Cargill Protein unveiled downtown Wichita’s biggest office project in years — its new $60 million headquarters.
It’s also likely the most innovative office space downtown has seen in decades.
Cargill Protein leader Tom Windish led reporters on tour Tuesday of the four-story, 188,000-square-foot building at 825 E. Douglas, site of The Wichita Eagle’s former building. On Thursday, the Minneapolis-based company will host a formal grand opening and ribbon cutting of the building that houses more than 800 workers.
It replaces Cargill Protein’s long-time 10-story headquarters at 151 N. Main, which the company had outgrown at 110,000 square feet.
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Cargill Protein handles Cargill Inc.’s meat, poultry and food service and distribution businesses. Its brands include Excel, Sterling Silver and Angus Pride meats as well as Honeysuckle turkey.
The new headquarters will accommodate up to 950 workers and provide covered parking for 800 in a garage near the building’s south end.
What Windish wanted to emphasize is that this was a building designed for — and with the input of — its workers, including those from the millennial and succeeding generations.
It’s about “attracting and retaining the best talent,” he said, adding that it’s also symbolic of the company’s commitment to “be a part of the growing, vibrant downtown community.”
The building fronts Rock Island street to the west. Its inside is cavernous with lots of windows and local photography and art, including a first-floor center wall that features nearly 700 plates “hand-crafted and fired locally,” Windish said.
“It’s . . . meant to inspire what we do every day, which is nourish the world,” he said.
It features modern wood, concrete and steel finishes, and a “grand staircase” in the center of the building that has also become what Windish calls one of the building’s “collaboration spaces.”
“We were in 10 floors before and I bet you I saw maybe 15 percent of our employees every day,” he said. “That number’s just grown exponentially since we’ve been in this building.
“You can’t help but see people, have different conversations and really have a different feel and culture within the building.”
Employees began moving into the new building in stages at the end of October. All employees had moved in by Thanksgiving, according to Cargill Protein spokesman Mike Martin.
In early 2016, Cargill contacted the city about relocating from its North Main location. It said it was considering a “variety of options,” including outside of Wichita. That May, the company announced that it would stay in Wichita after considering other sites including in Texas and Colorado.
That December it announced it had chosen the former Eagle site.
Wichita approved up to $60 million in industrial revenue bonds for the new building, allowing a sales tax exemption on construction materials and a property tax abatement for the new building.
What really stands out in the new building is the arrangement of work spaces. Instead of having corner offices, many private offices are found in the center of the building, surrounded by workers in low-rise cubicles who are next to windows that are nearly floor-to-ceiling in length.
“We absolutely flipped that relationship when we moved in here,” Windish said.
Other amenities for employees include a third-floor cafe, a private dining area and an outdoor deck with tables, bars and cushioned seating.
Just off to the side of the cafe is a game room, with a pool table, two foosball tables and a shuffleboard table.
Back on the ground level is an enclosed courtyard for employees that appears to be large enough to accommodate several hundred people.
“We jokingly refer to it as one of the largest parks in Wichita,” said an employee accompanying reporters on the tour Tuesday.
The courtyard features tables and seating, a fire pit and a bar area with two stainless steel outdoor grills.
Other features of Cargill Protein’s new building:
▪ Twice as many conference rooms as its previous building, including one that seats up to 200 people and an “immersive technology” room that provides for video conferencing with other Cargill sites around the world.
▪ A dozen ”wellness rooms” that can be used by nursing mothers or by other employees who want to rest.
▪ A “sensory center” on the first floor that includes a presentation kitchen and allows Cargill to conduct taste tests of its products with customers.