Site work underway on Blackbaud's new DI global headquarters
A new development will soon be part of Daniel Island’s ever-evolving commercial landscape – and there’s no denying the structure’s cool factor for both employees and clients.
Site work is officially underway on phase one of Blackbaud’s innovative new global headquarters, to be located on the corner of Fairchild Street and Central Island Street on the edge of the island’s town center area. The 13-acre campus will join a commercial district already bustling with construction activity related to several other projects.
A small, ceremonial groundbreaking for Blackbaud executives and other key members of the project team was planned for October 19. The future home base, which will take about 18 months to complete, is located just about a mile from the company’s existing corporate offices on Daniel Island Drive.
As Blackbaud’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Jon Olson talked about his company’s new “purpose-built” facility last week, he could hardly contain his enthusiasm for the project.
“It’s going to be so wonderful and exciting to see,” said Olson, a Daniel Island resident who has been with the company since 2008. “And we’re just thrilled about the whole thing...It’s going to be a facility that will make Daniel Island residents and Blackbaud employees proud.”
The new space will consolidate Blackbaud’s existing facility, which opened in 2000, and another overflow building off Fairchild Street, into one location. Holder Properties is the developer of the project and will lease the property back to Blackbaud. Serving as advisors on the development are Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP, led by Charleston partner Paul VanWagenen. The four-story, 172,000 square foot building planned for phase one is being designed by ASD | SKY and will be constructed by Balfour Beatty.
“This campus will be a wonderful place to work and will be an asset to Daniel Island and the whole Charleston area,” stated VanWagenen. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be finding reasons to visit the campus on a regular basis.”
So what sets this development apart? Planners point to a variety of factors, including a plethora of environmentally-sensitive features – such as car-charging stations, low energy LED lighting with occupancy sensors, the use of low volatile organic chemicals in building materials, and energy metering. In addition, the company is seeking certification as a LEED facility (Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design). On the exterior grounds, native landscaping will be incorporated as much as possible. Additionally, wood from trees cleared from the site will be used to create an outdoor deck pavilion, reception desks, and mulch for landscaping.
“The developer is removing the trees that need to be removed, because otherwise they can’t build the building,” noted Olson. “They’ve been granted approval to do so by the Board of Zoning Appeals, but we want to do it in a sensitive way…We are preserving as many (trees) as possible.”
An outdoor garden complete with fruit trees is also planned, with a portion of the produce going to local charities. Focusing on eco-friendly features and practices is a paramount part of the planning process, said Tara Stewart, Blackbaud’s director of corporate communications.
“It’s important to employees, it’s important to the developer and it’s important all around,” she said.
The structure will also be teeming with tech-savvy elements befitting Blackbaud, which serves as the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. The company provides software, services, expertise and data intelligence to its clients, which include non-profit organizations, foundations, corporations, educational institutions and individual change agents. According to Olson, there will be a Customer Technology Center specifically designed for incubating non-profits.
“That’s our mission,” he said. “We are unique. I don’t know of any company like Blackbaud whose mission is so deeply connected to non-profits. While they’re the ones really changing the world, the fact that we can enable it is just so heartwarming and this building is going to give us another tool to allow those nonprofits to emerge, to do good in the world, and to flourish.”
Also planned for the new facility are innovative ideation and collaboration spaces, as well as video conferencing capabilities, digital signage and SMART boards. Local students will also be invited to the campus to take part in Camp Blackbaud, an employee-led STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program.
“Technology-wise, it’s going to be state of the art,” said Olson, of Blackbaud’s total tech package in the new digs.
In addition, the campus will feature ergonomic work stations, game rooms, a coffee and tea bar, a modern cafeteria sourcing local foods, a fitness center, bike racks and outdoor recreation spaces such as a basketball court, bocce court, and hiking trails. From a design standpoint, look for Charleston-style characteristics, such as neutral tones that blend tabby-like materials and wood composites.
“The other thing we want to capture with it, as well as the vernacular of Charleston architecture, is we want to capture frankly it being a really cool place to work for our employees,” said Olson. “We want to have them excited to come to work…We want it to be very cutting edge in terms of what it can offer the employees and also cutting edge in terms of bringing energy and having those so called creative collisions.”
A growing company
Founded in New York in 1981, the $2.98 billion global company first announced plans for its new headquarters last May, projecting the initiative would bring some 300 new jobs to the Charleston region. Blackbaud currently employs approximately 3300 people worldwide, with about half of those positions based on Daniel Island. According to Stewart, the company has added an average of 400 to 500 staff members each year since 2011. Blackbaud became a publicly traded company 12 years ago.
“That’s pretty cool,” added Olson. “It’s really a wonderful success story.”
Both Olson and Stewart acknowledged the support of officials from South Carolina, Berkeley County and the City of the Charleston in providing an attractive incentive package to them for expanding in their operations in the Lowcountry.
“Their support was instrumental in making the project come to life,” said Olson. “We had a lot of choices, but this really is our home and we’re happy that it all worked out. We’re very pleased with the incentive package they put together…We could have gone anywhere in the United States. These are good, meaty high tech jobs that people love to have in their communities.”
Built into the campus plans is room for expansion, noted Olson. Phase two, which could start after phase one is complete, calls for another 170,000 square foot building as well as a parking garage. That project will be located on the corner of River Landing and Fairchild Street.
“One of the things we purposefully did was try to be flexible for growth,” he said. “Because maybe we’ll need a slightly bigger building or a slightly smaller building, and maybe there will be new trends…We just don’t know. We need to assess what our needs (will be) at that time.”
For now, Blackbaud officials and supporting team members are focused on the project at hand. Current site preparations will be followed by foundation work, construction and landscaping. Employees are expected to begin moving in around January of 2018. So far, everything is progressing on schedule, said Olson.
“We’ve been hitting our marks…Everything is coming together. We have a wonderful team…This building is going to be a labor of love.”