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Cool offices: ECMC increases connectivity in new downtown space

The following article is from Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

By moving from the eastern suburbs to a modern six-floor space in downtown Minneapolis, Educational Credit Management Corp. was able to create a more flexible work environment.

"We wanted a space that would allow us to expand or retract more easily than our previous space," said Chip McSherry, vice president of corporate services at the nonprofit that assists with higher education finance.

The office, in the 111 Washington building, is constructed with movable partitions instead of dry wall, meaning spaces can be easily expanded by taking down sections and redoing them, said Scott Hierlinger from Nelson, the architecture firm that designed the space.

There also was a reduction in space from ECMC's previous offices in Oakdale — 75 percent less space to be exact, Hierlinger said.

All office sizes were standardized for ultimate flexibility. "A recent trend is to move away from a closed office design and to get people out in the open," McSherry said.

In order to retain its employee base after the move, ECMC made its new 124,000-square-foot space amenity-rich. There is a large break room with views of downtown; fresh food is available for employees; and there is a heated outdoor deck on the 15th floor with grills and a fire pit. Designed to be protected from the wind, this outdoor deck can be used nine to 10 months out of the year, Hierlinger said.

McSherry said that ECMC plans to use the deck as much as possible, whether it be with hats and mittens on around the fire when it's snowing, or for a barbecue in the warmer summer months.

A challenge of the new space is the way it's spread out vertically over six floors. Nelson solved this problem by installing connecting stairs on all six floors on both sides of the floor plate, allowing employees to connect to any of the floors at any time.

"We tried to build in connectivity within the space rather than hoping people would traverse floors," Hierlinger said.>

Being downtown not only gives ECMC employees a fun energy, with a "plethora of food choices" in the skyway and the buzz of the city, but allows the company to be more visible, McSherry said.

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