Schreiber Foods: Merging Corporate Goals and Urban Reinvestment

Spring 2016
The L-shaped glass-and-limestone building includes one-, four- and five-story wings. A two-acre courtyard was modeled after a series of 19th-century public squares in Green Bay. Photos: Darris Lee Harris

A global dairy company consolidates its operations and R&D functions onto a single campus that is building synergy in downtown Green Bay.

SCHREIBER’S HOME OFFICE and Global Technology Center in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, is a lesson in business strategy and community building. The global dairy company set ambitious goals to transform its business model and civic profile when planning a new 250,000-square-foot headquarters. With approximately 700 employees (or partners, as Schreiber refers to them, since the company is employee owned) locally and 7,000 globally, Schreiber is one of the world’s largest dairy companies. It serves a diverse customer base, from restaurants and institutions to grocery stores and food manufacturers.     

Yet its hometown headquarters and research facilities, which were housed in six separate buildings throughout Green Bay, lacked modern research space and appropriate building infrastructure to support the company’s strategic plan. That plan involved bringing employees and customers together to collaborate on new products and reinforce Schreiber’s commitment to the community. 

To achieve Schreiber’s strategic goals, the new building consolidates the dairy company’s business operations and its research and development (R&D) functions onto a single campus housing offices, customer application and development suites, research labs, sensory testing facilities and a pilot plant while creating a stronger civic identity. The dual goal of business growth and community commitment guided the planning process.

Downtown Opportunities

Founded in 1945, Schreiber has always been one of Green Bay’s major employers. Its historic commitment to the city informed the company’s decision-making when its board of directors began planning a new facility in 2011. The company looked at multiple locations throughout the city and surrounding suburbs, and even briefly considered out-of-state locations. But the overriding sentiment among stakeholders, many of whom had deep Green Bay roots, was to stay in the city.

office lab
office kitchen

The building’s R&D labs benefit from north daylight. The kitchen (bottom photo), like all customer-related spaces, is set along the building’s primary circulation corridor, where large-format glazing creates physical separation while also bringing in daylight.

Downtown Green Bay, in particular, offered key attractions for the company because it enabled Schreiber to tie into existing businesses, city infrastructure (streets, sewers, power distribution systems, etc.) and transportation networks. Developing a new building there also offered opportunities for Schreiber to make a visible impact on urban renewal. Downtown was economically struggling, and at the geographic center of this economic decline was Washington Commons Mall, an urban shopping center that had become a particular eyesore since it closed in 2006.

After doing extensive site surveys, Schreiber concluded that the mall would be an ideal site for its new headquarters. As Schreiber President and CEO Mike Haddad notes, “the reality is that Green Bay for many years had lost its way. It wasn’t a vibrant downtown. When Schreiber came out in 2011 and said we were going to go ahead and invest in the old mall site to build a world-class custom structure for us, it said two things: Our intention is to be here forever, and we are going to make an investment that we know is going to add beauty to this part of the city.”

Schreiber’s commitment to downtown allowed the building programming to lean on local businesses to support employees’ lifestyle and wellness needs. During programming, Schreiber evaluated which of the company’s functional needs — including fitness facilities, lecture halls, health care and other services — could be met by existing facilities within a few blocks of the new building. Schreiber then decided not to build certain single-purpose spaces within the new structure, but instead encouraged employees to support local services. Thus Schreiber relies on the local YMCA (one block away) to serve employees’ fitness needs, the public library (two blocks away) to support large gatherings and lectures, and the KI Convention Center (one block away) to accommodate group meetings and training sessions.

Urban Design

With Washington Commons Mall and an adjacent parking garage as a starting point, Schreiber transformed a blighted site into an economically vibrant one by reconnecting the street grid that had been interrupted when the mall was built in 1977, adding new street-level activity with employees coming and going, and creating public green space in an area that previously had none. 

office dining room

Schreiber partners (as the employee-owned firm refers to all staff members) use the building’s dining room all day long as a place to collaborate. Its location at the crossroads of traffic on the ground floor offers visitors a window into the company’s culture.

The design team and structural engineers determined that nearly 60 percent of the existing mall foundations under the new building footprint could be reused within a 30-by-30-foot grid without compromising the design, building performance or site orientation.

