What Is There Not to Like?

By late 1992, company communications producer Marti Gottl was finishing a video gloriously titled "Building for the Future." The pun was ironic in view of Penney's near collapse only eight short years into that future. But Gottl had nothing to do with the video's title or the retailer's future, and her powerful video would certainly mark the headquarters construction event.

The video's payoff would be a short sequence reprising the entire construction process from beginning to end from a single camera position. Gottl had found a good angle from the top floor of a nearby building erected on speculation and still empty. She rented a room and "locked down" a camera. Then, only having to keep the window clean and change magazines, over the major period of construction one of her camera people went to the room every day and exposed only a few frames of film. After 18 months, Gottl had a perfect 90-second "animation" of the real thing, the birth of a vast postmodern corporate edifice.

Edifices, actually. The complex comprised seven separate buildings all joined into one structure by eight atriums and three rotundas. Outside or inside, the expanse was immense. Each building was a uniform and extra-tall three stories above grade. There was also a lower level that, for the great cafeteria and private dining rooms, opened onto a sunken garden and fountain area. All together, there were nearly two million square feet of usable business and utility space.

After the breathtaking trick of showing the construction in 90 seconds, the video would build again to a grand climax. Gottl had an arsenal of shots from which to select. She had loving pans of the exterior elevations , the rich masonry aggregate, the fields of glass, the great copper hip roof. For interiors, she had tracking shots of sunlit floors opening directly onto atriums. She had shots that swept up to atrium skylights stretching on forever. Then, perhaps with music moving into a last crescendo, Gottl could select from angles spinning up into the twin rotundas at the north and south confluence of atriums. And to climax the whole show, she could intercut inside and outside the grand, airy central rotunda the statue of Mr. Penney receding below in the middle of the rotunda's marble floorand then finish with a view rising above the building's ceremonial entrance to the rotunda's peak, a helicopter panorama of the copper-roofed complex and all of the choice land beyond.

Marti Gottl dove into the final cuts for "Building for the Future." She worked in a Lincoln Center editing suite with much excitement. Gottl knew the video would deliver on its main job of glorifying a building. It would also, she knew, glorify the managers who knew how to run a huge enterprise that deserved such a building. And it finally presented their reward: the space, the elegance , the comfort of it all. And, after all, the whole thing would be free. [1] That, per se, wasn't in the video, but everybody knew it anyway. As Duncan Muir, a PR executive, would informally say during the building's official opening festivities, "What is there not to like?"

[1] Add: The cash from 1301 6th Avenue's sale; the money not spent on necessary refurbishing; the cost-per-square- foot savings in Texas for maintenance and utilities; the conservative projected profit from sale of the excess land. Subtract: The cost of the move and construction; furnishings, fixtures, etc. Result: A washwith much more space and a much better lifestyle thrown into the bargain.

Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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