Transforming, Occupying Former Girl Scouts HQ

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Reception desk at the former Girl Scouts headquarters
Reception is the heart of the space, located directly adjacent to the stair and with connections to the conference rooms, hospitality zone, and offices and atrium above.

With the goal to own its own building in an eclectic Denver neighborhood, Unique Properties chose the former Girl Scouts Headquarters Building at 400 S. Broadway to be its new home. This 1965, three-story, brick building bordering the West Washington Park and Baker neighborhoods was the opportunity the group was looking for to represent its brand and culture. The firm’s vision stretched beyond the existing narrow windows, low ceilings and graffitied brick to see the potential of this building as a space to support and inspire employees and guests.

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Christy Headlee
Interior Designer, Gensler

Two design firms were enlisted to collaborate on the building’s transformation. Exterior modifications, including the roof deck, were completed by Kenny Davis Architecture and the interior building design was provided by Gensler.

Before ever picking up a pen to start drawing, it was critical that the design team dive into what makes Unique Properties tick. What are its overarching business goals, how can they help the company improve its business; what is the culture; what keeps the team up at night? Early explorations revealed that the No. 1 driver for this work-hard/play-hard group was that the space support employees and, in doing so, attract and retain the best in the industry. The design team dug a little deeper into the culture and provided industry research and insight to better understand what that meant for Unique Properties’ space. The team found that, beyond supporting the daily work-specific needs of the staff, the space needed to inspire and promote overall employee well-being. A push was needed beyond the typical building amenities to incorporate elements throughout the design that would provide employees the ability to participate in healthy activities throughout their day.

A critical design move is immediately apparent upon entering the parking lot. Gone are the narrow vertical windows of the former building. Now, large, expansive windows allow natural views and daylight to wash the interior and connect the building occupants to the neighborhood. All exterior offices and conference rooms feature full-height glazed interior walls, allowing sunlight and views to penetrate deep into the space, reaching all occupants.

Upon entering the sunlit lobby atrium, there is a buzz of activity. Natural light and transparency in the adjacent areas welcome visitors and staff into the heart of the space. A graphic glass and metal screen captures the reception desk and draws the eye up to the glass offices that border the atrium above, creating an automatic connection to the work happening beyond the lobby. The main break room was strategically placed adjacent to this area to pull people out of their departments and through the space as needs arise throughout the day. Private and open huddle space as well as phone rooms are scattered throughout to ensure employees have choice of work location.

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Hospitality features and finishes support the firm’s brand and enrich the employee and guest experience.

The raw architecture of the building was honored and balanced with touches from a warm and sophisticated palette. Existing concrete floors in the lobby contrast with the textural, woven carpet of the conference rooms. Exposed concrete columns are juxtaposed against the walnut and white back-painted glass reception desk. The stair blends a blackened raw metal pan and railing with solid maple wood treads that lead up through the space. Peeking out from behind the screen, they are the main artery of the space, stretching up through the building to the new rooftop deck amenity.

Designed to fit its unique culture and specific needs, the space is one that Unique Properties can celebrate.

“The final product has exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Scott Shwayder, principal of Unique Properties. “We achieved our goal of creating a beautiful, warm and inviting space that promotes good health, warmth and collaboration – while offering all the modern technologies and amenities required to operate an effective business. Our employees, our brokers and all of our customers simply love it.”

Featured in the June 2017 issue of Building Dialogue

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