City of Mishawaka
Partnering with Tango Design and Alliance Architects, Office Interiors was hired to help the City of Mishawaka transform the Liberty Mutual building into their new City Hall. Spanning nearly 4 years, the Office Interiors team discusses their appreciation working on such a prestigious project.
Bringing the Past into the Present
For years, Mishawaka, a city in northern Indiana with a population of about 51,000, housed its various departments at disparate locations throughout the city. Steady economic and population growth led the city to consolidate its departments at one central location, culminating with the purchase of the former Liberty Mutual building in 2019. The City hired local firms Alliance Architects and Tango Design to help them realize their aspirations. However, city planners wanted to be intentional with tax dollars, therefore deciding to refurbish and reuse the furniture the previous owners left behind while upgrading the building itself.
Noting the remaining furniture was made by MillerKnoll, Tango and Alliance sought out local partner and MillerKnoll affiliate Office Interiors. With the help of Project Manager Mike Bennett, the furniture was transferred, inventoried, and inspected for quality. Following the assessment, Office Interiors determined 300 MillerKnoll Aeron chairs, workstations, and other parts were salvageable.
Seeing an opportunity to save taxpayer money while completing their designs, the City of Mishawaka included Office Interiors into the project on the advice of Tango and Alliance. Through their coordination with the City’s firms and suppliers, Office Interiors set out to save Mishawaka thousands of dollars throughout this project by refurbishing the old office equipment.
Contributions to Mishawaka Project
Although Office Interiors took more of a supportive role to Tango and Alliance throughout the City of Mishawaka project, the company was a stabilizing force that helped coordinate and communicate changes between the firms and City departments.
Project Designer Kathleen Foglesong notes that from the start of the project, it was “interesting to see the different generations” of furniture available from the building. From a design standpoint, there was a high volume of materials to consider for the floor planning and draw-ups of the building layout. Since Office Interiors had previous knowledge of the building, designers like Kathleen played a key part in coordinating furniture scale, finishes, room plans, and unique areas throughout each City Hall department.
Considering the size of the project, creating clear dialogue between each group was the key to Office Interiors’ success. “We want to be a resource,” Business Development Manager Adam Myers says, “not only to the client but to other contractors on the project as well as a reliable means of support.” Office Interiors made a conscious effort to stay flexible, accommodating, and helpful to the teams they worked with throughout the project. This quality was particularly important to Sales Manager Rick Wallace, who maintained communication between Tango, Alliance, and the City of Mishawaka planners. According to Rick, on a project of this size, “any minor change was a big change, so a lot of adapting” was necessary to meet the design preferences of the City.
No greater change could have occurred during this project than the presence of COVID-19, which appeared shortly after the project began. Despite supply chain delays and health concerns throughout 2020, the project reached its opening date on time due to the combined efforts of each team working together.
Though the project is still in finalizing details, it’s safe to say that Office Interiors has largely contributed to saving the City over $400,000 by reusing and refurbishing the materials left behind by Liberty Mutual. Beyond MillerKnoll chairs, other brands—such as Humanscale, Kimble, National, and SitOnIt seating—were included within the building design, bringing updated and innovative design quality Mishawaka can be proud of.
Relationship with City of Mishawaka
Overall, the Office Interiors team says the project was a rewarding experience. They’re also grateful to work alongside Tango, Alliance, and the City of Mishawaka in this “generational project that will last 50-75 years.”
For Mike and Ashley Bennett—Project Manager and Project Coordinator, respectively—the experience enabled them to work together while coordinating and scheduling throughout the project. Together, they presented a united front displaying not only Office Interiors’ capacity to stay on time, but also their teamwork managing other contractors during the move-in of inventory to the worksite.
Kathleen was thrilled to expand her skills creating furniture to meet each department’s unique needs. She notes it was “cool to be a part of history” for Mishawaka since the building would stand for many years as a central point within the public. Furthermore, the Office Interiors team challenged their design skills when creating specific rooms, installing cuff benches and furniture within the Mishawaka Police Department jail cells. In turn, Office Interiors’ designers were able to go above and beyond throughout this project.
Rick Wallace describes the experience as a matter of “civic pride” for Office Interiors. Reflecting on the hard work presented from their team and partners, he notes this project as seeing the true nature of the City of Mishawaka and how they’ve “done the best job out of any client of listening to [their] employees about what they want.” In this case, Office Interiors has had the chance to fully satisfy each City Department and expresses pride in helping to achieve this vision with the City.
The City of Mishawaka likewise appreciates Office Interiors for their integral part in saving the public money while producing high-quality renovations. City Planning Committee representative Ken Prince officially stated, “This project would not have been a success without the effort and dedication of the Office Interiors Team.”