Final Designs Revealed for $125M Dunnhumby Centre Tower

In March of 2015, 700 employees will move into the long-awaited $125 million headquarters of dunnhumbyUSA at Fifth and Race street in downtown Cincinnati. The building is the culmination of a fifteen-year effort to reinvent the area just one block from Fountain Square.

In 1999 the city purchased and demolished a fourteen-story office building and parking garage at the site in anticipation of locating a Nordstrom’s department store downtown. When plans for the store failed to materialize, the site was paved over as surface parking for over a decade.

Last year, dunnhumbyUSA and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) partnered with the city to develop the block as the new headquarters for the company. Earlier this year, the project received approval on the interior design of the building, which includes open floor plans, and two light wells that will provide natural light during the day through to the bottom floors of the office structure.

Today dunnhumbyUSA presented its exterior designs to the city’s Urban Design Review Board, which makes advisory decisions on approval for landmark structures.

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The designs for the new structure were put together by architecture firm Gensler.

The presentation is the culmination of over nine months worth of work on the exterior presentation of the building.

“We designed the building from the inside out. There was a lot of attention paid to the habits and needs of our employees,” Dave Palm, Senior Vice President of Operations with dunnhumbyUSA, told UrbanCincy.

The exterior façades of the building are meant to accentuate the data driven nature of the company and avoid the repetitiveness of patterns, and are made up of an arrangement of white and charcoal grey panel frames. The entrances on each street façade, meanwhile, are accentuated by a cascade of white paneling up the side of the building. This pattern called, “zippers” help break up the massing of the structure.

Other features of the building exterior include outdoor inset areas located on the building’s eighth floor. Further outdoor opportunities are located on the top floor where a significant portion of the floor will be dedicated to outside events.

Although only nine stories in height the floors of the building will be 14 feet high with 20-foot high ceilings for the street-level retail. The building will be the equivalent height of a more traditional 12-story building. Additionally, the three parking levels above the retail level will be convertible to office when the company needs to add room for expansion.

The first level retail section comes in at just under 30,000 square feet and features an all glass street-oriented façade. 3CDC is charged with attracting retail tenants.

“We would prefer to find a local business,” Adam Gelter, 3CDC’s Executive Vice President of Development told UrbanCincy. Gelter went on to say that the retail space can go to one tenant or be broken up into three or four separate retail spaces.

The building is slated to be completed in January 2015 with move-in set for March of the same year.

This project, along with the construction of a 30-story apartment tower and grocer and the continuing plans to construct up to 225 apartments above Macy’s at Fountain Place, is set to transform the long neglected corridors along Sixth Street and Race Street and could spur additional investments in development opportunities in the western portion of the central business district.

  • jasomm

    Not bad (after accepting the fact it would be that short).

    Nice to see Cincinnati dip it’s toe into the post-modern architecture style that has been very prevalent in Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, etc. that I cannot find a name for (De Stijl? Scattered Window?Tetris? style)

    • I too am glad to see a different architectural style explored. Great American Tower at Queen City Square essentially dusted off old plans from the late 1980s, which was a major disappointment.

    • John Schneider

      ^ Fractals

    • jasomm
    • I’m not hating it, the window glazing will make all the difference in the world, hopefully it all ties together.

    • Eric

      Postmodern would be Michael Graves Engineering Research Center at UC or Human HQ in Louisville. This is simply contemporary architecture.

    • jasomm

      contemporary is not a descriptive category, it simply means current. Like saying “Breaking News,” but is it breaking buisness news, or breaking sports news, etc…

    • Yeah, I’m not sure there is a name for the current architectural movement. I’m no architect myself, but my understanding is that this movement is more about function influencing form rather than form influencing function, as it has been in the past.

      This current, or contemporary, movement is really about sustainability and the building form tends to be a result of those designs and treatments meant to create a financially, environmentally and socially sustainable structure. To me, this building would fall in that category.

    • Eric

      Yes, it encompasses modernism, brutalism, postmodernism (Graves), deconstructive (CAC or The Ascent) and minimalism. This building is contemporary (simply meaning present-day modernism as you stated), and postmodernism is also contemporary. But there’s no reference to traditional architectural forms that would make it specifically postmodern.

    • jasomm

      Right on, that makes sense… Definitely not post-modern then. Randy is probably right about this falling under “Sustainable” as they designed inside-out for human usability and light (not sure what their materials will be though). However as they said the “exterior façades of the building are meant to accentuate the data driven nature of the company,” Im thinking the aesthetic is a specific style of High-Tech … (Also the Beetham Town in Manchester has this style and is given as an example of High-Tech on Wikipedia, for what thats worth)

    • I like that everyone is squabbling over architectural eras…

      We were taught that most contemporary architecture was, since about 1970’s on, post-modern. There were two camps of post-modernism–“grays” and “whites.” Many but not all of the whites were deconstructivist (Eisenmann is, Graves is not). Grays were largely led by Robert Venturi.

      An interesting building to compare this to is Venturi’s BBSRB at University of Kentucky. I interned for the firm that did CD’s for it. The massing and facade are both very similar (though different materials).

