This section is from the book "Practical Real Estate Methods For Broker, Operator & Owner", by Thirty Experts. Also available from Amazon: Practical Real Estate Methods for Broker, Operator, Owner.
The broker, for example, is often asked to advise on certain loft improvements. The architect, if left to himself, would probably put up a handsome, safe building, and yet this loft structure, which might be ideal for a neighborhood a few blocks to the north, might have certain defects of arrangement which would greatly lessen its value for the special forms of business centering about its site. For, nowadays, certain neighborhoods are practically monopolized by certain lines of trade, and tenants must be recruited from those special forms of manufacturing and importing. A business building not suited to the trade of its district, therefore, might prove to be a white elephant until at some future time the character of the neighborhood changed. Similarly, the architect might plan fittings and decorations which would not hold up well for that class of occupant, although just the thing for an office building where little freight is handled. Again, light and air might, not be accurately adapted for neighborhood trade. Or the elevators might be of too expensive a pattern, or the heating apparatus such as to involve enormous coal bills. It follows, then, that the real manager must know the character of the neighborhood, and, as there are frequent migrations, be able to foresee either the coming of a better or a poorer class of tenants. In addition, he must know how the neighborhood business is run, at least as far as its requirements of floor space and arrangement are concerned. He must know what elevators are necessary and how to lay out a building which under the expected occupancy will be economical to clean, operate and keep up.
Here are some of the things that the broker must know about neighborhood trades:
I. Certain businesses do not mix well in one building. For example, importers and cloak manufacturers do not like to be in the same building. The importers, because of their bigger profits and the class of goods they handle, commonly are able to pay higher rents. Their help is of a different class; the people who come to their warerooms are different. Consequently, they do not like to be in the same building with certain classes of manufacturers who hire cheap help which hang around the halls and sidewalk and crowd the elevators at certain hours.
2. Different businesses require different light arrangement. For example, windows and exposure that would be ideal for a hat room would not do at all for a dealer in precious stones.
3. Different businesses require different elevator service. Some have their rush hours in the early morning, at noon and at different closing hours.
4. Some regard mail chutes and fine sanitary conveniences as absolutely essential. Others do not care so much about these points.
5. Each business has its own system of furnishing and equipping its offices and workrooms. Naturally, the man who wants to use show cases needs a different sort of loft from the one who wishes to operate scores of power sewing machines.
In these connections, the number and character of elevators, the location of stairways, position of columns, height of ceilings, have an important bearing.
6. Some trades need heavy machinery, others do not; certain trades are hazardous from the fire risk, others are comparatively safe.
These eccentricities of the several trades or lines of business which form the normal renting constituency of a district all must be most carefully considered. For on the building's adaptability to them depends its success and the nature of its rentals. When there is evidence that a special trade is migrating to a new district, the broker must keep his ear to the ground to learn what is to succeed it, and, if possible, get the cream of the new tenants.