Something big is happening in downtown Fort Wayne, and it’s hard to miss. Streets have been rerouted, buildings have been demolished and an iconic restaurant has even been painstakingly lifted and towed to a new location. Cranes dot the horizon and webcams record regular snapshots. A sturdy elevator shaft rises above a newly built, five-story parking garage, signaling more to come. Every day, a little more of Ash Skyline Plaza comes to life.
Officially announced in the fall of 2013, the project was actually conceived much earlier when Ash Brokerage CEO Tim Ash began to consider sites for his company’s new headquarters. MSKTD, the skyline project’s architect, design and engineering partner, worked with Ash to come up with a design for the building. It wasn’t until the downtown site was selected, however, that the concepts really started flowing; the energy and excitement of a multimillion-dollar downtown investment bred instant inspiration.
According to Jerry Noble, MSKTD partner and project manager for the commercial and retail portions of the project, “At that point, we immediately came up with ideas. The design just started to happen organically.”
The plan, says Noble, is to build a connected environment, not only to bring Ash employees together, but also to plug into the city. Every aspect of the space works to build community.
The first floor of the complex will house 21,000 square feet of retail space, drawing people in from the outside. The space, which is already close to being fully booked, includes future tenants such as Lake City Bank, an executive-style fitness facility and a restaurant, among others.
Sitting atop the retail level on floors two through five will be an integrated parking structure, designed by Hoch Associates. The garage design features unique exterior screening to enhance the overall aesthetics of the building and minimize the visual impact of the parking area.
The driving force for the project—expanded headquarters space for Ash Brokerage’s insurance solutions operation—will sit atop the nine-story building, occupying the 65,000 square feet of floors seven through nine. Floor six will house an additional 35,000 square feet of commercial office space available for lease.
Although the building looks impressive from the outside, it is the interior that will truly bring the “wow” factor. Designed to emphasize nature and light, an atrium that spans all three upper floors will give Ash’s headquarters an open feel to help bring people together.
Says MSKTD architectural designer Josh Smith, “The three-story atrium is a big part of making sure the floors connect together.”
An open office plan allows for every Ash employee to be located within 50 feet of a window. The south end of the office will feature an outdoor green space, a natural attraction for workers and visitors.
The MSKTD team spent many hours fine tuning the design, even going so far as touring other companies for inspiration. They were particularly successful in working with furniture manufacturer Haworth.
“We learned a lot,” recounts Joleen Gottwald, MSKTD’s interior designer for the skyline project. “We focused on how to gather people together, and we analyzed workflow and people, who works with whom, and so on. Then we applied it to the building footprint.”
The end result will be a space that simultaneously embodies functionality and elegance. Bright pops of color will punctuate neutral tones, making work areas warm and inviting. A lively, modern green and a vibrant blue will accent each of Ash’s work floors, and a vivacious red-orange will complement the amenities level.
The whole design is sleek and modern without being trendy. “There’s a lot of clean detailing,” explains Noble. “The linearity of the building itself carries through the details.”
Already the project is bringing people together in a collaborative effort. For example, the two architectural firms—MSKTD and Hoch Associates—the City of Fort Wayne and Weigand Construction among others.
Of course, the Ash team has played a central role, as well. “You can just feel the energy,” asserts Noble. “They’re a pretty inspiring group of people.”
“The whole process has been a lot of fun, especially working together as a team,” adds Josh Smith. “When it’s all finished and everybody is happy, it’s going to be great.”
Indeed, the Ash Skyline Plaza will serve as a symbol of the transformation that city leaders have been talking about and working toward. It embodies new energy: a belief in the city’s future, an investment in downtown and the integral role of collaboration.