Pier 1 headquarters
CEO Girouard names team, articulates corporate vision
BY SHANNON CANARD
Fort Worth Business Press
From concept to finished product, Pier 1 CEO and chairman Marvin Girouard is guiding the development of the company’s new headquarters with the enthusiasm and involvement of a first-time father.
To a crowd of nearly 700 Pier 1 employees, public officials and media, Girouard revealed the details of the project last week, commenting that the entire enterprise had been a "learning curve" for him. From the acquisition of the property, through the selection of a development manager and the hiring of an architect and general contractors, Girouard has been and plans to be present every step of the way.
By Fall of 2004, Pier 1 Imports will have a new, gleaming, 20-story, glass and granite corporate headquarters building on the Trinity River. And the $90-million project will be the result of a year-and-a-half planning process headed by Girouard.
There hasn’t been a high rise built in downtown Fort Worth since 1984, when businessman Ed Bass built the second tower of City Center. Building a new high rise as part of the city’s skyline was important not only to Pier 1, but to the community as a whole, Girouard said.
A big help to Girouard has been MBC/Dunn Consultants, a joint venture between local consultants, Max Chapman and Stephen Dunn, acting as development manager on the project.
Girouard decided early on to out-source the project development because of the fact that his in-house people were committed to opening 120 new stores in 2002. He couldn’t spare their time or attention.
Chapman and Dunn have been working in the Metroplex on various projects the last 20 years, including The Ballpark in Arlington and office developments in Dallas, such as Lincoln Plaza and Thanksgiving Tower.
It was their high-rise experience that caught Girouard’s attention. "I’ve known of Dunn and Chapman for a while," he said. "Dunn’s probably the best electrical guy in Texas."
The pair assisted him in selecting a design architect, which, according to Girouard, was a process of finding towers he liked and interviewing the firms that designed them.
He interviewed 15 firms locally and nationally, but narrowed it down to a group from Durham, N.C. as the best to represent the company.
Duda Paine Architects LLP was chosen to design the office tower, which has a "beveled" look with layers of sculpted "jackets." Girouard said it was the chemistry between him and architects Turan Duda and partner Jeffrey Paine that sold him.
"We related well. They listened, rather than told," Girouard said.
It was Girouard’s ability to articulate his ideas that excited Duda. "He has great eyes and sensibilities," Duda said. "It raised the expectations for the project."
Girouard’s input was critical to the design work. Duda relied on him to provide the character of Pier 1, which as the partner of the five-year-old architectural firm discovered, was "down to earth."
With the tower on an urban site, Duda had to consider the open view. "Typically, it is hidden behind other buildings," he said of downtown structures. "But this site is so open." Duda described to the crowd how he "was awestruck by the site. Most architects would give their left hand to design for such a site."
Duda wanted the tower to be a discovery, much as the Pier 1 stores are.
"Discovery is part of the experience. You don’t see everything all at once."
In order to complete the 12-acres of the site, Pier 1 requested that the city permanently close two blocks of Penn St., which allows the company to join the two land parcels it bought this same time last year. The city obliged and Penn St. between 5th St. and Forest Park will be closed in January.
The Pier 1 tower is expected to be ready for occupancy by fall of 2004. The company’s 900 employees from the downtown area will get their first glimpse then of the amenities designed with them in mind.
Interior architectural firm Gensler, has created an employee fitness center, conference and training facilities and a lobby with views of the river and downtown. Visitors entering the lobby will be afforded the best view befitting the site, Duda said.
Leading up to the new high rise is the street Girouard named in honor of the company -- 100 Pier 1 Place.
A general contractor for the project was to be announced this week, but at press deadline, Manhattan Construction Co. and Thos. S. Byrne just had been told they will share the project, according to a source. Neither would confirm the selection. Manhattan had worked with Chapman on The Ballpark project and Byrne is a minority-owned firm headed by Fort Worth community leader John Avila. Other finalists were Centex Construction Co., Austin Commercial and Hunt Construction Group.
Dunn is looking for companies with high-rise experience and qualified personnel. He will also be looking at the contractor’s fees and general conditions and the financial strength of the company.
During the proposal process, contractors were expected to address how they would fulfill the minority and women business enterprise (M/WBE) requirements as mandated by Pier 1’s economic grant development package with the city.
Pier 1 must spend at least 25 percent of its construction costs with Fort Worth contractors and 20 percent of the $80 million in improvements with M/WBE contractors.
According to assistant city manager, Reid Rector, the M/WBE don’t have to be Fort Worth contractors.
The economic grant development package, approved in October, is a 20-year, 90-percent tax rebate worth over $12 million in savings to the company.
To assist Pier 1 in fulfilling its M/WBE obligations, the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber and the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber are educating their qualified members as to possible business prospects with the company.
Metropolitan Black Chamber president Devoyd Jennings is prepared to make recommendations to Girouard. "I know he’s committed," Jennings said of the company’s pledge to hire M/WBEs. "We support him reaching those goals."
Rosa Navejar, president of the Hispanic Chamber, is focusing on educating her members. She wants to ensure they are not only prepared, but qualified to do the work.
When the 20-story, 440,000-square-foot, high rise opens, Pier 1 will occupy 17 of the floors, reserving the others for future growth. Girouard said the company was not going to compete with its former landlord, City Center, for tenants to fill the remaining three stories. "We’re not in the real estate business," he said.
Pier 1 was one of City Center’s first tenants. It currently occupies eight floors and over 200,000 square feet.
RadioShack is scheduled to start construction of its corporate headquarters along the Trinity next spring.