Benesch Meets Growing Needs with New Offices at Key Tower

This article is originally from Properties Magazine, published February 2024.

During the time that Gregg Eisenberg has been Benesch’s Managing Partner, the law firm continuously outgrew its space at 200 Public Square in downtown Cleveland. It turned out that its long-term solution to office space was just across Public Square at Key Tower. Benesch’s growth was so significant that the availability of eight continuous floors and 164,828 square feet was too good to pass up. Floors 42 to 49 in Key Tower comprise the new Benesch offices.

Benesch’s final lease extension required the firm to vacate its 200 Public Square offices by the end of July 2023. Given the definitive deadline, the design and construction teams worked tirelessly to bring it all together from the beginning. Mark Biddlestone, Benesch’s Director of Facilities, and John Banks, Benesch’s Chief Administrative Officer, ran the point position for the build-out and move. Their first step was to reach out to their trusted architecture partner, Vocon. “Vocon has been our partner for 30 years,” says Banks. “They are our go-to firm. We first contacted them to get a layout and do the planning.”

Bob Porter, Senior Associate and Design Director, and Kate Mills, Senior Project Designer, represented Vocon on the design team. “The reason this project got done in such a tight timeline because we worked as a team,” says Banks. “In construction, things aren’t always going to go the way you expect them to, but we had the right partners in place, which helped us bring it in on time.” Demolition began in August 2022, with construction beginning in January 2023.

In discussing the design, Biddlestone said” “When you visit someone’s home, you learn a lot about them instantly. This is our home. When you come here, you really get a feel for what is important to us with regards to collaboration, client care, being together and growing teams.”

Designers needed a starting point for their ideas and decided to look at Benesch itself. “It was clear from the beginning that we wanted to use the branding that Benesch already has in place and convey it physically through the space,” says Mills.

They looked to classic materials such as walnut veneer, travertine tiles and clean, modern design features to emphasize their messaging. “Early on, we designed navy as a neutral,” says Mills. “Instead of considering it an accent color, we used it to reference the Benesch brand color. You find it on the flooring, the decorative wall tile in the working cafe, and most notably, the velvet upholstery throughout the custom bar. It serves as a contrat to the rest of the palette, composed primarily of soft whites.”

A major design aspect was ensuring that amenity spaces were sophisticated enough to be showstopping, first-impression opportunities. All workspaces, whether private offices or support staff areas, embrace innovation and technology with features like height-adjustable workstations. Gold light fixtures and decorative walls were installed to give off a special, elevated feeling.

Artwork is noticeable throughout the eight floors. Benesch already had a lot of art in its collection from 200 Public Square, so the firm curated from there and supplemented accordingly. Conference rooms are all named after Cleveland landmarks like Wade Oval and Public Square. There is also a large conference room named after Benesch Senior Partner George Aronoff.

A large cafe is located on Floor 49, and every staff floor has a smaller cafe and seating area. Each floor also has several conference rooms to supplement what is on Floor 49. Floors 42 and 48 are home to all associate and partner offices and workspaces. The 42nd Floor is dedicated to professional staff, which gives it a higher concentration of people and includes the departments of accounting, finance, marketing, technology and recruiting. Floors 43 to 48 are dedicated to practice areas. Floors 43 and 44 are litigation, Floor 45 is labor/employment and intellectual property, Floors 46 and 47 are real estate and health care, and floor 48 is corporate. Floor 49 is amenity-filled and home to all the common areas and major conference rooms. “There were two main concepts guiding the design of the 49th floor,” says Porter. “The first was that our design should support the growth of the Benesch culture by being more in the background. We wanted to create an open and flexible space that allowed Benesch to have all the necessary interactions that are important to them without the architecture getting in the way. The second was to create an outstanding event space. The open floor plan allows Benesch to hold events of various sizes, including a social hour around the bar area for 20 to 30 people to hundreds of guests in the main reception area and even more when coupled with the adjacent cafe area.”

Floor 49 features 11-foot ceilings and all custom features, like the overhead lights in the cafe. There are more than 80 individual light fixtures in the cafe. Each fixture was set by hand. The cafe also features comfortable, restaurant-style booths that Benesch first installed and fell in love with at its Chicago office. The cafe on the 49th floor will also be used as flex space and can easily host bigger events. Also located off the cafe is a large, casual seating area with spectacular views of Public Square.

As special as the cafe area is, it’s only one component of the 49th floor. Guests arriving at the Benesch offices will exit the elevator on Floor 49 and enter the main reception area. The reception area is expansive, and visitors’ eyes will immediately be drawn to the grand staircase to their right and the jumbotron wall just beyond the staircase. The jumbotron is 23 feet long, nine feet high and wraps around the corner of the main hallway. Local company thunder::tech created all of the aesthetic video content that plays on the screen.

The room just left of the jumbotron in the main reception area is a caucus room with two distinct sections: comfortable couches, a smaller conference table, and a smartboard in the other. Behind the reception desk is the massive bar, the social center of the Benesch offices. A barista is always on hand to craft a latte or cup of coffee for anyone entering a meeting or training session in one of the many conference rooms on the floor. The bar can serve whatever libations are called for after work events.

The vast communal space throughout the main reception areas sets the tone for visitors, the message being that this is a welcoming space, and comfort is a priority. It also says a lot about Benesch itself.