If you have had the pleasure of using the restroom in the expansion at Destiny USA, you may have noticed the emerald-colored water that filled the porcelain bowl.
“Everyone will tell you I run around like crazy saying, ‘If you have to go to the bathroom, go to the bathroom in the expansion because I need our toilet water to turn green!’” Lauren Staniec said. “The rainwater has a green dye in it. If I’m in the expansion, I run into a bathroom and flush toilets.”
One of her primary projects at Destiny USA is getting a Rainwater Harvesting System up and running. The system, consisting of a 116,000-gallon retention pond, collects rainwater and redistributes it throughout the plumbing system in the mall, conserving four million gallons of water annually.
Toilet flushing, albeit important in its own right, is just one of the many tasks that fill up Staniec’s hectic and often unpredictable days that begin at 6:30 a.m., when she takes her seat as one of Pyramid Management Group’s tenant coordinators.
“I never know what a single day is going to be like until I get there,” she said. “It is a total juggling act; you make it work when it can work. You learn to be flexible, to put your foot down and to prioritize very quickly.”
Minoa native and ESM alumnus, Staniec received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from RIT in interior design before earning a master’s at SUNY ESF in construction management, with a heavy emphasis on green construction and building methods. The often intimidating words and complex concepts of the “green scene” have become a second language for 31-year-old Staniec.
To simplify (without devaluing) the basic duties of a tenant coordinator, Staniec acts as a medium between the architect and the tenant, making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of the design and code criteria that needs to be followed per each property’s standards. She reviews the incoming tenants’ plans and helps them build-out within their given space. All of these duties, and the many in between, hold true for her role in the Destiny USA expansion — with a few added facets. In February 2012, when the center was officially dubbed a Gold Core and Shell U.S. green building certified project, the application process to become a Destiny USA resident became a bit more complex.
In layman’s terms, the U.S. Green Building Council has a green rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), consisting of various requirements that designers, builders developers and new building owners need to meet or exceed in order to be considered LEED certified. In Destiny’s case, all tenants must be LEED certified in order to move in. Each tenant must obtain a minimum of 40 credits related to water efficiency, energy, innovation and various other avenues of green living. Luckily, thanks to Destiny’s work with sustainability, each tenant starts with 27 pre-approved credits. Staniec then helps them find the compliance pact that they want to pursue based on what their ultimate goal is, whether it be to simply meet the requirements of their lease, or if it is to really make a powerful move toward benefitting the environment.
“Destiny is a little different [than other centers] because I’m dealing with each and every single one of the tenants who comes in and their LEED certification within commercial interiors,” Staniec said. “So, I have an added responsibility as a tenant coordinator here to get everybody on the path toward a LEED certification.”
After Pyramid’s leasing reps establish what they deem a good fit for a particular center, the selected tenants are delegated to the tenant coordinators, and they begin to guide the incoming businesses through the steps toward opening their doors to the public.
Pyramid, one of the largest, privately owned developers of shopping centers in the northeast, has developed 17 properties in New York and Massachusetts over the past 40 years. In addition to fulfilling her duties as a tenant coordinator, Staniec ambitiously took on the role of managing the redevelopment projects happening at three of these properties: Walden Galleria in Buffalo, Crossgates Mall in Albany, and Palisades Center in West Nyack.
On any given workday, Staniec can be found either in her office handling the details of bringing in a new tenant, or all five-feet of her will have traded in her heels for a pair of flats, as she delegates the construction details of a project on site.
“I know that people are laughing and snickering because I am out there in a pencil skirt and ballet flats walking the [construction] site, but I have to play to both roles,” Staniec said. “I have to play the role of working with redevelopment projects in what is a typical office environment, so I have to look the part there, but I have to be able to come out on site and make sure that my projects here are going smoothly, as well.”
Although Staniec’s design background is something she often puts into her work, she’s taking the backseat to any major design choices at Destiny, and in this case she prefers it that way. Staniec lets out an honest laugh about the intimidation and pressure that accompanies working on a project in your hometown.
The majority of the designing aspect that takes place for her happens when a free-standing business like a nail salon or yogurt stand is moving into a center and needs to adapt to becoming an in-line store. Although national and international retailers provide more of a concrete idea as to what the space will ultimately look like, the possibility of slightly altering the design can also be handled by the tenant coordinator. For example, mall-goers may notice the stainless steel that was worked into the design of H&M’s new facade in the Carousel Center, ultimately the result of a compromise between the Pyramid team and the tenant.
So, what can a woman, like Staniec, bring to the tenant coordinator position? Without an ounce of hesitation, Staniec responded with one word: finesse.
“I think I’d be lying if I said that I weren’t brought on [to work with] some of the more difficult tenants, and I think it’s because they trust that I am going to feel out the situation and come to a conclusion that is best for all parties in a way that is diplomatic,” Staniec said of being a woman in her position.
Although without her constantly buzzing BlackBerry things would surely go awry, Staniec has no complaints about the bustling life she leads.
“Once this place is in your blood, you just can’t get it out. You need to be constantly go-go-going,” Staniec said. “Even on the hardest day I say to myself, ‘You’re building a mall.’ Who gets to say that? That, for me, is really exciting.”