Community Thrives in the Millennium Building

By: Jessica Bates

This is the last in a series of articles exploring the six different criteria evaluated by the BOMA 360 Performance Program®.

Many of the tenants in the Millennium Building in downtown Washington, D.C., work long hours at demanding jobs, which means they often rely on building amenities to help them shape a better work-life balance. This offers a distinct challenge to their property management team, lead by Donna Nurmi, senior property manager with the Tower Companies, which owns and manages the property. They are dedicated to ensuring that all occupants of the stately, 12-story building enjoy their time there.

And, the Tower Companies team have more than met this challenge, offering a panoply of services and amenities and regularly feting tenants with building socials. More importantly, in the 14 years Nurmi’s worked at the property, she has developed a deeply held conviction about the importance of communication and community in creating happy tenants, whom she calls clients. It was no surprise that when the Millennium Building achieved the BOMA 360 designation, it scored highly in each of the program’s six categories, but was a particular standout in the category of Tenant Relations and Community Involvement.

The Tower Companies team understands that tenant relations requires more than a one-size-fits-all approach, particularly in a Class A building that houses everything from law firms to educational organizations to a bank. “Communication is an ongoing process,” Nurmi says. “We want to stay in touch with what our clients want and make sure they feel comfortable coming to us with ideas or requests, but we don’t want to be obtrusive.” Building announcements and flyers keep everyone in the property up-to-date on events, and the property staff regularly touch base with occupants through the frequent building events or simply by visiting their space. Not every event or amenity is going to be a hit with every tenant, but Nurmi ensures that everyone receives the benefits they need. “If you provide a good mix of different options—information events, environmental initiatives, socials—you’re going to get more clients involved,” she says. “My goal is for everything we offer to be interesting, valuable and fun.” This approach seems to be working well, as events draw robust participation from the building’s tenants.

Another key to the success of the Millennium Building is active community involvement. Many of the events are geared towards a charitable cause, from blood drives to volunteer opportunities at the local Rock Creek Park. “This is a huge priority for us, and that really starts with our Tower Companies management,” Nurmi explains. “We’re dedicated to building a happy and healthy community, not just in the building, but in the surrounding area.” Allowing the building’s occupants to work towards these common goals goes a long way towards fostering a strong sense of camaraderie and community. Environmental stewardship also is a priority; the Millennium Building offsets 100 percent of its energy consumption and hosts a solar array, a rainwater irrigation system and a composting program.

The Tower Companies takes a holistic view of tenant relations and works to ensure tenants feel fulfilled by their time at work. This made the BOMA 360 program a natural fit. “The ‘360’ part of the BOMA 360 name really is true,” Nurmi explains. “The BOMA 360 program covers all parts of building operations and management, and we work hard to make sure we’re not overlooking anything. Our designation reflects that effort.”

In fact, the building staff think critically about what they can add to the building to improve a tenant’s daily experience. The large number of bike commuters in the building have access to a secure, air-conditioned bike storage room complete with a repair station and filtered water. The fitness center offers free yoga and Pilates classes and state-of-the-art equipment, as well as a clothing steamer to help keep occupants looking sharp. A lactation room provides privacy and quiet for new mothers, and anyone can take a clipping from rooftop herb garden to use in their home cooking. “I love when tenants tell me what meals they made with our herbs,” Nurmi says.

Nurmi offers one last secret to property managers looking to improve their tenant relations: “Start with your property team—they are the foundation of a good building community,” she says. “If the team takes the time to get to know each other and spend time together, they will work together better, and the tenants can see that difference.”