Cira Square: Classic Elegance Meets Modern Excellence

By Tanner Johnston

For more than 80 years, Cira Square has stood as a prominent landmark of the Philadelphia cityscape. This stately art deco building began its life as a distribution center for the U.S. Postal Service and now stands as one of the premier historic buildings in a modern and vibrant commercial real estate market.

Anita Nesfeder, property manager with Brandywine Realty Trust and lead manager for Cira Square, faces a unique set of challenges in ensuring this storied structure operates to modern levels of performance. These are challenges she clearly knocks out of the park, and, as a newly designated BOMA 360 building, Cira Square has only improved with age.

Brandywine acquired the building and began major renovations in 2007. Three years later, Nesfeder began her role there as property assistant and oversaw the lease agreement with the building’s only tenant, the General Services Administration (GSA). Rising to the role of property manager in 2014, she has led Cira Square’s more than 30-person property team ever since

With almost a million square feet of space packed into a mere five stories, Cira Square is often referred to as a “high-rise on its side.” It features completely open floor plans and operates 21 hours a day, with aroundthe-clock janitorial service. Climate control is a delicate balance in a building like Cira Square, but, thanks to its newly installed heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) infrastructure and building automation systems, Nesfeder and her team can respond precisely to climate control requests from their tenant in different zones on the same floor. The GSA also maintains strict security standards for the building, such as requiring all occupants of Cira Square to maintain security clearances

Keeping a complex property like Cira Square running smoothly is no easy task, and Nesfeder’s management philosophy revolves around making sure her entire team’s hard work is properly recognized. It’s clear that Nesfeder considers Cira Square’s most valuable asset to be its team. “You have to rely on everyone: your property managers, your engineers, your security guards and your janitorial staff,” she states. “Without everyone working together, this property wouldn’t run the way it currently does.”

The team’s dedication, along with their recent win in the Historical Building category at the Middle Atlantic Conference’s regional The Outstanding Building of the Year® (TOBY®) Awards, inspired Nesfeder to apply for the BOMA 360 designation this year.

Brandywine General Manager Alex Grella echoes Nesfeder's sentiment on the importance of teamwork for achieving operational excellence. He explains that Brandywine’s ultimate goal for its entire portfolio of properties “is to create an outstanding environment, not just for the tenant, but also for visitors, staff and the surrounding community. We want to showcase our ability to achieve this goal, and there’s no better, more comprehensive way to do that than by earning the BOMA 360 designation.”

BOMA 360 applicants sometimes will find that their operational best practices already meet or exceed BOMA 360 designation requirements, and Cira Square was one such case. Nesfeder’s management philosophy, along with her team’s ability to synergize, made for a pleasantly painless BOMA 360 application process. “Applying for BOMA 360 helped us streamline and enhance our operations,” says Nesfeder. “The lessons we learned from the process complemented our existing best practices.”

BOMA 360 wasn’t just a plaque to add to Cira Square’s collection of accolades. “Earning the BOMA 360 designation really speaks to the skill of the property management team,” notes Nesfeder. “It provides an opportunity to recognize a job well done not just by the property managers, but also by all of the vendors and contractors who contribute to the effort. Without them, this designation wouldn’t have been realized.”

This article was originally published in the September/October issue of BOMA Magazine