The L-shaped glass-and-limestone building addresses the rebuilt street grid by positioning a five-story wing, a four-story wing and a one-story wing within the urban context. The ground floor features expansive windows that visually open interior common spaces and corridors to the pedestrian streetscape. Buff-colored regional limestone clads the upper floors, while an all-glass fifth floor and cut-out glass corners house conference rooms, creating even more of a visual streetscape presence. The two-acre courtyard within the L offers an outdoor retreat for employees and passers-by.

Schreiber’s commitment to high standards is evident in the materials used throughout the building, which express permanence and durability. Exterior limestone panels suspended on an aluminum clip-and-rail rainscreen wall system, terrazzo floors, quarry tile, and plenty of glass all convey aesthetic quality.

A New Business Model

In tandem with its commitment to the community and the urban core, Schreiber addressed its customers and employees. Leadership sought a building that would facilitate customer relationships based on world-class R&D, promote workplace efficiency and collaboration, and express a culture of permanence and excitement.

The building is organized around programmatic adjacencies. Customers and employees enter a light-filled atrium, where a centrally located, five-story open staircase connects the floors. The narrow footprint maximizes interior daylight, as open workstations, team rooms and common spaces bring customers and employees together.

table with project stats

Throughout the structure, innovation in technology is on display, as customers experience and interact with the food production and distribution processes.

The customer application suites — a culinary R&D kitchen, commercial and residential application kitchens and a sensory suite — are located immediately below the laboratory spaces, to improve the flow of innovation and research. Staff members are able to conduct research more efficiently because of the proximity of labs, applications suites, offices and a pilot plant.

All customer-related spaces, including the pilot plant, are showpieces where employees and customers can participate in activities within the space or simply view them from outside. This is achieved through large-format glazing separating these areas from corridors. The glass creates physical separation for security and control of a specific customer’s proprietary research. The pilot plant, likewise, includes a viewing mezzanine that meets the security protocol and sanitary requirements of a food production environment.

The building also accommodates rapid change through utility distribution and quick connectivity. The pilot plant, for example, has a loop design of building services (gas, steam, water and power) located above a walkable ceiling. These services are accessible both from above, via the walkable interstitial space, as well as from hose reels and stubs in the plant itself.

The building’s state-of-the-art labs and application suites are a major step up from Schreiber’s previous R&D spaces, which often operated out of dated buildings.  

“We’ve become an accredited sensory and product testing lab,” says Tom Hedge, senior vice president of enterprise quality and food safety. “You want to be careful and you want to be precise, because the launching and the development of new products need to be near perfect so they are successful, and we now have the capabilities to do that here.”

Looking to the Future

Schreiber’s Home Office and Global Technology Center strikes a balance between the company’s history in the community and where it expects to go in the future. The building’s impact on the downtown core is already evident. Since it opened in spring 2014, several additional new developments also have helped reinvigorate the streetscape. Associated Bank has moved into new headquarters downtown, several apartment/townhouse developments are in the works, the KI Convention Center is undergoing a 30,000-square-foot expansion and the historic Hotel Northland will soon see a major renovation.

In good company with its downtown neighbors, Schreiber has achieved its business projections. “Prior to coming into this environment, we had hoped a lot of things would happen — efficiency and speed would go up, social connections would be made, and a sense of pride about the company would go to another level,” says CEO Haddad. “We have received absolute validation that all those things have occurred. If anything, I would say they exceeded our hopes.”

Most important, Schreiber has experienced a new sense of employee engagement. As one partner comments, “It’s been a real source of pride and ownership to say I work here.”

Customer Application Suites and R&D Space

Schreiber’s Home Office and Global Technology Center contains 36,100 square feet of customer application suites:

  • A 2,500-square-foot culinary R&D kitchen, where chefs work with customers on recipes and development of new products.
  • A 600-square-foot commercial application kitchen, where chefs work with commercial customers, marketing and R&D.
  • A 400-square-foot residential application kitchen, where R&D staff and chefs work with residential customers and marketing.
  • A 1,700-square-foot, 12-booth testing and group panel suite, where Schreiber staff conduct internal and external trials.
  • 800 square feet of support space (freezers, coolers and storage).
  • A 500-square-foot marketing development kitchen, where marketing staff develop food packaging and displays.
  • A 1,600-square-foot packaging laboratory, where staff develop and test packaging systems and methods.
  • 10,000 square feet of analytical, application, research and general laboratories.
  • An 18,000-square-foot pilot plant, where staff manufacture and test products.