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Boards Should Lead a Redesign

Max G. Freedman
Vice President,

Boards Should Lead a Redesign

Setting the Scene

About two years ago, the board of managers at a pre-war condominium we manage on the Upper East Side embarked on a lobby renovation. We advised the board to hire an architect or a designer to create renderings for the board’s review. When three renderings of the proposed lobby and elevator cab refurbishings were completed, the board distributed them in a survey of the unit-owners to see in which direction the majority wanted to go. Unfortunately, the response was not conclusive and some unit-owners made a number of suggestions. So now, instead of having three different options, there were five or six different ones.

Following the Action

The board ultimately decided to go with the design they felt the majority of owners wanted. But halfway through the process – after the designer had brought in the furniture and the contractor had started work – there was an uproar. Many of the owners were protesting the new lobby. The board subsequently engaged another architect and designer. Some of the purchased furniture was returned. The board chose a new design. The good news was that it was completed on budget. The bad news is that what should have been a six-month project turned into an affair lasting a year and a half.

Doing It Right

The essential lesson here is that a lobby renovation is going to be contentious, especially if you bring all of the unit-owners to vote on the decision. Our feeling is that boards, or a predetermined special committee of the board, should develop a clear, coherent path themselves. You cannot satisfy everyone, and yet a board needs to make the decisions on behalf of everyone.

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