Convergent: Environmental and employee wellness at the forefront
JLL achieves 100% occupancy in Cleveland’s first Fitwel-certified office building
New construction, Northern Ohio’s first Fitwel-designated building
New office development has been limited in Northeast Ohio for the past 30 years. Despite this, the City of Westlake, specifically, is sprawling with headquarters of several companies, including American Greetings, Hyland Software, Equity Trust, Nordson and more.
This made the idea to develop an underutilized parking lot next to Equity Trust’s Westlake headquarters all the more appealing to the Desich family.
With this underutilized lot, the Desich family knew they wanted to inspire people and create a beautiful destination. It was an opportunity to create a modern, suburban office campus on the West side of Cleveland.
Following a development study done by architect firm, Vocon, JLL’s J.R. Fairman and Bob Gross were introduced to the Desich family to oversee the marketing and leasing of Convergent.
An artistically pleasing, environmentally sound vision
To bring their vision to life, the Desich family enlisted Vocon and Infinity Construction to develop the design and structure of Convergent. Jodi van der Wiel and Dave Robar, Senior Associates and Directors at Vocon, led the design process, ensuring the development complimented the current office campus and respected the surrounding environment.
In one instance, Convergent was planned to be built over a small stream running through the property. But, with more consideration, the team bridged over the stream, now home to trout and other species. The team also implemented thoughtful landscaping to compliment the profound architectural design, ultimately saving many of the original trees so as not to disrupt the environment.
Convergent will be Northern Ohio’s first Fitwel-certified multi-tenant office property, emphasizing the importance of wellness and sustainability in the workplace—a concept that’s only increased in importance for tenants and building owners alike since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Using the award-winning Cleveland Museum of Art as inspiration, the building consists of white terrazzo flooring, clean lines and angles, ample outdoor space, and a unique, hand-picked curation of paintings and imagery from renowned artists—a passion of Richard Desich’s.
Selling the dream
The challenge with any new construction is effectively selling the concept to tenant prospects despite having no physical structure to tour.
“For a period of time, we were selling the dream,” said Fairman. “Because of the rising cost of development and rental rate constraints, we knew we needed to reset the market’s notion of Class A office rates and communicate the concept in a compelling way.”
The leasing team leveraged thought leadership tactics to develop a marketing campaign addressing the future needs of tenants – what will the office of tomorrow look like? The leasing team brought themes like biophilia, thermal comfort, indoor air quality and ventilation, agile design and more to the forefront for prospective tenants, targeting those with upcoming lease expirations or significant growth plans.
Using detailed renderings, custom marketing collateral, and Equity Trust’s next-door headquarters as an example, the team secured Convergent’s anchor tenant, IMCD—a $9B specialty chemical and ingredient distributor—prior to the proposed timeline and architect’s completion of the final building design.
Just as momentum picked up, the world faced immense uncertainty with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the team was confident in its marketing approach to lease the rest of the building.
“Our marketing strategy fortunately didn’t need to change much once the pandemic started; we were already promoting these concepts of employee wellness, productivity, and building efficiency,” said Fairman.
A business-to-employee mindset
Despite the dynamic shift in activity and prolonged uncertainty from the onset of Covid-19, the JLL leasing team brought Convergent to 100% occupancy, leveraging its deep connections within the commercial real estate industry to promote the project.
By positioning the building as a unique, limited opportunity in one of Cleveland’s most desirable suburbs, the team garnered rental rates that exceeded 125% of the competitive Class A assets for the submarket.
“The leasing strategy from the very beginning truly focused on the employee’s wellbeing,” said Fairman. “Commercial real estate has traditionally been seen as a business-to-business transaction; we considered this more of a business-to-employee transaction, always emphasizing how the efficiency of this property would enhance the wellness and experience of its tenants.”