A Quick Look at the New Quicken
So I recently toured the new Quicken Loans headquarters in Detroit, complete with bustling employees, yakking mortgage bankers and scurrying lawyers. And I have four words for you: scratch-and-sniff wallpaper.
Yes, the offices in the Compuware Building have cherry- and banana-scented paper on a select number of walls. Why does this matter? Other than being just plain wacky, it gives Detroit something it needs and will continue to need: A place where people want to work. Where they want to hang out. And a place where they want to stay.
As an aside, the folks that work there came from Livonia to downtown. They were in a largely surburban area where you have to drive to most everything. Well, downtown Detroit is different. You can walk – un-abused, quickly and effectively – to anything you want. Food, drink, clothing, stationary, you name it. Everything a modern office worker could want is within a short distance – or you could hop on the Peoplemover and there it is…the city, at your feet. I don't think they're used to that.
Get ready, Detroit. You've got some new people in town, and they're ready to live. Give them something to live for, damnit.
Some background: Quicken via Chairman and Founder Dan Gilbert moved about 1,700 team members to this beautiful office building just outside Campus Martius park. They came from five companies: Quicken Loans, Fathead (which makes the most amazing wall art), Quizzle (a personal finance kind-of company), In-House Realty and One Reverse Mortgage.
These workers took over four floors (9-12) and about 244,000 square feet in a five-year lease. That is about the size of a Super Wal-Mart or similar mass-market store. It's big…very big. Endless. Overwhelming. You need a map to find the bathrooms kind of thing.
And there are perks to moving here from there. There is free parking, something few downtown workers get to enjoy. There is the Compuware fitness center, daycare center and cafeteria, all of which are top-notch.
More on the building: It is eco-friendly. It is touchy-feely with its textured walls that also serve as corkboards and dry-erase boards. As Quicken notes: the building design is meant to “encourage creativity, openness, communication and collaboration.” There are bright colors everywhere. There are open spaces with beanbags and the like, crafted for lounging or meeting, depending on how busy you are.
Then there are these stunning outdoor patios that are Wifi compatible that I could die for – but you know few people will ever use. Come on, people! This is Quicken! They are too busy making the money and selling the stuff to breathe fresh air! (That's why there are cappuccino machines and popcorn makers in their fully stocked kitchens! Newspapers and wire services do the same thing to get you to never leave the friendly confines of your desk! But I digress). I do love that the design thought of them as people, not robots. There are even these cool desks that let you sit or stand, depending on your working style. That also makes it easier for the mortgage guys and gals to do their jobs.
And there is so much homage given to the city that surrounds them. The furniture is by Herman Miller – a nice shoutout to the local furniture icons (Holla!). Each team area is named after a city district. The conference rooms have names like Boblo, Palmer Park, Cliff Bells and the like.
Melissa Price, one of the design divas that made this office happen, noted that the team modeled the offices on cool companies like Google. They did employee surveys. They read books. They did massive research into making this office stand out and kick butt compared to everything else out there. And it shows. The energy is palatable. And the design is so enjoyable. The views are amazing – this is Detroit, pure and not-so-simple. And I like it.
Eventually, Quicken hopes to build its own headquarters downtown. They still have the land, and they have the drive. But, unfortunately, the real-estate and finance market isn't what it used to be. So they will enjoy their time here in the Compuware digs – and Detroit should be happy to have them.
So, thank you, Mr. Gilbert. Thank you for fulfilling your promises. Thank you for giving some living beings to downtown Detroit. And keep those mortgage rates low. Maybe we can get a few more folks to move to the city, too. Then we'll be cooking with gas.