RiverStone Group’s Davenport headquarters improves morale, attracts new talent, and sheds light on material producer’s products and 125-year history
For more than a century, family-owned materials producer/distributor RiverStone Group has served the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa. Evidence of the organization’s influence can be found throughout the area: the aggregate at most baseball diamonds, the crushed stone used for the new I-74 Mississippi River Bridge that connects the two states, the large rip-rap erosion stone along the banks of the Mississippi, the brick and stone used at Moline High School’s revived Bartlett Performing Arts Center. And if you’re traveling a Quad Cities road, chances are it was built with material from a RiverStone Group quarry.
However, one place that did not feature RiverStone Group materials was the organization’s own headquarters in Moline, Illinois. The converted JCPenney department store, with its 1980s décor and mishmash of furnishings, was undersized and had no windows.
Today, the organization has moved across the river to Davenport, where it operates from an all-new facility worthy of RiverStone Group’s reputation. The 30,000-square-foot facility, designed by Legat Architects and built by Russell, not only brings natural light and views to every employee, but it also showcases RiverStone Group’s 125-year legacy. Cases display company memorabilia, while the firm’s products appear everywhere from the all-stone exterior to the polished trap rock floors whose aggregate came from a RiverStone Group quarry in southern Missouri. (Last year, the firm won an Excellence in Concrete Award for the facility’s use of decorative concrete).
When the weather is nice, employees enjoy an outdoor patio overlooking Crow Valley Golf Course . . . much different from the old facility, where the only place for outdoor recreation was the parking lot.
Since completion of the facility, overall staff morale is “noticeably higher,” according to RiverStone Group Vice President Mike Ellis. “I have received a lot of feedback from our people about how proud they are to say they work in the new space,” he said. “They also seem to appreciate all the small things we added based on a few surveys we conducted internally.”
Ellis stated that the new facility has also had a positive impact on the organization’s recruitment efforts. “We literally had candidates, typically younger ones, turn down job offers by telling us they didn’t want to spend their career in our old building. Now we have candidates that talk about how much they would love coming to work at our new building every day!”
RiverStone Group moved into the 1950s-era JCPenney in 1985—it marked the organization’s fifth headquarters since it started in 1892.
Ellis said, “The building no longer represented the company we had become. It was old, dated looking, and lacked the infrastructure we needed to efficiently conduct business in the 21st century.” Making matters worse, the company had run out of space for adding more employees.
The organization looked at remodeling and expanding the existing facility. That proved excessively costly. Then it searched for other Quad Cities-area facilities to retrofit. Again, estimates were too high. There was only one option left: build a new space designed to respond to the organization’s needs. Thus began the quest to find a design partner.
“We wanted a firm that could recognize we needed something fresh and attractive,” said Ellis, “but also something that could display our products and stand the test of time.”
Moreover, many employees were nearing retirement, so it was critical that the new facility would attract new talent.
RiverStone Group and construction manager Russell narrowed down potential designers to two regional architecture firms, which they challenged with a design competition. Legat emerged as the winner.
Ellis said, “Legat’s design paralleled exactly what our company was trying to accomplish with our new facility as we celebrated building of the sixth (and largest) company headquarters in our 125 years in business.”
Carved in RiverStone
The goal for the exterior was to create a welcoming façade that exhibits RiverStone Group materials. The team specified three materials that the company sells:
- A speckled ashlar blend with three types of stone that RG General Manager Eric Wood helped design
- Limestone panels that create a base and rise near the entry to draw attention to the company logo
- Fiber panels that hide the mechanical units on the roof
Out of the Basement and into the Daylight
Half of the employees at the previous RiverStone Group facility worked in the windowless basement of the adapted department store; the other half worked on the first floor . . . also without windows. Surveys and discussions revealed that light and views were critical in the new facility.
The design responds by making daylight a priority. For instance, bars of clerestories (i.e., windows along the upper part of the building) fill the main office areas with natural light. Even more light comes in through the glass walls of the private offices that surround the work area.
We have candidates that talk about how much they would love coming to work at our new building every day!Mike Ellis,
RiverStone Group Vice President
Ted Haug, lead designer at Legat, said, “Every space within the building has daylight and views to the outside.”
One of the brightest spaces is the main circulation spine that pierces the vertex of the L-shaped building. The glassy volume starts at the entry and leads to the outdoor terrace.
A Grandfather’s Influence
When the project team toured the upper floor of the old JCPenney building, they discovered boxes of old company memorabilia locked away in unused rooms. As it turns out, Ellis’s grandfather Jim Sr., former CEO at RiverStone Group, was “big on” saving company mementos.
“Why are you hiding this?” said Haug. “It should be front and center.”
The two ten-foot-tall display cases within the new building’s circulation area prove RiverStone Group’s agreement with Haug’s opinion.
Ellis said, “We had always joked about how my grandfather saved everything and vowed we wouldn’t do the same, but once we got into everything, we found a real appreciation for what he had done. Now I too am having a hard time throwing away any company items.”
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