Sherwin-Williams: already outgrown its new HQ

With Sherwin-Williams’ new headquarters parking garage accommodating fewer than one-third of the building’s employees, the company is developing a parking and transportation plan to handle commuters for its new HQ and possibly its HQ2 (KJP). CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE THEM.

SHW weighs HQ growth, commute options

With the completion of Sherwin-Williams’ new Downtown Cleveland headquarters tower delayed well into next year, the global coatings giant has a some extra time to consider its options on how to handle various aspects of its unanticipated growth. Since the company has already outgrown its new HQ before it is finished, that means weighing a second HQ tower, expanding remote work, as well as addressing parking and commuting options.

The most immediate need right now is figuring out how 3,500 people will commute to the new, glassy skyscraper headquarters that’s under construction west of Public Square. For most employees, that means driving. But a significant portion of the HQ workforce doesn’t yet know where they will be able to park each morning.

Fewer than one-third of all workers at the new headquarters will have parking spaces in the downtown campus’ new 920-space parking garage. Another one-third of Sherwin-Williams HQ employees take public transportation to work, company officials said. That may leave another 1,000-plus people in parking limbo — for now.

So company officials are looking at options on how best to accommodate commuters at the growing company. Employees recently received an e-mailed notice about the parking situation at the new headquarters, which discussed the situation in self-congratulating terms while ultimately acknowledging that there’s still challenges ahead. NEOtrans received copies of the same e-mail from several sources in recent weeks.

“Next to the new Global Headquarters building stands a state-of-the-art, five-story, 920-space parking structure to be exclusively by Sherwin-Williams employees,” the Sherwin-Williams e-mail said. “With the opening of the garage, we’ll become the only downtown employer with a company-owned garage for employee use.”

The under-construction parking garage at Sherwin-Williams’ new headquarters site, as seen from West 3rd Street. The garage will be connected by pedestrian bridge, at left, over the former Frankfort Avenue, which was vacated by the city for use by Sherwin-Williams (KJP).

Sherwin-Williams’ headquarters and its suburban Brecksville research center are being built by a development team led by a joint venture of Gilbane and Welty building companies called the Building Our Future project team. Company officials said in the e-mail they have “benchmarked local parking options and determined rates for the new garage.” Those rates will be $10 per day on a first-come/first-served basis or $225 monthly for a reserved parking space.

That’s higher than the $185 monthly rate for self-park and $195 for valet parking that employees are paying now at Sherwin-Williams’ garage on the first four floors of its current headquarters. For the last 94 years, the HQ has been in the Landmark Building, 101 W. Prospect Ave.

That garage is heated and its entrance on Huron Road has garage doors that can be closed on cold days. There is a 10-year waiting list to park there, company officials said. By comparison, the new six-level garage is open on the sides and thus not heated.

“These higher prices were a shock,” a Sherwin-Williams employee told NEOtrans on the condition of anonymity. “There will definitely be more to come from this.”

The e-mail to Sherwin-Williams employees also noted that the new garage will feature 24 bike parking spaces at no cost for those who bike to work. However that will accommodate fewer than 1 percent of the new headquarters’ 3,500 employees. There are apparently no plans for building housing next to the headquarters, as Cross Country Mortgage did next to its new downtown headquarters. It is reportedly giving employees first crack at the apartments.

Sherwin-Williams’ existing headquarters is in the Landmark Building and a portion of the Skylight Office Building just beyond it. This view shows the vehicular entrance from Huron Road to the old headquarters’ parking garage which is on the first four floors. The 1930-built building was designed with the garage included (Google).

However, Sherwin-Williams is trying to encourage more of its workers to take the bus or train to work downtown and hopes to attract new transit service enhancements. “The project team is working with the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to establish convenient access to our new HQ,” the company’s email added.

The Landmark Building and Sherwin-Williams’ Breen Technology Center, 601 Canal Rd. were sold June 30, 2023 to Sapphire Acquisitions LLC, an affiliate of Detroit-based Bedrock Real Estate. Bedrock paid Sherwin-Williams $48.5 million for the two properties and gave the coatings firm tenant rights to both for an unrecorded period of time, according to the deed transfer documents recorded with Cuyahoga County.

Another source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Bedrock was unwilling to reserve parking spaces at its Tower City Center/Riverview parking area for Sherwin-Williams for any of Sherwin-Williams’ employees. That includes the 158-year-old paint company’s 485 newly added jobs it assigned to 212,000 square feet of space it has subleased at the Higbee Building, 100 Public Square.

