Employees nudged their firm to revamp an old Orlando building into new workspace

This article originally appeared in the Orlando Business Journal.

General contractor Barton Malow Co. took a huge risk in deciding to uproot its Central Florida operations from the Millenia area and move to an older building in downtown Orlando — but it was driven by its employees.

The Southfield, Michigan-based firm — one of Central Florida's largest national construction companies — surveyed its workers to determine what they wanted in a new Orlando office. Some of the results included:

  • Lunch options within walking distance 84%Exposed building elements 74%
  • Private phone rooms 74%
  • Natural lighting 94%

As a result, the firm invested into an adaptive reuse effort for its Southeast Region Hub, which it opened earlier this year. Barton Malow chose to lease space in part of an older industrial warehouse in downtown's Mlik District — named for the nearby T.G. Lee Dairy plant. The 60-year-old building had sat vacant for years, once housing the headquarters of Barnie's Coffee & Tea Co.

The new location was a hit with employees, because it's within a 10-minute drive from downtown's core, right across from Festival Park, close to Interstate 4 and Orlando International Airport is just 11 miles away. The leased space is part of a 37,000-square-foot industrial warehouse built in 1958.

The Barton Malow Southeast Region Hub in downtown was chosen as the Best Reuse/Rehab Project in Orlando Business Journal's 2019 Structures Awards, which honors some of the past year's most impactful, innovative commercial real estate deals and projects, and the people behind them.

Here's more on the project:

Unique project features: Natural and ambient lighting; variety of spaces to work in open floorplan; exposed structural ceiling; acoustical masking; collaboration stations; custom structural steel and wood furnishings; outdoor patio; on-site cafe; private surface parking

Address: 340 N. Primrose Drive, Orlando

Size: 14,000 square feet

Timeline: Work began June 15, 2018; completion on May 1, 2019

Cost: $1.5 million

Significance: The rehabilitation of this dated building has complemented the continuing improvements in downtown Orlando's thriving Milk District. Its prime location on the east side of downtown is a diverse and vibrant area that boasts cultural diversity, performing arts, dining, entertainment and recreation. Meanwhile, Barton Malow added more than 20 new jobs in the past two years, which was a significant factor in moving to the Milk District. The firm hopes to see this pattern continue as it adds to Central Florida's economic boom.

Major players: Orlando-based Central Florida Lumber & Supply Co. Inc., landowner/landlord; Orlando-based Dap Design LLP, architect; Tampa-based Wilson & Girgenti LLC, engineer; Barton Malow/Bethesda, Maryland-based Allen Built Inc., general contractors; Sarah Castor of Cresa Orlando, real estate agent