Sweet Home Chicago Ferrara Candy Company’s New Office

Adaptive-reuse projects tend to elicit feelings of excitement from some engineers and trepidation from others. That’s because these projects tend to be highly complex. The new office of the Ferrara Candy Company, maker of such well-loved treats as Sweetarts, Laffy Taffy, and Red Hots, is no exception. But Syska’s reaction was – and still is – excitement.

Ferrara’s new home is “The Post Office” – a mixed-use facility converted from Chicago’s former main post office, which was built in 1921. In 1997, the main post office moved, and the building sat vacant for 20 years. Today, thanks to a recent $800 MM renovation, the site is one of the hottest destinations for the Windy City’s business community.

Ferrara initially leased 77,000 square feet at the property to house 400 employees. As part of a project team that included NELSON (architects), Syska was tasked with designing MEP, fire protection, structured cabling, audiovisual, security, and architectural lighting for the new space.

During this process, Syska faced several obstacles. One was elevation. “Each floor has heights of 18 feet,” explains Syska’s Thomas Webb, PE, LEED AP, who served as the project manager. “And we had very little leeway to put ceilings in, given the requirement to preserve historical elements of the building. That meant exposed structures.”

With this in mind, Syska carefully coordinated details with the architect and other trades to ensure appropriate placement of duct work routing, conduits, cable trays, and all low-voltage wiring. “It was a holistic approach to design,” Thomas notes. “In this application, we had to verify with the entire project team that no piece of equipment created conflicts.”

Other landmark restrictions related to HVAC equipment, which had to be placed at least six feet from the window line. And within certain corridors, no duct work was allowed. Meanwhile, MEP systems in the base building were being replaced, which presented added complications. Again, collaboration was critical – not only with project partners, but also with the design and construction team for the base building.

Fortunately, Syska was able to develop a viable solution for every obstacle. But then a new one arose: Ferrara decided to lease an additional 38,000 square feet. Since the initial space was fully occupied, Syska had to create a demising wall between the existing space and the expansion space. The team also had to ensure that each part of the office had the same look, even though the two parts have separate HVAC systems. “That was a tricky scenario, but we figured out a way to make it work,” says Thomas. “When the wall is taken down, you’ll see a continuous space.”

The addition is nearly complete, and Ferrara’s employees are enjoying their new home. According to Emma Waterman, the company’s workplace experience leader, “Ferrara’s space was built with the employee experience in mind and it’s showing through in the response from employees. We have seen a significant growth in organic employee relationships, engagement and cross-functional collaboration.”

Collaboration also characterized interactions with the project team. “The Syska team was excellent to work with,” she says. “We collaborated from our earliest stages of the project and they really helped us bring our space to life.”

She concludes: “The project was a product of an incredible team of individuals who are passionate about bringing the Post Office to life and invigorating our Ferrara employee base. We were very lucky to continue working together on our expansion space as we continue to grow as an organization.”

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