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Move to South Street Landing improves staff experience

In occupancy survey, 46 percent of staff say new space exceeds expectations

South Street Landing, once a coal-fired factory in the Jewelry District, has transformed into an expansive workspace for the University.

Administrative staff from 11 departments — once located in the Brown Office Building at 164 Angell St. and various buildings on College Hill — finished moving into South Street Landing Dec. 2017. In their first year at South Street Landing, staff members have been satisfied with their new workspace’s function, design and productivity. In the South Street Landing occupancy survey, 46 percent of participants found the new space exceeded their expectations and 34 percent agreed that the new design improved their productivity, according to John Luipold, vice president of Real Estate and Strategic Initiatives. 

As a historical preservation project, South Street Landing maintained the original brick and steel structure of the four-story factory and added two additional floors of office space, The Herald previously reported. The building was not originally intended for office use, so it has features that may be considered atypical for a traditional office building, Luipold said. For example, the floors were pulled in to create a gap between the office area and the original glass paneling that made up the factory, he added.

Moving more than 400 people from College Hill to the Jewelry District was a logistical difficulty, Luipold said, adding that the process took roughly three months.

The University office area, which occupies the fourth through sixth floors and a portion of the third floor of South Street Landing, consists of both open and hard-wall space to promote collaboration, while leaving opportunities for privacy, Luipold said. Besides cubicles, the University office area also includes private offices, conference rooms, privacy rooms, mother rooms, kitchens and common areas which await future development.

After the staff settled in, they found unexpected challenges with the space of the new building. For example, though ample natural sunlight is usually considered an asset for office buildings, one side of the fourth floor had so much sunlight that employees who are stationed in the area had to wear sunglasses, Luipold said. However, after installing blinds and frosting the windows, the situation improved.

Judy Nabb, associate director of Learning@Brown, called her new office a big “step up” aesthetically and professionally compared to the old Brown Office Building. Her old office had many mismatched desks and cubicles cramped up in a limited space, she said. Prior to moving to South Street Landing, the human resources department was split between two separate floors in the Brown Office Building. She finds that the new spacious setup of South Street Landing promotes collaboration among co-workers. Now, “(people in my department) are all in such proximity,” Nabb said. The employees often pop up their heads above their cubicles to ask questions or pull their chairs to the middle of a common area for a discussion, she added.

Doreen Burgers, director of Administrative Services and Outreach, used the word “neighborhood” when reflecting on her experience so far at South Street Landing. She enjoys the “clean, fresh, bright and comfortable” office which helps her collaborate better and more easily with her colleagues.

Despite the move, employees who work at South Street Landing still find ways to stay connected to College Hill. The University shuttle transports employees from South Street Landing to College Hill within 10 minutes, and Burgers often returns to the main campus to provide training sessions or check out new eateries on Thayer Street.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the University office area occupies the fourth through sixth floors of South Street Landing. In fact, the University also occupies a portion of the third floor. The Herald regrets the error. 

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