Bedrock’s apparent unwillingness to reserve the parking is not clear. Bedrock has said that the east end of the Tower City Center/Riverview parking is where most Sherwin-Williams employees park. But it’s also where Bedrock plans to construct phase one of its riverfront development which may include a new office tower for Rocket Mortgage, a hotel and a residential building after interest rates drop and lending activity increases, possibly by this time next year.

This headquarters site plan, approved by the city in 2021, is what Sherwin-Williams is building right now (Sherwin-Williams Company).

So the source said Sherwin-Williams intends to continue to lease its Breen Technology Center after its research employees relocate to the new R&D center in suburban Brecksville. The reason why is because it might continue to use the facility’s 370-space riverside parking lot and shuttle employees to and from the new headquarters, the source said. There is no direct pedestrian route between the two locations and there’s a 70-foot elevation difference, according to Google Earth set on terrain mode.

Another 314 surface parking spaces are planned on an interim basis around the western perimeter of the new headquarters campus, along West 6th Street and St. Clair Avenue. Combined with the 370 spaces at Breen, those 684 combined spaces would fill much of the remaining parking gap for Sherwin-Williams employees.

“Parking at varying rates around the facility also will be available through third-party parking management companies,” the company e-mail noted.

But it remains to be seen if the western perimeter parking spaces are actually built and, if so, how many. The reason is that it’s the site Sherwin-Williams has identified for a second office tower and for additional community development. Given how much Sherwin-Williams underestimated its own growth when it began planning the new headquarters, that site may be developed sooner rather than later.

Just three years ago, when the company’s Building Our Future project team presented the 36-story, 1.1-million-square-foot headquarters plans to the City Planning Commission, it estimated headquarters employment growing at an impressive 8 percent per year. Instead, it has grown at a stunning 20 percent.

This simplified site plan shows both the planned and aspirational placement of uses and structures at Sherwin-Williams’ 7-acre headquarters campus in Downtown Cleveland. Public Square is at lower-right (Sherwin-Williams Company).

Sherwin-Williams has already outgrown its new, 616-foot-tall headquarters before it is even finished. As noted earlier, the nearly 500-employee excess is being accommodated at the Higbee’s Building, across West Prospect Avenue from Sherwin-Williams’ 94-year-old headquarters in the Landmark Building.

That doesn’t count another 325 employees at its flex office space on Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland or Sherwin-Williams moving the offices, research facilities and hundreds of workers for its Valspar brand from Minneapolis to Cleveland. All of this is creating a challenge for the Fortune 500 company on how to handle its own growth.

The company is working with its Building Our Future team to figure how to accommodate this growth including a second HQ tower and expanding remote work. The latter is probably not the company’s first choice. While it does have some employees working remotely and more on a hybrid basis, Sherwin-Williams prefers to have its employees in the office.

“We believe the key to innovation is to connect and collaborate,” Timothy Muckley, SHW’s vice president of corporate real estate, told planning commission members in 2021. “We need to be one elevator ride away from each other. While other (companies) are fighting to push people out of their headquarters, we’re fighting to get them in.”

An unofficial massing of how big a second office building could be at the Sherwin-Williams headquarters campus in Downtown Cleveland. This shows the Superior Avenue side of a potential second tower. The under-construction headquarters skyscraper is at right (Ian McDaniel).

Based on an employment growth factor of 10 percent, Sherwin-Williams may need another 500,000 to 600,000 square feet of office space to accommodate 1,600 to 2,000 of its own employees. Based on average floorplates of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet, that could translate into a 17- to 30-story office building, possibly built atop another big parking deck.

And that doesn’t account for Sherwin-Williams’ desire to bring to Cleveland some sales functions and other offices of many of its major business partners and suppliers. Sources say Sherwin-Williams’ C-Suite executives are putting their arms on the shoulders of those partners and suppliers to get them here. In 2021, Muckley told the Planning Commission that he doesn’t just want them anywhere in the Greater Cleveland area. “We’ll urge them to locate next door,” he said.

Between selling off its old headquarters and research center to Bedrock for $48.5 million, and selling to Florida-based Benderson Realty Development Co. a 90-percent stake in its new headquarters for $210 million, Sherwin-Williams has cash resources to pursue to a second tower. However, NEOtrans understands that the Building Our Future projects are costing the company more than anticipated. No dollar figure is available.

Sherwin-Williams’ media relations staff have declined to discuss the prospects of a second office tower beyond Muckley’s public comments.


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