Design Group’s New Long Beach Headquarters Have Revitalized Neighborhood

The new offices have breathed new life into a Long Beach neighborhood. 

Retail Design Collaborative and Studio One Eleven’s new Long Beach, California headquarters have revitalized the surrounding neighborhood, acting as a hub for community engagement. To do so, they left the 21st and 22nd floors of a corporate tower for a vacant Nordstrom Rack, which they transformed into a creative workplace and headquarters. The firm’s open, ground-floor offices, designed to provide flexibility, comfort and a more collaborative environment for staff, also display a commitment to the local community and a desire for authentic interaction with its neighboring urban environment. “The opening of Retail Design Collaborative’s and Studio One Eleven’s new office marks a shift in the changes to come for downtown,” said Mayor Robert Garcia, in a press release. “The new center is going to make a huge impact on the city and it’s something that we have been envisioning for some time now.”

A large conference room has been strategically placed along the southeast corner of the space with a full wall of glazing and is used as a community space for special events. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

A large conference room has been strategically placed along the southeast corner of the space with a full wall of glazing and is used as a community space for special events. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

When was the project completed?

2017

How much space?

34,102 square feet gross

Was this new or renovated space?

Renovated/adaptive reuse

SF per person?

225 square feet  per person

How many employees?

135

What is average daily population?

120

Entry looking in from front door and welcome desk to the left, with custom logo pattern. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Entry looking in from front door and welcome desk to the left, with custom logo pattern. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Describe workspace types. 

The open floor design concept of the headquarters is based on the notion of an “Urban Gallery,” which the designers envisioned as a flexible, evolving workshop.

This adaptive-reuse project integrates environmentally sustainable design, including daylighting, natural ventilation, lighting controls, energy conserving building systems, low water consuming fixtures and landscaping, smart material selection and indoor/outdoor gardens. Street views and sunlight are carried deep into the office space through expansive glazing. The headquarters have been recognized by USGBC with LEED Platinum Certification and the project also recently obtained WELL™ Gold Certification, only the second architectural office in the U.S. to receive this designation.

The office layout allows numerous creative teams to utilize one shared space. The design’s bold gesture removes private offices from the traditional office model to achieve the concept of a transparent workspace. All workstations were introduced with FluidStance to promote standing, proper posture and elimination of chronic back pain, and are adjustable to suit the needs of each individual. The custom-designed furniture blends a palette of natural and raw industrial materials, such as European birch ply, steel panels and powder coated sheet metal.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Work areas and pockets of casual meeting spaces are linked by a seamless network of interior “streets and alleys.” Arranged amid the open offices are three elevated masses that act as huddle rooms for gatherings and private meetings. “Urban Porches” organize the office’s primary gathering spaces and orient them with street views as a way to visibly and physically interact with the community as well as to provide ample daylight fenestration in the space through the addition of 20 skylights. The porches also integrate flexible meeting spaces surrounded by gallery display surfaces for art installations, sculpture, mixed-media and product showcases. Programmatic elements include open work clusters, idea lounges, enclosed collaboration spaces, war rooms, flex offices, a community room, material library, a digifab shop and play areas.

Custom tables and workstations, with Basquiat-inspired mural in the background. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Custom tables and workstations, with Basquiat-inspired mural in the background. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

What other kind of support space or amenity spaces are provided?
The mezzanine wraps the perimeter of the interior space creating a “Bridgewalk” with views overlooking meeting lounges and workspaces. The office also includes collaborative pin-up zones for employees to share ideas. A portion of the service dock is transformed into an urban garden, featuring green walls, relocated city trees, a fire pit, outdoor seating and large-scale murals. A peaceful respite for employees, the space also functions as a venue for social gatherings and community events. One of the most exciting new offerings of the space is a “living lab,” in which the firms’ sustainability department can examine the quality of its air, water, light, acoustics, comfort, utility consumption and related initiatives in real-time.

Employees can also enjoy an extensive health and wellness program, which includes yoga, meditation, cross training, a running group, strength training, biking and team sports. Employees also receive daily healthy, low-sugar food options. The sustainability team has initiated a bike-share membership for staff to easily explore the surrounding area.  Additionally, employees can participate in a monthly book club, supper clubs with in-house healthy cooking classes offered quarterly, a garden club that helps maintain an herb and vegetable garden located on the firm’s back patio and a fitness club, which allows employees to track their progress and feel supported in their fitness goals. Employees are also able to easily get out of the office and explore the area, which offers a Walkscore of 97, and can also sign up for a bike-share membership, allowing staff to more easily explore the surrounding area as they are granted 150 minutes of ride time per day.

Has the project achieved any special certifications?

The building is LEED Platinum Certified and WELL Gold Certified.

Large main kitchen, with outdoor seating, ping pong table and family-style kitchen table. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Large main kitchen, with outdoor seating, ping pong table and family-style kitchen table. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

What is the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

The building is located in the heart of downtown Long Beach at 245 East Third Street and is accessible via the Metro Blue Line at the Fifth Street Station. The office entrance is located in The Promenade, home to a variety of retail shops, restaurants and housing complexes, which also surround the office.

