By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — After a year and half of construction, the third and final phase of Whirlpool Corp.’s Riverview Campus is complete.
Riverview was designed as a way to consolidate 15 owned and leased properties into three campuses.
Wide windows on the south side of the building allows natural light while the north side has a brick-laden facade to match that of downtown Benton Harbor. The north side is the closest to the road at 600 W. Main St.
Jeff Noel, vice president of global communications and public affairs at Whirlpool, said Riverview Campus serves as a way to bridge together the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph communities.
“The outside is designed in a way to blend in with the Main Street motif,” Noel said during a tour of the facility with The Herald-Palladium. “The (river side) has glass and is more modern and open. We wanted to maintain that same fabric and feel going forward.”
Nov. 11 holds a special date with the home appliance maker.
On Nov. 11, 1911, the Benton Harbor-based company opened its doors for the first time. On Nov. 11, 2010, Whirlpool broke ground on the beginning of what would become the Riverview Campus. Friday (another Nov. 11) marked the completion of Phase 3.
Each building that makes up the Riverview Campus has three floors. Phase 3 construction began in the summer of 2015.
Lee Utke, senior director of Global Corporate Real Estate at Whirlpool, said there was a year and a half gap between the second and third phases of the campus because Whirlpool was also concentrating on the Benton Harbor Technology Center, which now houses nearly 300 workers.
Workers from the order processing center and the integrated supply chain will move to the final portion of Riverview Campus.
By the end of this weekend, the last portion of the employees from Whirlpool’s Hilltop Road location should be moved in. Utke said by Monday, about 1,350 people will call Riverview Campus home.
A big investment
Because the BH Tech Center was not planned in 2010 when campus construction was announced, what was already considered a large investment in Benton Harbor increased by another $33 million.
Whirlpool’s total investment in Benton Harbor between 2010 and 2016 for new and renovated facilities is estimated to be $155 million.
“There was only so much activity we could absorb at one time, so that’s why we extended the delivery date by about a year than what was originally projected for this phase,” Utke said.
In the new complex, all of the conference rooms are named after different geographical locations to reflect the company becoming more global. Just like every other building and each floor on all buildings, Phase 3 of the Riverview Campus has touch screens to reveal what conference rooms are occupied or available for a meeting.
With more than 935 properties – owned and leased – consisting of 90 million square feet, Whirlpool’s final phase of the Riverview Campus is icing on the cake.
“It was originally supposed to be about 50,000 square feet, but now it’s 100,000 square feet,” Utke said, referring to the final phase. “That was based on the opportunity to bring more of the North American operation under one roof. We wanted to go for the look and feel of a more collaborative environment.”
Utke said one of the forces behind building such a campus is because they are recruiting the same people places like Silicon Valley are competing for.
The site was selected to attract the best workers and to find a central location to help the Twin Cities, Noel said. Since many of Whirlpool’s workers are millennials, the company looked for a more urban environment.
“These projects are helping us attract and retain great talent,” Noel said. “They want to be part of a resurgence in the community, just like they want to be part of an industry-leading company.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 12, 2016)