Sherwin Williams: ‘didn’t build tall enough’

Sherwin-Williams’ new headquarters tower is near to topping out at 616 feet among its three big brothers around downtown Cleveland’s Public Square. To the left of it is the Grand Dame of Cleveland skyscrapers, the 708-foot-tall Terminal Tower. At far left is the 658-foot-tall 200 Public Square and at far right is the 948-foot-tall Key Tower. Some company executives reportedly said they should have built taller as the company continues to grow (Bennett Atchison). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

More insights emerge for SHW’s potential HQ2 tower

From Sherwin-Williams’ C-Suite executives to construction workers taking their lunch break, more rumblings continue to emerge about what may follow the completion of the global coatings giant’s new headquarters west of Downtown Cleveland’s Public Square. And as time goes on, the rumors about a follow-on headquarters project are getting more detailed.

NEOtrans has been reporting for two months that there is growing activity surrounding a potential second headquarters tower, dubbed HQ2, a second phase or expansion to the west portion of the HQ campus. There is increased chatter from sources in Sherwin-Williams’ C-Suite, in or near its HQ design and contractor teams, and among city officials who say we could hear officially about a follow-on HQ project before the global headquarters tower is completed at the end of this year or early next year.

Among the latest insights from high-level sources is that Sherwin-Williams executives are acknowledging in meetings that they need more HQ space. In those same conversations, executives admit they probably should have built the phase-one tower taller and provided more on-site parking than the 920-space garage that’s now under construction. That doesn’t include two surface lots totaling 314 parking spaces which are planned where the headquarters campus expansion may rise.

The new five-level garage, west of West 3rd and north of Frankfort Avenue, was designed so it cannot be added onto vertically. And the phase-one tower was designed with excess space to accommodate a future growth rate of about 8 percent. Sherwin-Williams’ Cleveland-area office employment has grown a lot more than that since then.

So it’s both surprising and unsurprising to hear rumors shared by contractors and construction workers who are near to topping-off the new tower (SEE VIDEO) that there will not only be an HQ2 tower, but it could be anywhere from 21 stories to 28 stories tall. Those are some very specific numbers being tossed around at such an early date in the process.

A new holiday lighting decoration was provided on Public Square this past holiday season when Sherwin-Williams’ headquarters tower loomed over Cleveland’s public commons at Christmas for the first time (KJP).

It’s unsurprising because, in 2021 when Sherwin-Williams’ real estate and design team representatives presented their HQ plans to Cleveland’s City Planning Commission, they showed a phase-two tower that looked to be about 300 feet or 20 stories tall. But that building wasn’t even intended for Sherwin-Williams’ employees. It was intended for company suppliers. More on that later.

It’s also unsurprising based on current office employment and future growth potential. NEOtrans used Sherwin-Williams’ total existing and future office space and parking needs to the available site at the northeast corner of Superior Avenue and West 6th Street.

We then applied typical floorplates that are common in modern office buildings to accommodate those needs. A building height of roughly 30 stories (a lobby, 10 levels of parking and 20 floors of offices) and nearly 500 feet tall was estimated by NEOtrans as capable of filling those space needs.

But it’s surprising because there are no indications from sources that Sherwin-Williams has engaged any of its design or contractor teams to start its design or even budgets on phase two. They may be doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations as NEOtrans has done. Otherwise, sources say no advance planning work appears to be underway, even though Sherwin-Williams’ executives reportedly recognize the immediate need to add more office and parking spaces to its new HQ campus.

Sherwin-Williams’ shiny new headquarters tower, nearly topped-out, contrasts against a clear, jet-black sky on a beautiful winter’s night (KJP).

NEOtrans reached out to Sherwin-Williams’ media communications staff for confirmation and comment but they have declined to respond prior to our publishing any articles regarding phase two of its global HQ project.

When planning materials for its 36-story, 616-foot-tall skyscraper were submitted to the City Planning Commission for approval in 2021, company executives did not anticipate the growth that Sherwin-Williams would experience between then and now. Since 2020, Sherwin-Williams has seen its Greater Cleveland office employment grow approximately 20 percent.

That’s more than double what the conservative company had forecast only several years ago. And it’s just part of what Sherwin-Williams may be trying to accommodate on its headquarters campus.

There are three main groups of office users the company might put on the western portion of its campus in Downtown Cleveland. That campus expansion site could include not only the phase-two tower, but also proposed buildings on West 6th and St. Clair Avenue around the perimeter of its new parking deck. Those perimeter buildings were proposed in 2021 to be only several stories tall and contain a mix of retail, office, other commercial uses and possibly even residential.

How big could Sherwin-Williams’ second phase be? That may depend on whether the perimeter of the headquarters’ new parking garage is developed with offices, thereby reducing the amount of office space needed to be constructed in the HQ2 tower. But there appears to be lots of Sherwin-Williams office space that could be consolidated onto the headquarters campus in Downtown Cleveland as this unofficial rendering shows (Ian McDaniel).

First among the three expansions to be accommodated is Sherwin-Williams’ growth of its own Cleveland office staff. The 1-million-square-foot skyscraper was designed to accommodate up to 3,500 employees. It will get all of that from its Landmark Building, 101 W. Prospect Ave. and from the Skylight Office Tower, 1660 W 2nd St. where the company extended its lease to Oct. 31, 2025 as a precaution in case of construction delays.

At 3,500 employees, the new tower will be maxed-out space-wise, sources said. According to unofficial employment data provided to NEOtrans, the company appears to have nearly 1,000 office employees in Greater Cleveland it cannot fit into its new global headquarters. That overflow number will continue to grow as Sherwin-Williams continues to grow.

At last count, that overflow includes 485 jobs assigned to a 212,000-square-foot of space at the Higbee Building, 100 Public Square. There are 325 employees at its flex office space at 4770-4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland. Another 100 office workers at the Automotive Finishes-Technical Center in Warrensville Heights do not have a new workplace yet.

Then there’s information from a highly placed source that Sherwin-Williams intends to relocate to Cleveland most if not all of its Valspar brand office and research workers. Roughly 300 office workers will reportedly be moved, when they can, to the downtown headquarters campus and 400 researchers will go to Sherwin-Williams’ new 600,000-square-foot technology center in suburban Brecksville when it opens at the end of this year.

In 2021, Sherwin-Williams displayed this model to the City Planning Commission. In addition to the new phase-one headquarters behind Terminal Tower, the model included a simplified massing for phase two, outlined in red, which appeared to be scaled about 300 feet high, or roughly 20 stories tall (TV20).

Lastly, there’s the offices of Sherwin-Williams’ business partners who may need to be accommodated. In July 2021, Timothy Muckley, Sherwin-Williams’ director of corporate real estate, told City Planning Commission members that the global coatings firm would encourage companies with whom it does business to locate new sales/administrative offices or relocated corporate offices in the phase-two tower.

NEOtrans has recently learned that such “encouraging” is being done at a high level — in other words, between CEOs or among senior (aka C-Suite) executives. Getting a nudge from someone at the top to another at the top is a potent incentive for those companies to stay on board with a valuable customer like Sherwin-Williams.

When considering Sherwin-Williams’ own employment growth, the relocation of the headquarters employees for its Valspar brand, and the inducement of suppliers to establish or relocate their offices to the headquarters campus, that’s a lot of people and activity to put into a headquarters campus whose skyscraper is already spoken for.

But it’s understandable why company executives reportedly are making a bet on Greater Cleveland being a growth market for the next two to three decades. It’s because Sherwin-Williams is helping to make it so.


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