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THE PLAN

19 West 44th street

hen Forrest Solutions self-described Chief Happiness Officer Mitchell Weiner chose to relocate to 17,684 square feet at 19 West 44th Street, he also made a conscious decision to dramatically reimagine what a work space in Midtown Manhattan could be. Indeed, with the help of Marc Spector and his architectural firm, the Spector Group, the temporary staffing business, which caters to the staffing needs of Fortune 500 companies, moved from what was an otherwise dreary, traditional space into one of the more ambitious offices in Manhattan. Mr. Spector reviewed the furniture plans with The Commercial Observer last week and discussed what, exactly, drew Forrest Solutions to the ninth floor of 19 West 44th Street.
As a temporary staffing business, Forrest Solutions daily hosts hundreds of unscreened workers in its offices for tutorials and meetings. As such, the design called for a stark separation of space for these temp workers and those staff employees who clock in on a daily basis. In order to achieve that goal, the Spector Group created an angled wall just beyond the elevator bank that slopes outward into public space. It kind of creates a directional arrow for those to go to the right to what is called the swoop, which is this very large, 360-degree reception desk that allows full visibility to the very large waiting area, said Marc Spector, principal of the Spector Group. The same wall that greets visitors upon their arrival also acts as a wow factor, not only for those seeking out the ninth floor, but for others in the building as well. When you get off the elevator you see this enormous, animated signage wall, which looks larger than life, with all their logos, Mr. Spector said. And interestingly enough, those who are riding the elevator going up to, say, the 17th floor, or down to the lobby, are always peeking their heads out on the ninth floor. Mr. Weiner took a decidedly hands-on approach to designing the new space, said Mr. Spector, who recalled meeting with the CHO on many occasions to discuss what, exactly, he wanted to achieve. Among Mr. Weiners prerequisites was the ability to see directly into the offices of his president and his chief financial officer, Jim Caton and Scott Lewis, respectively. Before pen was even put to paper, he told me his means of doing business was with his top peoplehis CFO and his presidentso a lot of it is through eye contact and sign language, and he wanted to create a perfect triangle of visual access, said Mr. Spector. Mitchs office is like living in a fish bowl.

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Steve Forrest, one of the founding partners of Forrest Solutions, however, chose to preserve his privacy by doing away with the glazed walls shared by Messrs Weiner, Caton and Lewis. He has an office next to Mitch, but, you know, he didnt want the glazing. He didnt want any visibility outward. That was his own desire for more privacy. While less common in other sectors, the workstations used by Forrest Solutions were made by Innovant, a company that excels at creating training desks for the financial services industry. We like the way that they look and we like their capabilities in terms of dual monitors and wiring and infrastructure, Mr. Spector said. We modified them ever so slightly for Mitchs use, which is obviously not a training environment. He wanted the ability to have a denser population in the office while still giving people their own workspace. Thats difficult, but I think we did it. On the surface, the kitchen and lounge area designed for Forrest Solutions new space is no different than any other in Midtown Manhattan, save for the fact that the architects have chosen to call it a bistro. But keeping in line with Mr. Weiners hands-on approach to designing the space, its dimensions, location and shape are more strategic than passersby might suspect. When he talks to his staff, he likes them to really be close and next to each other for a better sense of camaraderie and it allows him to have eye contact with everybody, said Mr. Spector, who added that Mr. Weiner also hoped the bistro would dissuade employees from leaving the premises. I guess those are all factors and reasons to why he is unbelievably successful.

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30|July 17, 2012|The Commercial Observer