Two sources: Sherwin-Williams chooses its HQ+R&D site

Two high-level sources say that Sherwin-Williams will build
its massive new headquarters plus research and development
facilities on 8 acres of parking lots to the west of downtown
Cleveland’s Public Square. SHW has been planning its new
HQ+R&D for more than a year. However, construction isn’t
likely to start until early-2021 with completion due sometime
in 2023 (Google). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM

[UPDATED 11-07-19]

Regarding one of Cleveland’s most anticipated real estate developments in many years, two high-level sources say that Sherwin-Williams (SHW) has chosen its site for a combined headquarters plus research and development facility.

That site is the 7.93-acre swath of parking lots owned by the Jacobs Group and Weston Group, just west of downtown’s Public Square.

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The sources who contributed information to this article requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about the project. However, both sources are very close to and familiar with the HQ+R&D decision-making at SHW.

SHW has had a contract to buy the Weston lots for months, a third source said. While that doesn’t guarantee that SHW would see that contract through to a sale and deed transfer, it does mean that SHW didn’t want anyone else to have a shot at buying some or all of the Weston lots while SHW did its due diligence in the HQ+R&D search.

If SHW found a better site or found fault with the Weston lots, they could walk away from the contract and Weston would be free to negotiate with any other potential buyers. I don’t know if SHW had a similar deal pending with the Jacobs Group for its Public Square property, but it probable that it did.

One of the sources stated that “the Weston lot excites them (SHW) as an opportunity to make a revolutionary sort of campus.” The source said the other sites were more difficult to work with in achieving SHW’s vision of a connected urban campus.

The other source confirmed details previously reported only at NEOtrans about the scale of the project. The combined HQ+R&D would measure 1.8 million square feet, with 1.45 million square feet for offices and 350,000 square feet for R&D, the source said. Also, roughly 2,000 parking spaces could be included for up to 6,000 employees.

The HQ+R&D employees would include nearly all of SHW’s 4,400 employees already in Northeast Ohio, plus hundreds more from around the country. Additional future growth would bring the total to 6,000 workers in the coming years. There are currently about 3,300 SHW workers located downtown.

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Weston/Citymark’s 2015 plan for the “Superblock” featured
a mixed-use vision of four buildings of 20 stories or more,
the tallest being 37 stories. SHW’s HQ+R&D site would add
another acre with the inclusion of Jacobs’ lot but feature
1 million fewer square feet of new structures (Weston).

Parking isn’t calculated in the 1.8 million square foot figure. When added, it could bring the project’s total size to approximately 2.5 million square feet. Although it is too soon to know about proposed building heights on the urban campus, sources previously said SHW isn’t interested in an “iconic” tower exceeding 40 stories.

SHW hasn’t announced or officially revealed anything publicly about the HQ+R&D project since Sept. 12 when it first acknowledged it was pursuing a new HQ+R&D, more than 10 months after NEOtrans first reported the HQ project on Oct. 31, 2018.?But an announcement could come soon considering the speed at which SHW is moving.

Mike Conway, SHW’s director of corporate communications, wasn’t contacted for this article because of information he has relayed in the past. In researching a follow-up article in May about the planned HQ, he denied that SHW was considering a new HQ and then said the denial was off the record.

When asked why it was off the record, he said “Because there is nothing to write about.” He also said that SHW hadn’t considered a HQ project in 2014-15 either, which also was false. Conway was communications director in 2014-15, too. He is retiring at the end of this year.

Bedrock Cleveland hasn’t been notified about SHW’s decision to build at the Jacobs/Weston lots. A source close to their legal team at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP said they are continuing to pursue a SHW HQ as part of its riverfront phases of CityBlock. It was one of SHW’s HQ site finalists.

One of the two high-level sources referenced at the start of this article said SHW made its decision to go with the Jacobs/Weston lots more than a week ago, which resulted in the hiring of geotechnical surveyors from Enviroprobe Integrated Solutions Inc. and Environmental Works Inc. to gather soil samples starting Nov. 2 from a dozen holes drilled into the 6.76-acre Weston lots.

SHW already has core samples from beneath the 1.17-acre Jacobs lot, resulting from their hiring of AECOM five years ago to plan for a 900,000-square-foot HQ tower there. That HQ project was shelved when SHW redirected resources to acquire its Minneapolis-based rival Valspar.

Geotechnical surveyors cordoned of areas of the Weston lots
over the the last few days to extract core samples of earth from
deep below this Warehouse District parking crater (KJP).

Enviroprobe and Environmental Works, both out-of-state geotech firms, were hired within days of the site decision.

SHW facilities consultant Welty Building Co. of Fairlawn bypassed locally popular geotech surveyors — Intertek/Professional Service Industries, Inc., Terracon Consultants Inc., David V Lewin Corp., Solar Testing Laboratories, Inc., said another high-level source who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about SHW’s project.

