buildings, like a rooftop patio, ground-level amphitheater, and a 20,000 square-foot commons space where customers can host events, meetings, or training sessions on a large scale. There is also a state-of-the-art fitness center, a digital Starbucks café, and a custom corporate market with fresh options like sandwiches and salads. The building concierge can do everything from help schedule a meeting to coordinate dry cleaning and automotive service requests.

“The rooftop has proven to be a very popular place for our customers to host events and meetings,” says Franje. The outdoor space includes chairs, tables, a long multiuse bar with shades, and is equipped with Wi-Fi. Customers have hosted cocktail hours for clients, held meetings, and routinely use the space as a place to collaborate in a more natural setting.” Jacob Sharp Photo

What shaped the programming and design plans?

When R&R began the process of designing the Westfield Campus, we knew it had to be unlike any building in the Des Moines metro area. Our in-house design firm, Spark Design, took up the challenge and delivered a fantastic result. We knew that collaboration and shared space would be hallmarks of the building, so the programming went in that direction.

Why did the team choose the features and attributes that make up the final design?

We emphasized the creation of spaces where people would want to spend time. This meant light and airy materials were used to maximize natural daylight coming in from large, expansive windows. The design team prioritized flexible seating that allows people to customize layouts within spaces. They also used art within shared areas, working with a Des Moines art gallery to curate a collection of pieces done by Iowa-based artists.

“The amphitheater is used by many people during the warmer months,” Franje says. “When the sun is shining and the weather is warm, a variety of people from the companies that call Westfield home enjoy lunch at the amphitheater.” Jacob Sharp Photo

How are the offices themselves arranged?

Each customer is empowered to create the space that works for them. Spark Design works closely with our brokers as they assist customers to create their ideal environment. Within the Westfield Campus, you’ll find office spaces that range from the traditional to the quite contemporary.

Biophilic design was also a major priority. Two living moss walls with R&R’s familiar logo greet visitors at the main entrances. By featuring items like moss walls, along with clean, white marble floors, the design team succeeded in their goal of bringing nature into a high-end office space. The result is an office environment that feels healthy and successful.

Another unique aspect of R&R’s new space is the use of various design styles and finishes. Because R&R is a commercial real estate company, the design team was tasked with creating a functional, cutting-edge office that could double as a showroom.

How did the teams collaborate to determine what would make the space unique and successful?

R&R has 35 years of experience developing, leasing, and managing speculative office buildings, so when it came to the Westfield Campus, our experience guided our strategy. We used price point data within the Des Moines and Midwest office markets, and we looked to Chicago, New York, and other large cities to determine what amenities and features were trending. Then, we used our experience in the Des Moines market to understand how these trends could be implemented at market-appropriate price points. Team members from across our organization performed this research, and I think the spirit of collaboration is evident in the success our brokers have had in leasing the building.