    • Chas Wiederhold

      Siddall Hall at UC is 11 stories tall. Calhoun Hall is 13 stories. Article says that this will appear to be more of the height of a 12 story building.

  • Chas Wiederhold

    I have a feeling the interior of this space is going to be spectacular.

    • disqus_OsqTyCBvzc

      If you’ve been inside their current offices, you’d know that feeling is probably going to turn to reality.

    • Chas Wiederhold

      I had the chance to visit their offices earlier this year. They’re incredible and contemporary!

  • SCADgrad.

    I have seen many projects come out of gensler’s offices across the nation, I was really hoping for something with more bang. I guess this will do, the city of Cincinnati, and business community just seems to settle for mediocre design… looks like modern brutalism

  • Matt Jacob

    I like it. Different for downtown, but I think it speaks to how the city is changing. I’m glad because I think it would have been hard for anyone else to get something this different to pass.

    That “zipper” on Race makes me wonder whether the skywalk will get reconnected from Fountain Place where Macy’s is. Does anyone know if the new dunnhumby headquarters is designing anything into the 2nd floor space in case they reconnect it?

    Whether you like the skywalk or not, you’ve got to agree that this is/could be a crucial linkage in its chain. The way that they redo Fountain Place when/if they put apartments/condos on top will be another make of break link on the skywalk chain. It’s still a crucial part of many downtown buildings (@580 and Carew Tower for example), and is well used when it’s too hot/cold/rainy. Are they going to destroy it all for the sake of street level retail or integrate a mix like @580 has done(they proved it can co-exit!)?

    • Eric

      The old skywalk has already been removed.

    • Matt Jacob

      I knew the old skywalk was gone over Race Street, but the opening still remained in the Fountain Place 2nd floor with a sign across it. I was informed today that Fountain Place is either in the process or has already completed changing this old skywalk opening to a big glass window. I haven’t been by to see whether that’s true.

      With this news, it makes me wonder about the direction Fountain Place will go with their remodel when they add the condo/apartments above Macy’s. Macy’s current store is set up to use both the ground level retail and the skywalk level (with part of it located near this former skywalk hallway and another part near the skywalk that comes from Carew Tower). It will be interesting to watch this unfold.

  • Eric

    The ground floor treatment, 20′ height, completely transparent, visible columns, is a technique going back to the founders of modernism where they try to dematerialize the building. It works ok for straight office or residential buildings, anything Mies in Chicago or NY, but doesn’t really work well for most retailers.

    • I would say the modernist movement was really a cultural reaction. It took place during a rapid rise in technology and looked upon the architectural treatments and stylings of the past as outdated and cluttered in a way. The response was to streamline and de-clutter not only buildings, but entire cities.

      As a result, the architecture of buildings was exactly that – streamlined and simple with no frills. The problem was that the technology of the time wasn’t as good as everyone thought it was, and the buildings and cities we created as a result were entirely ineffective at accomplishing much good out of anything.

      I remember a professor telling our class back at UC that many buildings built in the 1960s-1980s were far less “green” or environmentally sustainable than those built a hundred years earlier. It seems odd, but that was the time. It was architects, planners and engineers revolting against the past based on the promises of the wildly unknown future.

    • Ah, Mies. Steel wrapped in concrete wrapped in steel.

    • Nathan Strieter

      If we were to see first floor plan it seems all the lease-able storefronts have full glass at street level not setback from the rest of the building envelope. I am not a fan of the exposed ground floor concrete columns but here they do denote the building entries to both the lobbies and
      the garage, this is not at all Miesian. Make no mistake this variation in the first floor treatment is a huge step forward from a completely recessed first floor.

      Also please consider that the building is a concrete structure, not steel – Mies’s primary pallette. With Mies’s work it should be noted that the treatment of the columns are a holdover from Corbusier’s Pilotis and they track all the way around the building. Here the treatment seems
      quite different.

      We might be best off calling the style Functional Abstraction.
      Though this is horribly misleading as it seems we are distracted enough to name a style for the building based solely on its facade.

      I am in general not a fan of Gensler’s work. In this instance I do believe that they started the design around the central atrium and programmatic gathering spaces required by Dunhumby and we should not judge the project until we see development of those areas. But living in DC I am very happy Cincy did not get a tired PNC Place knock off (same height & similar overall size- solid glass box).

    • Eric

      Mies IBM building pictured is actually anodized aluminum. I’m referring not to a comparison of building materials since concrete is obviously not steel or aluminum, but general modernist building form: the dematerializing of ground floors, and the Dunnhumby building continues that as you can see from the first rendering: fully transparent ground floor (Mies), recessed ground floor (Mies), exposed pillars (Mies).

    • Nathan Strieter

      Per the renderings attached above I would estimate 60-65% of the ground floor glazing to be proud of the column.
      20’0″ of storefront glass at street-level is well suited for retail.
      It is actually a large selling point, for bringing in High-end retail.

  • JWM

    Not thrilled about the building mainly because only 9 floors is a waste of space at this site.