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VOL. 10 | NO. 22 | Saturday, May 27, 2017

ServiceMaster Almost Ready for First Employees to Occupy Downtown HQ

By K. DENISE JENNINGS

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By mid-June the first wave of employees will move into the new ServiceMaster Global Headquarters at 150 Peabody Place, bringing to fruition what many city leaders believe is one of the biggest wins for Downtown Memphis in a decade. 

ServiceMaster’s new headquarters barely resembles the former mall in which it is housed. The addition of 141 windows, a glass ceiling in the atrium and translucent interior walls all help increase natural lighting inside.  (K. Denise Jennings)

Memphis is currently home to 2,200 ServiceMaster employees, 1,200 of whom will be relocating to the Downtown headquarters in shifts beginning this June through early 2018. 

Belz Enterprises, which owns One ServiceMaster Center – formerly the Peabody Place mall – has upgraded the exterior of the building to Class A office space. ServiceMaster hired Atlanta-based Interior Architects for the interior design and Oklahoma-based Flintco as general contractors on the $35 million project.

Converting the 360,000-square-foot building from a shuttered shopping mall and movie theater to a global corporate headquarters was no small feat and required innovative design to bring more natural light into the core of the structure. 

To do so, 141 windows – many of them floor to ceiling – were added, along with a glass ceiling in the atrium as well as translucent interior walls that kill sound and flood light through the massive space. The building also includes a light harvesting system that brightens or darkens depending on the amount of sunlight available, which is reported to save between 20 and 60 percent on energy. 

The building design is layered for various uses and includes a center atrium, accessible from the street with an entrance that accommodates both foot traffic and branded vehicles for special events. Exterior outdoor walkways and event spaces are accessible from inside the building to give employees the benefits of outdoor spaces. 

One ServiceMaster Center will have a café but not a full cafeteria, a purposeful move aimed at getting employees out of the building.

“We want to encourage our employees to get out into the city and eat in local restaurants and break bread and collaborate with their colleagues and people in other businesses in the city, which we believe will stir creativity,” said Terry Ingram, vice president of supply management for ServiceMaster. 

The cafe will have a lounge feel and includes an adjacent technology help station where employees can receive on-site help and repairs for their personal devices – a concept ServiceMaster recently implemented that Ingram said has been well-received.

Other unique amenities include a locker room with showers at street level for employees who want to bike or jog around Downtown on their breaks. 

“We’ve tried to think about everything in the design of this building,” Ingram said.

PURSUING INNOVATION

The first department to be fully on site beginning this June will be the 20,000-square-foot Innovation Center, which will house a new incubator where ServiceMaster will develop and invest in ideas, both from within the company as well as from other local entrepreneurs and IT developers. 

The center, located in the former Tower Records space, is on the basement level and boasts some of the most advanced design and technology available, according to ServiceMaster. In addition to badge-entry office spaces, it will include rentable co-working spaces for outside small businesses and a state-of-the-art event space that is open for free use for tech events.

Flexible space, huge display screens, video conferencing and live-stream capabilities as well as a big mural in the cylindrical center core depicting Memphis’ entrepreneurial past are all elements incorporated in the Innovation Center. 

Internally, ServiceMaster will use the center to develop tech applications for their current products and service lines, and for new lines of service. The space is designed to facilitate “accidental collisions” – an idea that is woven throughout the design of the entire headquarters and one that company leaders hope will give employees a new lens through which to view every part of its operations so they can continue to evolve and be at the forefront of their fields. 

“Everything is being disrupted,” said Michael Shipman, vice president of innovation and development, whose job is dedicated to the Innovation Center. “ServiceMaster is not necessarily different. We have to pay attention to emerging markets and what things will look like in the next 20 to 30 years.”

Jason Bailey, vice president of mergers and acquisitions agrees, saying, “The world is changing in how consumers buy services, in how they find us and how we service them. We’re investing more in technology. It’s a great way to find products and it’s a good source of talent. We spent a good bit of time when we had the idea (for the Innovation Center) thinking about how we fit in. We wanted to understand the ecosystem.”

Shipman has met extensively with other Memphis-based startup incubators, including Start Co., EPIcenter and Emerge Memphis, to see how the Innovation Center can help contribute to a “rising tide” in Memphis’ startup ecosystem and not compete with what other incubators are doing. 

While specific price points for membership levels have not been finalized, they will be in line with other incubators, Shipman said. 

“We’ve had some preliminary conversations with startups with interest, and we’ll have more announcements in the future,” he said. “Our goal is to have some in there when we open.”

‘BULLISH’ ON SERVICEMASTER

As for the location of ServiceMaster’s new digs, Bailey said the biggest part of the general excitement among ServiceMaster employees is moving to Downtown Memphis. 

“It’s a nice fit to combine the momentum of Memphis and ServiceMaster,” Bailey said.

Local and state leaders agree that it’s exciting, and they have put their money where their mouth is, granting the project millions of dollars in incentives.

Roughly $19 million in incentives came through the Downtown Memphis Commission’s affiliate boards alone, including a 20-year city and county tax reduction approved by the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. that will result in a $7 million benefit; a parking agreement with the Downtown Parking Authority valued at $11 million; and a $1 million grant the Center City Development Corp. will pay ServiceMaster once construction is complete.

In addition, the project garnered a $5.5 million FastTrack Economic Development Grant from the state of Tennessee along with a $3.1 million payment-in-lieu-of-taxes benefit from the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County, also known as EDGE.

“ServiceMaster’s relocation to Downtown Memphis does three things for the community and Downtown,” said EDGE president and CEO Reid Dulberger. “It revalidates Downtown as a competitive location for corporate headquarters. … It interjects a significant amount of vitality in to the south end of Downtown, which will provide a ripple effect for adjacent areas and hopefully down the line fuel additional demand for residential housing and other services, and it may help us attract additional growth Downtown … and it attracts talent.”

Dulberger was among those who helped put together the package of incentives, which ServiceMaster CEO Rob Gillette has said were an important factor in keeping the company in Memphis, as it considered offers from other cities to relocate.

Dulberger said outside consultants calculated ServiceMaster’s impact on the community based on current employment and wages, and the incentives package was built with that valuation in mind.

“One thing we didn’t include in the analysis is the future growth of the company, and we certainly believe that ServiceMaster has growth opportunities,” he added. “We’re very bullish about the company long-term.”

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