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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

O-I offers preview of new offices

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The building s low-slung profile is in marked contrast to the current skyscraper headquarters. 
The building s low-slung profile is in marked contrast to the current skyscraper headquarters.
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When Owens-Illinois Inc. built its Summit Street headquarters 25 years ago, the glass-packaging firm wanted a signature skyscraper that could anchor the river s edge end of a wide boulevard and ignite the rebirth of an aging downtown.

It was anything but humble. But O-I was a different company back then, said Frank Butler, the man in charge of developing the company s $20 million future headquarters on its Levis Development Park campus in Perrysburg.

The new building which is under construction but which the firm showed off for the first time yesterday is a three-story horizontal structure of 100,000 square feet. It will house about 250 employees and is to be opened Aug. 18.

It was designed to be sleek, contemporary, and humble, said John Hrovat, lead architect for Albert Kahn Associates, Inc., of Detroit.

Visitors are reflected in the exterior green-colored glass, chosen to blend with the surroundings.
Visitors are reflected in the exterior green-colored glass, chosen to blend with the surroundings.
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The firm hired by O-I, a Fortune 500 company, designed the building, which is 330 feet long, 110 feet wide, and 60 feet high.

In contrast, the 32-story One SeaGate, O-I s current international home base, has 874,000 square feet and cost $100 million to build. It housed 2,200 company employees at one point.

Construction of the new home base is on schedule, said Tim Meyer, project manager for the general contractor, Lathrop Co.

Mr. Butler, manager of O-I s Toledo area properties, said a design team sought input from management, employees, and office experts to come up with the new building s key aspects.

The nearly complete Owens-Illinois headquarters building in Perrysburg s Levis Development Park gleams in the background as real estate manager Frank Butler describes the facility that is due to open in August. Lead architect John Hrovat describes the $20 million structure as  sleek, contemporary, and humble.  The nearly complete Owens-Illinois headquarters building in Perrysburg s Levis Development Park gleams in the background as real estate manager Frank Butler describes the facility that is due to open in August. Lead architect John Hrovat describes the $20 million structure as sleek, contemporary, and humble.
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It incorporates the latest technology, including a ventilation system that sends air up from the floor, wireless computer connections, and a panelized wall system that lets them drop an office down practically anywhere, Mr. Butler said.

Designers went out of their way to build equality into the building. Executive offices for top leaders, including Chief Executive Steve McCraken, will be constructed from panels, and they won t be lavish, Mr. Butler said.

Mr. McCracken has said his spacious 27th floor office in One SeaGate, with its view of the Maumee River and East Toledo, was too lavish and was appropriate for a pharmaceutical or electronics firm, but not a humble bottle company.

Although not spartan, the new headquarters is devoid of fountains, sculptures, and other large artworks like those decorating One SeaGate.

A greater focus was placed on functionality, efficiency, and recycling, including water-free urinals.

The new corporate headquarters has a more important feature: common balconies and viewing areas on each floor that the company hopes will encourage idea-sharing among employees. We want this new work environment to foster creativity and teamwork, Mr. Butler said.

There are some eye-catching elements as well.

The main entrance, which faces south along a new road Michael J. Owens Way, named for O-I s founder features a rectangular glass pattern that extends 60 feet to the roof.

Architect John Hrovat says employee interaction is a design goal. 
Architect John Hrovat says employee interaction is a design goal.
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The design will remind visitor s that O-I s core product is glass, but it also can be viewed abstractly as a container, which the firm makes, Mr. Hrovat said.

Built in the international style of architecture, which emphasizes glass, steel, concrete, and transparency, the headquarters borrows from Frank Lloyd Wright s Prairie style in that it is built into a hill on the site, and its colors and lines complement nearby woods and landscaping.

The building has an employee cafeteria as well as areas for workers to gather on breaks or relax. Unlike One SeaGate, the building has no amenities such as a dry cleaner or barber shop. But it is adjacent to the Town Center at Levis Commons, a shopping and restaurant complex.

The headquarters features a large, dramatic stairway, lit by a skylight, leading to its two upper floors. It has two elevators, but stairways were used extensively to encourage employee interaction, Mr. Hrovat said.

The building s exterior is nearly all green-colored glass, which symbolizes what O-I is about and also its culture, he added. The green color was chosen to provide transparency but fit with the environment and surroundings.

O-I announced more than a year ago it would vacate its quarters in downtown Toledo before its lease expires Sept. 30. It plans to move 360 headquarters employees to Perrysburg, with some being housed in its existing three buildings in Levis Park. Those moves, by department, will begin next week.

Once the firm leaves One SeaGate, that building will be about 50 percent empty. An insurance firm, RVI Group of Stamford, Conn., is expected to take over as landlord of the structure and has been trying to find new tenants.

O-I is spending $9 million to update three buildings at Levis Park, where it has about 585 employees. Those renovations, to be done by the end of next year, will include a fitness center. The four buildings will be connected by covered exterior walkways.

The plan, Mr. Butler said, is to make the location more inviting and parklike for O-I workers. Still, security likely will be increased around the campus, which is off Roachton Road near St. Rte. 25, just south of the interchange with U.S. 23/I-475.

There will be more green space, and people will no doubt be attracted to it, Mr. Butler said. But it s not going to be a public park.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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