Was the C-Suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

The principals of the firm were the main leaders of the initiative. The design, implementation, programming and post-occupancy surveys were all performed because of the leadership of the firm.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used?

Design charrettes were set up and idea sessions were conducted for visioning.

Custom barn doors looking into large community room, with custom front door to the right. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Custom barn doors looking into large community room, with custom front door to the right. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Multiple surveys were sent out prior to the move. An idea wall was also put up in the office so people could write down their suggestions and see thoughts from others. Topics included: design, furniture, wellness, desks, layout, etc. Many of these suggestions were included in the design of the office.

Were any change management initiatives employed?

To ensure employees were well-informed during the process of our move, we conducted surveys to gain employee feedback and sent out newsletters with updates to assure that our staff was aware of all the changes in the new space and that their feedback was taken into account.

Please describe any program requirements that were unique or required any special research or design requirements.

Since the office is only the second architectural firm in the U.S. to achieve WELL Gold Certification, the internal sustainability team had to make sure that the office met all of the WELL guidelines. The design team held a comprehensive design charrette early in the design stages to better understand how best to incorporate LEED and WELL strategies into the office. WELL was a major driver behind the open workspace. As to be expected, the team did see some resistance. The team addressed these concerns through educating themselves on the benefits of an open office, including greater collaboration, staff engagement, decreased presentism and flexible space.

Breakout spaces with pin up wall and mezzanine above. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Breakout spaces with pin-up wall and mezzanine above. Image courtesy of Fotoworks, Benny Chan Photography.

Was there any emphasis or requirements on programming for health and wellbeing initiatives for employees?

Prior to the relocation, the firm researched the idea of pursuing LEED and WELL Certification. Building a sustainability team, they decided to move forward with the certifications. To assure quality of the workplace environment; health, wellness and fitness programs were set in place, offering staff healthy food options, access to filtered water, fitness activities, natural lighting and great air quality. Because of the programming, the office is now WELL Gold and LEED Platinum Certified.   

What kind of technology products were used? 

Each conference room is equipped with Optoma Eh320USTi Touch Screen projectors that use infrared technology to turn any wall into a full touchscreen experience. The firm is also using the latest in VR technology. Utilizing the HTC Vive and partnering it with programs such as Fuzor, the firm is able to place clients directly into an immersive virtual world and see projects like never before.

The office has more than 20 skylights providing natural light into the office and features five custom murals. Image courtesy of Benny Chan Photography.

The office has more than 20 skylights providing natural light into the office and features five custom murals. Image courtesy of Benny Chan Photography.

If the company relocated to new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

Relocating from a high-rise office tower to the ground floor of a former Nordstrom Rack facility could easily have been a difficult adjustment for staff. The most difficult aspect of the move was eliminating all private offices but one, dedicated to the HR department. It was difficult for staff to adapt to the level of sound around the office and increased distractions being on the ground floor.

If change management program was in place, what were the most successful strategies?

The most successful strategy was forming an internal committee to properly address any concerns. The management team consisted of senior leadership as well as junior team members, who were responsible for organizing, managing and assuring the new office was suitable for all. 

A portion of the service dock has been transformed into an urban garden by the in-house landscape team, featuring green walls, salvaged orange city trees, a fire pit and outdoor seating. Image courtesy of Carlos Hernandez Photography.

A portion of the service dock has been transformed into an urban garden by the in-house landscape team, featuring green walls, salvaged orange city trees, a fire pit and outdoor seating. Image courtesy of Carlos Hernandez Photography.

Tell us more!

The firm engaged with five local artists to paint murals for the office. Bumblebeelovesyou painted the mural on the outside of the office at the front door. In the community room, the firm opens the space up to the community, providing a free event space for community gatherings, in addition to providing We Are the Next and The Mayors Fund of Long Beach, two local non-employee nonprofits, with free work stations. These nonprofits have missions that align with those of RDC and S111, focusing on sustainability, equity and education.

The office has also spurred future development for the entire city block. To encourage pedestrians, comprised of conventioneers, office workers and residents, to cross over Third Street, a traditional barrier for walkers, a total of four bulb-outs (curbside extensions) have been approved and funded by the City. These bulb-outs shorten pedestrian crossing distances, leverage unused street area to accommodate outdoor dining, capture rain water and provide landscape opportunities. These bulb-outs will also allow the addition of four parklets (outdoor dining street decks) for restaurants fronting the city block. The addition of new street trees that will planted in the beginning of 2018 will also enhance pedestrian comfort.

This space on the promenade provides staff with outdoor seating and accessibility to the street. Image courtesy of Carlos Hernandez Photography.

This space on the promenade provides staff with outdoor seating and accessibility to the street. Image courtesy of Carlos Hernandez Photography.

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