Sherwin-Williams HQ plans offer busy 2 weeks of review, debate


Sherwin-Williams new headquarters will join the family of downtown Cleveland skyscrapers after construction starts early this winter. It will be the fourth-tallest tower in Cleveland’s skyline once construction is completed in 2024 (

For Clevelanders who love to “ooh” and “ahh” over photo-realistic renderings of proposed skyscrapers, the first two weeks in September are going to unwrap an early Christmas present for them. That’s when a joint committee of city planning review panels will receive and review more detailed designs for the new Sherwin-Williams (SHW) headquarters.

How will the committee react when it reconvenes Sept. 14? And how might these detailed designs compare to the broad-brush concepts that were conditionally approved by the city in July? Will the designs appear to them as a shiny diamond gift or a lump of coal that needs more pressure to become the diamond?

City Planning Commission will receive schematic-level plans Aug. 31 from SHW’s HQ design team, led by SHW’s Building Our Future Committee and the architectural firm Pickard Chilton. SHW is eyeing an early-winter groundbreaking for its 1-million-square-foot, $300-million-plus global headquarters on the west side of downtown’s Public Square.

NEOtrans learned from sources on the SHW HQ design team that they acquiesced to few of the city’s conditions it made July 20 in approving the HQ’s conceptual plans. Rather than yield to the conditions, SHW offered compromises instead, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the project.


A conceptual rendering of the first phase of Sherwin-Williams’ new global headquarters, including the four basic components of the $300-million-plus phase-one complex (SHW).

Much of the city’s concerns were centered on how the new HQ would relate to the streets, sidewalks, pedestrians and Public Square. The city was concerned about blank walls and a lack of public interaction with the new HQ. It urged more ground-floor retail spaces, rooftop cafes/restaurants open to the public, landscaping, public art/screening along sidewalks and the like.

Last month, the city urged SHW to demonstrate via the use of designs the street-level experience of the entire site, especially the temporary parking lots at the western and northern edges of SHW’s property along West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue. The city also recommended SHW enhance the experience for pedestrians along Frankfort Avenue between West 3rd and West 6th that was recently vacated by the city. And the city urged SHW to adopt a retail strategy for the HQ site.

SHW will offer landscaping between the parking lots and sidewalks along West 6th and St. Clair. Those parking lots are considered temporary by SHW as it weighs their future use. Proposed uses include a phase-two SHW office tower roughly 20 stories tall at West 6th and Superior Avenue and future development by others around the west and north flanks of a new 920-space garage for SHW employees.

While the company recognized Frankfort is an important pedestrian route between the Warehouse District and Public Square, it was unwilling to add retail spaces to the HQ tower’s base or to the proposed employees’ parking deck along Frankfort. SHW considers Frankfort to be its HQ service lane accessed by trucks and where cars entering the parking deck will line up each morning.


Site plan of Sherwin-Williams’ HQ property, located to the west of Public Square in downtown Cleveland (SHW).

As a compromise, SHW’s design team is proposing some streetscaping features to Frankfort including vegetation and artistic screening along the walls. Additionally, SHW proposes aesthetic storefront display windows on the Superior-facing podium of the HQ tower, similar to the Euclid Avenue side of the PNC Tower to see how the city will respond.

Design team members also appear willing to add a small retail space to the Superior side, sources said. And there will likely be a second-floor, employees-only outdoor lunch area above this area, also facing Superior.

Members of the city’s joint planning committee, comprised of the Cleveland City Planning Commission, Cleveland Landmarks Commission, Downtown-Flats Design Review Committee and the Warehouse Historic District Design Review Committee, also urged SHW to consider adding public roof access to and increasing the height of a glassy, two-story, nearly 50-foot-tall pavilion facing Public Square.

SHW considered it and rejected it. The global coatings giant is extremely security conscious especially when it comes to industrial espionage and does not want any public access to any structure within its new HQ complex. If it weren’t for design standards in the city’s building code, SHW presumably would not have included a bare-minimum retail space on the West 3rd side of its planned parking garage.


Site plan showing all phases of the proposed Sherwin-Williams HQ (SHW).

Again, as a compromise, SHW is proposing to expand the pavilion’s second-floor private terraces that face Public Square. The pavilion will be the HQ’s cultural hub, offering a learning center, conference facility and a Center of Excellence to showcase the company’s history and achievements to VIPs and new recruits.

And while the committee urged a height increase to the pavilion, SHW reduced its overall square footage, originally proposed to be 50,000 square feet. The goal is to allow for a larger landscaped area with a water feature in front of the pavilion, just across West Roadway from Public Square.

Although the city expressed its displeasure at the HQ’s inclusion of two pedestrian skybridges, it has no legal authority to block them. The city’s building code does not prohibit them for downtown buildings. SHW proposes a short skybridge over Frankfort, from the parking garage to the HQ tower, and a longer skybridge over West 3rd between the HQ tower and the pavilion.

Last month, the city’s joint committee embraced the conceptual design of the 616-foot, nearly 40-story HQ tower. So, few schematic changes were made to its basic form. As has been reported here at NEOtrans since January, the tower will have a glass curtain wall exterior. Above the lobby, the tower’s glass will have a blueish tint, as is common in buildings designed by Pickard Chilton. The lobby’s glass windows will be clear, design team sources said.


A 3-D model showing all proposed phases of the Sherwin-Williams HQ complex, including a second-phase office tower about 20 stories tall at Superior Avenue and West 6th Street (SHW).

The tower’s V-shaped crown will have some illumination, separate from any illumination in the rest of the tower. Some design alternatives showed illumination of a vertical design feature to break up the middle of the curtain wall on the tower’s east and west sides.

Sources also said some earlier renderings have had company logos facing east and west, located near the top of the tower. But signage is not a part of the design requests being made of the city at this time. Often, a new building project’s signage applications are submitted much later, sometimes well after construction starts.

Cleveland’s City Planning Commission has a three-step design review and approval process for proposed new or renovated building projects. Conceptual plans are submitted first, followed by much more detailed schematic designs.

If the schematic designs are approved, with or without conditional changes, the applicant returns weeks or months later for final approval. But at final approval, the applicant will have made design changes to address the city’s conditions. SHW’s HQ project is on a schedule that would have it appear before Planning Commission for final approval on Nov. 30.


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