Huntington Bancshares' new office in an old Meijer store in Northland is meant to create the feel of a tight-knit community in an airy, multifaceted space.
Beyond that, the Huntington Gateway Center is not just about the building but also about changing the Northland neighborhood, said Ira Sharfin, CEO of Continental Office, a longtime partner with Huntington that was involved in the project.
"I think it is going to be cool, not just for Huntington but for central Ohio, to look at that model to repurpose older space," he said.
Steve Steinour, the bank's chairman, president and CEO, invoked the project's transformational character.
"It's a moment in time in the company's history for transformation. It's letting us transform the physical space. ... (In doing so,) we do more for our colleagues, more for the community," Steinour said.
Sections of the Huntington Gateway Center have been named after several Columbus neighborhoods -- Hilltop, Olde Town East, Merion Village and Franklinton, among others -- to help the 1,300 workers and visitors navigate the 210,000-square-feet building.
Workers and their bosses sit (or stand, depending on their preference) together at open, modern work stations that emphasize collaboration to boost productivity and create flexibility for employees.
Where once an email or a phone call was necessary to communicate with each other, workers can now easily get up from their work stations and walk over to the person they need to talk to.
No one, not even bosses, has an office, but anyone can sign out one of the 159 rooms in the building if they need private time to work or meet with a group or another worker.
"The beauty of this building is you work when you want, where you want and how you want," said Jason Vallance, Huntington's senior vice president for corporate real estate, facilities and space management.
Huntington bought the store at 5555 Cleveland Ave. in 2016 with a promise to invest $18.3 million in the tired building. It was part of a commitment by the bank to create 1,000 new jobs in the city by 2024 and lend $300 million in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods over the next five years.
"Workforce needs and expectations are changing. ... We are finding that we need to move faster, be more opportunistic," Steinour said.
The workforce of 1,300 at Gateway is made up mostly of employees moved from another Northland-area building, now closed, plus some employees from its offices at Easton. The space can house up to 1,600 workers.
The jobs at Gateway consist mainly of back-office, call-center and technology positions.
Work stations are set up so workers can sit or stand. They have multiple computer screens.
At lunchtime, there is a cafeteria with indoor and outdoor seating. Workers wanting to take a break can go to the Starbucks in the building or to one of two self-service mini-markets. They and their co-workers can relax in easy chairs and couches.
"It's an open environment. People can communicate more effectively when they run into each other rather than move through a maze of cubicles," Sharfin said.
The neighborhoods in Gateway are marked by giant, wall-sized photos of the neighborhoods they're named for. A lighted welcome sign attached to the ceiling with Huntington pens hanging from it greets workers and visitors.
Of course, Huntington green is a prominent color throughout the building.
"It's more modern, more efficient, more sociable," said employee Arthur Poindexter, 54, of Powell. The open-floor concept means "getting to know people again," he said.
The neighborhood themes through the building help people connect to that smaller community, Sharfin said. Other companies have done similar things with their offices or connected them with local sports teams.
"It's a little more personal. You can have fun with it. ... It's just a way to connect people with space," he said.
Besides workspace, the building has a wellness center that is operated by OhioHealth, a fitness center and a full-sized basketball court.
The building is energy-efficient, with LED lightning throughout.
There are solar panels on the roof and south canopy, skylights to track the position of the sun to angle in natural light, and solar trees -- metal posts with solar panels on them -- in the parking lot at the front of the building.
Soon, there will be electric-vehicle charging stations.
One in the larger community is pleased with Huntington's new building.
Northland is a neighborhood that is going through a rebranding, and the Gateway Center will help, said Emmanuel Remy, president of Northland Community Council.
"There is a sense of pride in the Northland area," he said. "Physically, we had a big blow in the late '90s and early 2000s. We've really bounced back."