This article was published through an exclusive partnership with NEO-trans.blog.
Within the next few years, Sherwin-Williams reportedly intends to relocate most, if not all of Valspar's headquarters and research jobs, or up to 700 employees, from Minneapolis to Greater Cleveland, according to a highly placed source. Global coatings giant Sherwin-Williams acquired its former rival in 2017 for $11 billion, setting off a remarkable growth trajectory for both companies. That is resulting in the construction of a Downtown Cleveland office skyscraper, the gobbling up of more existing office space downtown, a new suburban research center and the start of planning for significant additional downtown office space.
The source, who spoke to NEOtrans on the condition of anonymity, is in a better position to know more details than other sources who recently told NEOtrans that Valspar's research and development activities might remain in Minneapolis. But both of those sources acknowledged that some or all of Valspar's offices would move to Cleveland. According to the highly placed source, Sherwin-Williams executives view Greater Cleveland as a growth market for the next two to three decades and are making a bet on that.
Although no local sites for locating those jobs have yet been officially disclosed or rumored, Greater Cleveland real estate insiders told NEOtrans they expect Valspar's 300 office jobs to relocate to Sherwin-Williams' new Downtown Cleveland campus. That campus includes an approximately $450 million, 1-million-square-foot, 616-foot-tall headquarters tower, a two-story corporate events pavilion that fronts the west side of Public Square, and a 920-space parking garage.
They also speculated that Valspar's 400 research jobs might be accommodated at Sherwin-Williams' new 600,000-square-foot Global Research and Development Center that's under construction in suburban Brecksville. Officially, Sherwin-Williams says its new research building will accommodate 900 employees. It will move to it 330 employees from the Breen Technology Center in Downtown Cleveland and 300 research employees from the Automotive Finishes-Technical Center in Warrensville Heights. It is not clear if the other nearly 300 employees anticipated is from future growth or relocated Valspar employees, and how many relocated positions Sherwin-Williams may be considered duplicative.
The roughly $300 million research center project is part of a larger mixed-use development called Valor Acres on the site of the former Veterans Administration Hospital. Valor Acres is planned to have 200-plus luxury apartments, a 120-room upscale hotel, plus 150,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and entertainment. It will also feature 200,000 square feet of office space including a new headquarters for its developer DiGeronimo Companies and its affiliates.
At the new headquarters downtown, its skyscraper will be full of 3,100 to 3,500 employees on the day it is due to open at the end of next year. However, the rest of the headquarters campus has 3 acres of undeveloped land to accommodate further growth. That growth is happening now. The 157-year-old company is hiring so many new employees in response to strong business activity that it cannot accommodate all 4,500 of its office workers now in Greater Cleveland at its new skyscraper. And that doesn't take into account future job growth, Valspar's headquarters staff, or those at potential regional offices of suppliers and business-servicing firms that Sherwin-Williams wants to bring here.
NEOtrans has learned that, in June, Sherwin-Williams increased its sub-lease of former Key Corp. space on the upper floors of the Higbee Building to 212,000 square feet. Last year it first occupied that 10-story building, which has the Jack Casino on the first two floors, by sub-leasing just one floor and about 79,000 square feet. That was expanded to three floors this year, according to real estate insiders. A company source revealed to NEOtrans that Sherwin-Williams has about 485 jobs assigned to the Higbee Building but that has not been officially confirmed by the company.
Approximately 3,500 people work in Sherwin-Williams’ 1930-built, 900,000-square-foot headquarters, 101 W. Prospect Ave., plus the Skylight Office Tower just across West 2nd Street. Sherwin-Williams recently extended its lease of 100,000 square feet of space in the Skylight Office Tower, 1660 W. 2nd St., for two years until Oct. 31, 2025, as a precaution in case construction work on the new headquarters is delayed, the source said. About another 100 office employees work at a 50,000-square-foot space at the Automotive Finishes group in Warrensville Heights.
The Fortune 500 company also has about 325 employees at its flex office space at 4770-4780 Hinckley Industrial Parkway in Cleveland, according to data supplied to NEOtrans. Employment at that 151,830-square-foot space has grown from 250 office workers shortly after it was first leased in 2017. Sherwin-Williams leased the building just after it bought Valspar and relocated some Valspar employees to it. In total, Sherwin-Williams' office employees occupy 1.4 million square feet of offices in Greater Cleveland so far. They, let alone Valspar's headquarters or the company's future growth, can't all fit into the new headquarters that's under construction downtown.
An e-mail from NEOtrans seeking comment from Sherwin-Williams' corporate communications staff on the reported Valspar relocation and the expanded office leasing was opened but not responded to prior to the publication of this article. In 2018, a since-retired company spokesman told Minneapolis news media that “Minneapolis is like our second headquarters.” A year later, NEOtrans contacted the spokesman for comment on our reports that Sherwin-Williams was planning a new headquarters. Not only did he deny the new headquarters was being considered, he told NEOtrans that he would deny even commenting on it. Two months later, Sherwin-Williams announced its new headquarters.
Sherwin-Williams is a conservative and often secretive company. Understandably, however, Sherwin-Williams has nothing to say yet because it has no place in Cleveland to move Valspar office employees. The company won't have the space until it at least vacates its historic headquarters or builds significant additional office space at its new campus. So it has a lot more to gain from underselling its new headquarters than from overselling the property. And company officials are understandably very sensitive about saying anything publicly about the future location of Valspar’s employees.
This report of Valspar's relocation comes as several sources have said Sherwin-Williams is entering the early stages of planning for the next phase of its headquarters project. That next phase would be located on the western part of its headquarters campus along West 6th Street and north to St. Clair Avenue. In conceptual building massings shared with the city in 2021, the company and its headquarters development team proposed a high-rise at the northeast corner of West 6th and Superior Avenue, south of Frankfort Avenue.
Based on the scale of surrounding buildings, that high-rise was approximately 20 stories tall and about 300,000 square feet. North of Frankfort, low-rise buildings along West 6th and St. Clair around the perimeter of the new five-level parking garage were also suggested. The second phase could also include significant additional parking since the garage under now construction was not designed to be expanded. Sherwin-Williams executives said they originally considered the second office building as a for-lease property for its suppliers and business-servicing firms to locate their regional offices.
Instead, sources with whom NEOtrans spoke said Sherwin-Williams has so many new employees due to sales growth that this second tower or HQ2 may need to be built larger and start more immediately than previously anticipated. Even if Sherwin-Williams executives had always planned to move Valspar's offices to Cleveland, it doesn't account for the 20 percent growth of its Greater Cleveland office employment which is roughly double what the company had forecast only several years ago.
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