“Taking samples helps us determine the type of foundation systems that we can use,” the source said. “It (the soil boring) needs to happen before any real design can start.”

Design may have already started on the Jacobs lot tower. SHW hired Vocon Partners LLC as its HQ+R&D architect, which helped it research potential sites. A city source said final programming could lead to building massings and renderings being submitted to the City Planning Commission within several months.

However, final design will likely take more than a year due to the scale of the project. Construction could begin in 2021 and would likely continue for more than two years.

“Any transition to new facilities is not expected to occur until 2023 at the earliest and would require board approval,” SHW officials said in their Sept. 12 press release.

what SHW appears to have in mind for the Jacobs Weston lots
An urban campus with public spaces where workers can have
lunch, recharge their creativity, meet colleagues or just enjoy
the city is what SHW appears to have in mind for the Jacobs/
Weston lots. This setting is what Weston/Citymark planned
for the same area four years ago (Weston).

Through a request for qualifications process, Welty selected Gilbane Building Co. on Oct. 8 to join its development team as SHW’s HQ+R&D construction manager. Welty previously worked with Gilbane and Vocon on building Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s global headquarters campus in Akron. The team also added star-architect Gensler to design Goodyear’s exterior.

When researching recently built corporate headquarters, SHW CEO John Morikis reportedly liked what he saw in Goodyear’s HQ. In contrast, a source said Morikis did not like the design of and finishes in Eaton Corp.’s new headquarters in Beachwood.

Ironically, Morikis bought the vacant Bay Village land on which his new, $10 million lakefront mansion sets from Susan J. Cook, vice president of strategic facilities planning at Eaton Corp.

Cook was in charge of building Eaton’s new HQ. Morikis moved earlier this year into the lakefront home that he and his wife built, which suggested that SHW wasn’t likely to move its HQ out of Greater Cleveland.

SHW first store opened in downtown Cleveland Public Square in 1866
SHW’s first store opened at 118 Superior Avenue on the east
side of downtown Cleveland’s Public Square in 1866. SHW
plans to start construction of its 21st-century HQ+R&D on
Superior on the west side of Public Square (SHW).

SHW has been headquartered in the Landmark Office Tower, 101 W. Prospect Ave., since 1930. It occupies about 800,000 square feet of the 900,000-square-foot building and outgrew it in 2014 when it began leasing 51,810 square feet of space in the neighboring Skylight Office Tower.

In 2017, after acquiring Valspar, SHW leased a 151,830-square-foot office/flex space at?4770-4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland. There, it houses several hundred workers in office spaces that SHW renovated.

One of SHW’s oldest facilities is the John G. Breen Technology Center, built in 1948 but was doubled in size in 1998 to 140,293 square feet. It was built next to SHW’s pre-1930 headquarters and where SHW was founded in 1866. Today, it is the workplace for about 400 researchers and scientists.

The Breen Center is so full that most of Valspar’s R&D staff remain in a 170,000-square-foot complex in Minneapolis. Interestingly, adding the floor space of SHW’s R&D facility to that of the former Valspar R&D equals roughly 310,000 square feet. Adding 40,000 square feet of elbow room and expansion space would equal the 350,000 square feet desired for SHW’s new R&D facility.

By 2023, the Jacobs lot on the west side of Public Square
and the parking lots beyond it on the Weston “Superblock”
will have significant buildings on them, hosting thousands
of jobs and reviving a part of downtown that hasn’t thrived
since the early 20th century (Google).

The Weston “Superblock” is surrounded by Superior and St. Clair avenues, plus West 3rd and West 6th streets in the Warehouse Distrct. Four years ago, Weston and Citymark Capital LLC planned 3.5 million square feet of residential, offices, a hotel plus shops and restaurants. To guide the development, the city enacted at Weston’s request a pedestrian-retail zoning overlay for the Superblock in 2016.

The site has been mostly parking lots since the mid-1970s when the nearby Justice Center was built with insufficient onsite parking. Dozens of 19th-century buildings were razed. The Justice Center is the subject of a study by the county to determine whether to rebuild it or construct new jail and courthouse facilities elsewhere.

The Jacobs lot, on the west side of Public Square, has been surface parking since 1990. That’s when the 13-story 33 Public Square building and the 12-story One Public Square building were demolished for the 1,198-foot-tall, 60-story Ameritrust Center tower. But the tower project was canceled before construction could begin when Society Bank acquired Ameritrust.

At long last, it appears this massive parking crater that has scarred downtown for decades may finally be developed. It should also be noted that real estate investors, aware that SHW’s HQ+R&D could land here, have shown interest in neighboring properties. Expect those properties to change hands and for developments to be announced for them in the coming days, weeks and months.

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4 thoughts on “Two sources: Sherwin-Williams chooses its HQ+R&D site”

  1. SHW is a conservative, if not stodgy firm. They aren't interested in braggadocio. One look at their headquarters of the last 89 years tells you that. You wouldn't even know they were there if you didn't already know their address.

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