GBX Group focuses on acquiring historic real estate in urban markets which have the opportunity to receive significant tax incentives breathing new life, vitality, and economic growth into neighborhoods. As with its core mission, GBX sought out a historical property to revitalize for their new headquarters. With federal and state historic preservation tax credits, the result was the purchase of the 51,000 SF Empire Improvement Building at 2101 Superior Ave in Cleveland, Ohio to showcase GBX capabilities of preservation and transformation.
A former garment factory, the 1913 five-story, timber-framed historic structure features a richly detailed red brick exterior that has been methodically rehabilitated. Inside, the building was creatively reimagined to house GBX Group’s employees and future growth with a modern, interconnected workplace spanning the top three floors. Occupying 24,000 SF, the space design intent is open and transparent to almost see through new building elements and view the original structure with the modern office appearance residing within a historical context.
Particular project challenges in a century old building are uneven floors, twisted timber column lines and an unsquare perimeter. To level floors that were up to six inches out of flush and at the same time add required floor mass to create needed sound separation between floors in a modern office, a very precise engineering process of adding layers of materials and steel was imposed.
The headquarters was strategically planned as a compilation of glass-encased and open work areas within a rehabilitated interior environment of exposed wood structural elements and brick walls. Visually connecting multiple levels of office space is a new three-story atrium created by the design team with a zig-zagging steel staircase that amplifies the building’s industrial character. In simplistic terms, GBX’s offices are mildly presented as a grouping of new boxes within an old box.
Programmatically, each floor of GBX’s headquarters features a comparable layout. A variety of meeting rooms, offices and workstations populate each floor. Along the south side of each floor are open collaborative areas – including a fifth-floor café – that take advantage of exceptional surrounding neighborhood views. Lastly, on the northeast corner, a sculptural wood feature wall penetrates through all three floors, containing a huddle room at each level.
Supporting local talent, area artists were commissioned to contribute custom furniture and art pieces, which are prominently featured throughout. This includes a conference room table incorporating reclaimed wood, an old foundry base, a sculpture of GBX’s logo fashioned from a massive mooring buoy and a unique bar cart made from a vintage sewing machine giving an homage to the building history.
Custom murals featured on each floor tell the GBX Group story, the history of the Garment District where they are located, identify the company’s core values and highlight some of their great projects.
The design team also completed core and shell work for 3 additional floors of future tenant space and base building upgrades including exterior/interior historic building preservation, all new utilities to the site, building MEP systems and site elements.