A Moving Story with a Happy Ending: PAEA’s New Offices
Nearly everyone has experienced a move in his or her lifetime. Whether the move was with family or for work, there is always a story to tell. On March 25, PAEA moved into the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C. It was a move that had been a long time coming and one that will provide increased collaboration opportunities, a new chapter for PAEA members, and an exceptional home for the Association. This is our story.
The Search for More Space
In March 2014, PAEA appointed a staff move team — Ashley Smith, Lynn Heitzman, and myself — to start the process of seeking new office space. After nine years in our offices in Alexandria, Virginia, our staff had grown to 26 people — and we were bursting at the seams. PAEA’s lease was expiring in March 2015, so it was time to look for a larger space. As the move team began to scout out possible new locations, a previous invitation from AAMC to move into their brand new office building in D.C. remained an enticing option.
Research was conducted on how to provide an efficient and effective working environment with particular attention to the specific needs of staff and respect for the needs of our leadership and members.
During this process, there was a lot to consider:
- the PAEA staff compact outlining our shared values
- the importance of the PAEA office culture — open and friendly
- the value of a personal space
- the desire for defined meeting rooms
- the need for more informal places to meet and socialize
Experts in commercial real estate and space design were engaged and recommended flexible space that could be used by many, providing natural light with lots of open space. PAEA staff, on the other hand, stressed the importance of private offices for focusing on their work and adding more collaborative meeting places. (This wasn’t going to be easy.)
Ultimately, we balanced these competing ideas by designing an environment that has personal office space, but with walls composed primarily of large panes of glass, allowing light to flood the interior areas.
A Decision Is Made
The benefits of relocating to the AAMC building soon became hard to ignore:
- opportunity for greater collaboration with the AAMC
- just a stone’s throw away from Capitol Hill and Congress
- closer proximity to other health profession education organizations
- being able to design the office space to fit our exact needs
In July 2014, the PAEA Board of Directors approved moving the office location to 655 K Street in the AAMC building. This decision prompted excitement from leadership and anticipation from staff. A process of lease negotiations began, including guidance from legal counsel and our real estate broker. In conjunction with this work, the move team engaged the services of a project manager. These partnerships were key to bringing our move project together on time and under budget.
In December 2014, PAEA’s CEO Timi Agar Barwick signed the lease for our new space, and construction commenced in January 2015. The move team’s next step was to enlist the support of a general contractor, building management, electricians, plumbers, audio visual and cabling services, furniture experts, and more — all of our partners who helped to make the move a reality.
Enjoying Our New Home
Many councils and committees have meetings scheduled in 2015, and we look forward to hosting them in our new office. With wide-open views of downtown D.C. from our windows and the rooftop deck, interesting architectural and historical features in the surrounding area, as well as stores, museums, and restaurants nearby, we think volunteers will enjoy exploring our new neighborhood.