Warehouse Works

2.5 min read
By Mae Copeland

Many large companies' headquarters are set high above New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago in buildings that scrape the sky. We've all seen these spaces–rows of corporate cubbyhole spaces, low ceilings, fluorescent lighting, and predictable elevator lobbys. But now, companies are flipping the script and moving their office spaces to open campuses and pre-existing industrial warehouses.

 The Navy Yard in Philadelphia served as a shipbuilding and repair facility from 1868-1996, and was then decommissioned.

The Navy Yard in Philadelphia served as a shipbuilding and repair facility from 1868-1996, and was then decommissioned.

That’s exactly what URBN, Inc. did. The company that owns Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropologie (to name a few) was previously spread across six different buildings throughout downtown Philadelphia until they packed up and anchored at the Philly Navy Yard. Now situated on their new campus, the entire company is together in one place. With that brings the opportunity to treat their work family the way they deserve with cafeterias, gyms, and a mass transit system. But that’s not all that makes the Navy Yard an appealing space for URBN.

 In 2004, the Navy Yard commissioned Robert A.M. Stern Architects to create the master plan. 

In 2004, the Navy Yard commissioned Robert A.M. Stern Architects to create the master plan. 

Companies are discovering that in order to attract, recruit, and retain the best crop of workers, they have to provide an insanely great working environment. No more uninteresting corporate cubbyholes with florescent lighting. We’ve written in previous posts about the lucrative success of Chelsea Market, where retail, food, and attractive experiences are drawing in workers and corporations. The bottom line? Corporations are creating a new generation of inspired places to work. And it's a good business model.

 Each of URBN’s buildings were once military factories, which one can easily see to this day. They repurposed concrete, doors, steal beams, even cranes to create the decor inside massive brick structures with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Each of URBN’s buildings were once military factories, which one can easily see to this day. They repurposed concrete, doors, steal beams, even cranes to create the decor inside massive brick structures with floor-to-ceiling windows.

So what makes the Navy Yard such an inspiring place to work? Well, it starts with its authentic origin – it's a navy yard. It once served as a shipbuilding and repair facility before being decommissioned in 1996, beginning its new chapter as a business campus. With over 12,000 acres of dynamic, industrial workspace positioned on the Delaware River waterfront, the Navy Yard is an urban refit development that is now home to 165 companies and 13,500 employees - not just URBN people. 

 In 2013, the master plan was updated with an expanded vision:  https://www.navyyard.org/master-plan-2013/files/assets/seo/toc.html

In 2013, the master plan was updated with an expanded vision: https://www.navyyard.org/master-plan-2013/files/assets/seo/toc.html

We’re of course seeing this same concept happening for global companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and more. Just on a much larger scale. Uh, can anyone say Amazonia? Furthermore, warehouses and industrial spaces are proving to be great conditions for start ups and creative businesses as well.

 The core concept surrounding each of URBN’s stores is that they want each location to be different and take on its own character. As opposed to converting spaces to look like their stores, they allow the space to dictate the look and feel of the store. 

The core concept surrounding each of URBN’s stores is that they want each location to be different and take on its own character. As opposed to converting spaces to look like their stores, they allow the space to dictate the look and feel of the store. 

The open air environment makes for easy collaboration with peers. Inspiring design inspires productivity. They even say that tall ceilings lift your spirit. So if you're in a space with 40+ foot ceilings, imagine how high your employees’ spirits can go.

 Placing emphasis on turning old to new, URBN wanted their home office to reflect this ethos they refer to as “adaptive reuse,” stating the greenest building is the one that has been built already.

Placing emphasis on turning old to new, URBN wanted their home office to reflect this ethos they refer to as “adaptive reuse,” stating the greenest building is the one that has been built already.

And you don’t have to be an employee to experience the Navy Yard. Walking tours are available, there is a food truck village, and one of URBN’s buildings is completely open to the public. Anyone is welcome to come in and enjoy the cafeteria, coffee shop, stunning architecture, and the community they have built. 

So, ask us again what makes the Philly Navy Yard the ideal location for URBN’s headquarters. Soaring ceilings, exposed brick and concrete, and natural light that inspires their workers to think bigger and more creatively and be excited to walk into the office. What’s not to like?

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