Week 2: Basis Albee Square

Apr 10, 2021

Hello everybody, welcome back! This week was a bit more hands-on as I was able to engage in my first sort of “on-site activity.” My on-site advisor, Mr.Cassell, got back to me, and I was able to take a trip to downtown Brooklyn to explore my project. During this week, he contacted Curtis Tong, who is head project manager of Cushman and Wakefield, and he let me tour the development of the new Basis Independent school in downtown Brooklyn. This was super exciting as this was the first real step to exploring my research question. I visited the site on Thursday at 10 A.M, and during the train ride there, I wondered how I incorporate this experience into my venture. However, after trying to find my way to Albee Square and arriving at the site, my worries were at ease.


After signing in, the first thing Mr. Tong worked on was this elevator issue that they have to manage to stay on schedule. There was a lot of construction jargon, but he emphasized that building this school requires cooperation and coordination to be on track. Once I put on the hard hat, I explored the building. All the walls and infrastructure have already been in place, and the electricity and things like the sprinkler system. The school is planned to be opening in a few months, and I was amazed. Being inside a building construction that was in progress was something that I never thought I would see. The school was very spacious, and I got to see many floors of the building. Mr.Tong also showed me the blueprints for the whole project. The master guide to the school explains every detail about it so that each specific group working on the school (such as the engineers) knows what they are doing. The tour ended with me sitting in on a weekly recap meeting the whole team has so they can all know about what is going on. It lasted about an hour, and though it was difficult to keep up, it was a fascinating time for me. The atmosphere in the room was very positive, and everyone cracked jokes every now and then. Their team works really well together, and it showed me about how people actually “work” together in a real-life job situation. 


This experience taught me a lot about how technology influences real estate development. There is no mention of eCommerce since this a school, but there was mention of commercial law and technology. I sat down with Mr.Tong before the team meeting, and he gave some informative insight into both the technology and legal sides of the project. The team utilizes a program called “Ingenious,” which keeps all the information about the enterprise in one comprehensive place so Mr.Tong or any of his associates can access it if needed. The application also lets him find information on other real estate projects that are in development all over the world. The first that popped into my mind was “organization.” Technology is helping real estate developers stay not only efficient but also remain organized. This construction would probably have thousands of folders or papers that have facts and figures pertaining to it. The app keeps everything virtual and, more importantly, secure/in order. However, the team is not using technology for everything. Mr.Tong mentioned how in recent years, machines and robots are used to develop new real estate areas to increase efficiency and decrease the need for human labor. This job is different because, in this situation, there are specific skills that a group has (such as electricians) that can not be programmed into machines. In addition to the need for specific skills, using machines is also very expensive and not practical. I learned that technology can be anywhere within real estate, but sometimes it does not have to. 


The other thing Mr.Tong discussed was the legal side of the project. He explained the basic process of leasing buildings. Long story short, there is a landlord (building owner) and a client who wants to use the building. In between, there is a broker who essentially negotiates the lease, which is a binding agreement. It is the terms and services for using the space that both landlords and clients haveto sign off on. In this case, Mr.Tong found this building, and it was an empty space. Due to the large available space, the building manager was very lenient on what he wants on the lease and how the space can be used. Mr.Tong emphasized that finance is important because they do not want to overspend on things like materials to build the framework of the school. He made a draft budget, and after looking into the specifics of the building, he made a final budget and established all those details on the lease. Another factor that was a part of this decision was the location. Location plays a very important role in any real estate transaction and is also looked at along with the area’s budget.

There was a lot to learn this week, and I am still very happy I got the opportunity to learn from it. So far, I have discovered a lot about the real estate world from my visit and the legal aspect of it as well. In terms of influences coming from technology, I discovered that it helps with the organization but is not used everywhere. The human workforce is still very apparent. I plan next week to try and find a way to incorporate eCommerce into my next task in the following days. I have included some pictures from my trip, and I hope you enjoyed the read this week.


Thank you


2 Replies to “Week 2: Basis Albee Square”

  1. Charlie K. says:

    Looks like Basis is competing with NYU in the real estate sphere, LOL! Great piece Zihan, appreciate the pictures as well.

  2. Matthew S. says:

    It seems like you’re really interested and enjoying your research so thats good to see. It makes sense that we currently use technology as more of an assistant than a solution but I wonder if throughout your research you’ll find that we are going to migrate to near-full automation. Robots aren’t replacing electricians now just because it doesn’t make any sense, so far they’re just replacing secretaries, though I hope to read what you project for the future based on your research. Very interesting!

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