David Arena, head of global real estate for JPMorgan Chase, speaking with John Means, McKinsey & Company’s head of major projects, at a ULI Fall Meeting session.

If the nearly $3 billion headquarters under construction in midtown Manhattan is any indication, JPMorgan Chase is bullish on the return to office and cities. David Arena, head of global real estate for the company, explained to John Means, McKinsey & Company’s head of major projects, at a ULI Fall Meeting session that the project has long been in the works.

“The firm made these decisions a long time ago and has never wavered,” Arena said.

The lobby alone at 270 Park Avenue will measure 80 feet (24.4 m) high. The new headquarters is being erected on the same site as JPMorgan Chase’s old headquarters and is designed by Foster + Partners. The 60-story tower will be New York City’s biggest all-electric building when it is completed.

The building is carbon neutral, providing “zero carbon from operations,” Arena said. The project is also significantly benefiting from rezoning that took place under the Midtown East Zoning District as one audience member pointed out at yesterday’s event held at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. JPMorgan Chase has been headquartered in New York City for a couple of centuries.

“It is our home, and we’re doing it at a time where we’re at the end of a pandemic, but we did a lot of this work in the beginning and the middle of a pandemic at a time when people were not sure whether cities would be back—maybe some of you are still not sure—when there was no one in Manhattan,” Arena said. “So, it’s, in a way, saying to the community, we’ve been here 200 years. We’re going to be here another 200 years—or at least we plan to—and so I think it makes a statement for the community.”

Betting on the Future

The company has nearly 300,000 employees worldwide. In addition, JPMorgan has more than 7,000 properties globally, consisting of more than 75 million square feet (7 million sq m) of space.

To construct the new headquarters required tearing down an older building. It marked the biggest demolition of a previous facility in New York City history.

Despite the investment, Arena said the company is aware that the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in more remote workers than ever before and concedes that there are employees who prefer a hybrid schedule, including corporate attorneys and people who work in finance and human resources. Still, Arena said that many workers are coming back to the office.

“For us, we think people are better together, and it doesn’t take much to believe that,” Arena said. “All you have to do is ask yourselves, why are you here today? Why are you here and not watching this on Zoom? Because you’re better together. You make relationships together. If you’re young, you learn your craft together. If you’re old, you’re a role model together. So people are better together, and we’re committed to it.”

JPMorgan Chase is also focusing on experiences at its new headquarters. To aid in its efforts, the company is enlisting some heavy hitters, including restaurateur and hospitality expert Daniel Meyer, whom Arena said is suggesting using the element of “surprise” for employees and “cause a sense of wonder when they come to the office.”

Healthier Buildings

Alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra has also been hired to help the building achieve its wellness goals as well as Dr. Joseph Allen, associate professor and director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The headquarters will include 40 percent more outside air and a focus on sustainability and hospitality.

“We have lots of things that are engineered into the building that will give you a sense of wellness, a sense of wonder, a sense of belonging, and that’s how we think we’re going to get people back, and we’re going to make them more productive, and we’re going to make more money for shareholders,” Arena said.

In the new headquarters, there also will be a variety of seating options for employees and collaborative areas. An art collection is planned among the offerings as well as 24/7 air-quality monitoring. The company is also experimenting with hologram machines, which Arena sees as advantageous to their mission.

“It’s connection, it’s culture,” Arena said. “You only have one Jamie Dimon and yet, we can put a box in London, and he can broadcast from New York.”

JPMorgan is also testing other technology in a lab with “pie-in-the-sky things in there,” according to Arena. This includes AR and VR and other projects with their technologists as well as those from the Microsoft Corp. since they are ahead in the space, Arena said. They also test video, data visualization, history, and art in the lab.

“Jamie was clear when we built this building, and when we invest in any capital: don’t take a lot of wild chances,” Arena said. “Make sure you know that it really works, and it has a commercial application.”

The new headquarters is scheduled to open in about two years.