Speculations have run rampant for the past few years about The Sherwin-Williams Company’s new world headquarters. Since the company announced in September 2019 that they were officially on the hunt, the topic has been a central point of discussion among many of Northeast Ohio’s community, civic, and business leaders. One of these lunchtime discussions sparked a few team members at The Austin Company to put visuals to their talk.
“It started with a group of our folks talking about the possibilities related to Sherwin Williams’ announcement of its search for a new headquarters; how leaving Ohio, Cleveland, or even moving to the other side of downtown could have a dramatic impact on our beloved city. The conversation quickly changed to what could possibly go in those towers if they moved, or, what would happen to that main artery of downtown Cleveland,” explained Brandon Davis, Vice President of Operations and General Manager for The Austin Company. “Then, before you knew it, a small group of Austinites were meeting to talk further, using lunches and happy hours to visit the rumored possible locations—brainstorming ideas and exploring the what-ifs. I was more than happy to buy lunch or a round of drinks to support them while they engaged their passion for Greater Cleveland.”
As the team started brainstorming, they realized they were uniquely positioned to put action behind their vision. After all, The Austin Company is a 140-year old, Cleveland-headquartered company that helps locate sites, negotiate incentives, and then design, build and maintain industrial projects throughout North America. The core team of passionate volunteers—professionals from within the company—that formed around this effort was a direct reflection of the company itself. With the company legacy and diverse skill sets among them, the team got going. They met on their own time, and, with the blessing of management to use some of the company’s “community projects” funds, they also met during work hours to develop a design inspired by their discussions and shared vision.
“This [Sherwin Williams headquarters story] has been a big topic of discussion among those of us that love Cleveland. Our effort was a fun opportunity to use and leverage the skills we have here at Austin. Allowing us to put a visual to one possible option, and to turn our talk into some action.” said Judi Szabo-Stull, Architectural Lead for Austin’s Eastern Operations.
The team spent several weeks in the office, visited possible sites, and brainstormed ideas and designs based on potential headcounts, square footage, parking needs, etc. They did what they could with public information available, much of which was sourced from the rumor mill or published articles on the topic. The outcome of their efforts can be seen in the photos and videos posted with this blog.
SHERWIN-WILLIAMS’ NEW HEADQUARTERS LOCATION IDEA
Very early on, the team made the decision to focus on the riverside lot area by Sherwin-Williams’ existing Breen Center. The thought process around this selection included:
- Attempting to continue some level of immediate purposeful use (after renovations) of the company’s existing three towers, where they have been headquartered since 1930.
- To position Sherwin Williams at the center of reshaping downtown Cleveland and to become the face of the city. (Many downtown skyline photos are taken from that angle across the river, and Sherwin Williams would be the face of one of the main arteries into and out of the city).
- To allow Sherwin Williams to have a headquarters on some of the best land in the area, as well as a place to attract professionals—particularly young professionals who like downtown locations and would enjoy the possible living and play options that have been rumored for the other side of the river and around the tower city complex.
The renderings included in this article show the vision of the passionate Austin team. Their vision creates a new face to the west side of downtown Cleveland with a state-of-the-art Sherwin Williams headquarters and R&D facility that reshapes the Cleveland cityscape. Some design features that may not be obvious in the renderings include:
- Sherwin-Williams continued use of one of their current towers (after a renovation).
- Redeveloping one of the current towers into live/work space.
- Supporting the development of the other side of the river. Providing options where Sherwin-Williams team members can live and dine in one tower that has been converted to live/work space, or to ride a bike or walk across the river and onto the extended towpath trail to new townhomes, condos, apartments and restaurants to be developed (another development that has been long rumored).
- An over-the-road bridge connector to the tower that would remain in use by Sherwin-Williams.
- A covered (by the building) sidewalk/walkway on Huron Road with storefronts and restaurants.
- Integrating the archway of Tower City, providing an archway/entryway view of the city from the west side of the river.
- Providing ample green space to benefit the city and citizens including green roofs on both the parking deck and building. Some of the green space will be exclusively reserved for Sherwin Williams, some available to the public.
- Adjusting parking in Tower City and developing a new parking garage for the new development.
- Maintaining Canal Road (not closing it), as a pathway through the buildings/campus.
- Possible development of part of one of the existing tower buildings into a downtown Sherwin Williams store.
- Although not reflected in these renderings, there was also discussion about converting the former Cleveland main train station building at the corner of Carter and Canal Roads, (owned by Sherwin-Williams), into a museum honoring Sherwin Williams as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship of Northeast Ohio. This concept includes the option of turning upper levels into executive suites to be used for staff or recruitment.
“Talent retention and attraction are key factors a business must consider when making a major location decision. Sherwin-Williams will be able to attract workers from all parts of Greater Cleveland—east, south, and west—by maintaining a headquarters presence downtown. Additionally, downtown locations help companies attract top talent, who increasingly prefer the accessible amenities that come with the prime downtown locations.” commented Charles Slife, a Site Location Consultant at Austin and a member of the core team that volunteered on this endeavor. He continued by noting the strategic advantages of a riverfront location. “Cleveland’s riverfront is unique among American cities and efforts are underway to increase connection points to the water. New construction on existing parking lots would enliven this area and bring more people to the water’s edge. Connections back to Sherwin Williams’ current building maximize access to downtown destinations including the Tower City complex, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Progressive Field, Jack Casino, and Public Square. Team members could easily use public transportation, an increasing trend amongst young professionals, to commute, and business travelers could easily reach Cleveland Hopkins International Airport via the RTA Rapid’s Red Line.”
“Building Sherwin-Williams’ new headquarters on the riverfront site would not be without challenges. There are easier sites, both within the city and the suburbs, but we thought Sherwin Williams’ 150 years as a leading corporate citizen gives it a special ability to rally public leadership and the Cleveland community for such a project.” Slife continued.
ABOUT THE AUSTIN TEAM
“Multiple Austin team members put time, thoughts and expert recommendations into this passion project. The core team consists of Judi Szabo-Stull, Ken Kazama, Anca Amaiei, Charles Slife, Billiejo LeSage, Dave Oshins, Brian Zuzik, and Nicole Rosario,” Davis said. “I thank everyone who put some vision to the ideas many folks have been talking about in the community. I extend a special thank you to the core team that kept the meetings going, giving their personal time, skills and passion to this city that our company [Austin] has been a part of for more than 140 years,” he continued.
This initiative and the outcomes seen in this article were created and driven by a team from The Austin Company’s Cleveland office who are passionate about Northeast Ohio. The effort, the outcome, the thoughts or ideas expressed, etc., are not a formal pursuit of The Austin Company. Neither The Austin Company nor the team members who volunteered on this effort were engaged by or working with Sherwin-Williams, any developer, or any government, community or civic organization as it relates to this effort. Additionally, neither The Austin Company nor the team that volunteered on this initiative had contact with Sherwin-Williams, any developers, or any government, community or civic organization as it relates to this effort.