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7.4 Case: Building a Corporate Headquarters in a Prestigious Neighborhood

As an example of the collaborative approach, consider the case of a large corporation in Memphis, Tennessee, that desired to build its new headquarters in a very prestigious neighborhood. The planned site was a parklike property that the corporation owned. On the multiacre property was a large, and historical, mansion that the corporation used as an overflow office. The corporation wanted to add an additional building that would house the entire headquarters. However, this was going to be a difficult task because the city’s most prominent citizens owned most of the homes in the area and recently the neighborhood had fought against converting an abandoned school building into an office and won.

Although the corporation already owned the property, it decided to collaborate with the neighborhood to find mutually satisfactory solutions rather than face a possible court injunction. The public relations director met with the homeowners association to understand the concerns and anxieties about building a corporate headquarters in the neighborhood. The major concerns were the following:

  • The noise and disturbance of building the office
  • The appearance of the office building
  • The possibility of diminished property values, some of which exceeded a million dollars
  • Other possible agitation such as increased traffic, loss of privacy, and the eyesore of an office building in their daily lives

Taking this information back to management, the public relations director worked with the CEO and other senior officers to develop strategies that would generate support for the construction of their building. Through further meetings and negotiations with the association, the corporation agreed to the following conditions:

  • It would build soundproof baffles between the construction site and the neighboring homes.
  • It would keep all the old-growth trees, and the office height would not exceed the height of the trees so that the building would not be visible from the homes or the adjacent streets.
  • The original mansion would remain on the property with a few minor renovations.
  • The new office building would be attractive even though most people wouldn’t know it was there (several floors were built underground so that the office wouldn’t extend above the trees, but the innovative design allowed natural light to reach the lower levels).
  • A study of the community’s commuter behavior showed that most residents had a half-hour drive to work. So the corporation set its hours from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to avoid traffic problems with its neighbors.
  • To protect the sense of lost privacy that might result from customers visiting the office building, the corporation offered the neighborhood the use of its guards to watch the surrounding community for suspicious behavior.

The corporation built its new headquarters with vocal support from its neighbors and neighborhood relations were very positive for several years to come. The public relations director often posted notes from neighbors who wanted to thank a security guard for helping find a lost dog or for contributions to neighborhood fund-raising efforts to benefit charities. Using the collaborative approach, this corporation was able to achieve a win-win solution through two-way communication.