by Maya Smith
ServiceMaster Global Holdings, Inc. has begun bringing life to the vacant Peabody Place structure as it moves its global headquarters from East Memphis to the heart of Downtown.
With the repurposing of a once booming mall and the presence of more than 1,000 employees being added to the neighborhood, the aesthetics and economy alike of Downtown Memphis are being impacted.
In June 2016, the company announced the signing of a 15-year lease to occupy the space that stands adjacent to The Peabody, a block from bustling Beale Street to its south and the Redbirds’ home at AutoZone Park to its north.
The company is in the process of renovating and transforming Peabody Place from an empty mall into a state-of-the-art office space that will house all three of its business segments: American Home Shield, Terminix, and its Franchise Services Group, which includes the brands AmeriSpec, Furniture Medic, Merry Maids, ServiceMaster Clean, and ServiceMaster Restore.
The $35 million renovation is expected to wrap up this year, with 1,200 employees moving into the building by the end of 2017.
Mark Herbison, senior vice president of the Greater Memphis Chamber, says that ServiceMaster’s move “is going to be transformative. The city has not seen anything of this magnitude in years.”
The Chamber has played a significant role in bringing about the changes. Herbison’s economic development team coordinated with partner agencies to persuade ServiceMaster to stay in Shelby County.
He says the addition of more than a thousand well-paid employees working Downtown will stimulate the entertainment and food industries, from Beale Street to the Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid, to the South Main area, and possibly reaching as far as Overton Square.
Coupled with the expansion of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Herbison says Downtown will, in the next decade, be barely recognizable with the addition of condos, apartments, restaurants, and shops.
There are plans to redo the nine blocks between Bass Pro and St. Jude, which includes street re-pavings, better street lighting, and improved sidewalks. Additionally, Foote Homes is set to be redeveloped into single-family homes, condos, and apartments.
Because of the increasing professional opportunities and improvements in the city, Herbison feels that more and more young people will choose to stay in or move to Memphis.
“Every time we redevelop something, it helps our ability to bring new young, educated people here,” he says. “Memphis is a tremendously affordable, cool city with rich history, a nice vibe, and hip places. And it’s a place you can make a difference.”
The pull to Peabody Place
“We’re steps away from famous Beale Street and within a few blocks of the Mississippi River,” says Michael Wassmer, ServiceMaster communications manager. “Employees won’t be able to walk far from the office without tripping over multiple restaurants and shops.”
Why Peabody Place? Wassmer says other than its prime location, the sheer size of the building was very attractive, as ServiceMaster is one of the biggest leasers in Memphis and needed a space large enough to fit all of its employees under one roof.
Peabody Place Mall, owned by Belz Enterprises, currently spreads an entire city block, from Second Street to B.B. King Boulevard, between Gayoso Avenue and Peabody Place.
“Peabody Place is a four-level, 340,000-square-foot structure in the heart of Downtown that perfectly suited our needs,” says Wassmer.
He says the high priority to find a space large enough for all of ServiceMaster’s employees is rooted in the company’s desire to enter into a new era of innovation, customer service, and performance, in which collaboration is crucial.
The new office space will now allow for employees from all of ServiceMaster’s different business segments to work under the same roof, which will increase collaboration and practice sharing across the business.
“We wanted to create an environment that would help accelerate our digital transformation and spark the company’s growth for years to come,” says Wassmer. “It was the right time and Memphis was the right place.”
The Innovation hub, a 20,000-square-foot space, will serve as a collaborative workspace to showcase the company’s businesses and serve as an incubator for local entrepreneurs and internet technology developers. The idea is to create an innovation magnet that can attract high-tech talent and investment to Memphis, and possibly to ServiceMaster.
The space, opening mid-year, is the first part of the project to go live.
Inside, workshops will be held for innovators within the organization to provide opportunities for employees to explore their ideas, empowering them to pick apart internal processes and search for smarter ways to work.
“If an idea garners support, we’ll provide workspace and treat the group like a lean startup so they can quickly research and determine the next steps,” says Wassmer.
The space will also be available for external home service brands, startups, and entrepreneurs. The goal is for internal and external groups to work side-by-side — providing a unique crossover opportunity that leaders at ServiceMaster think will drive high performance, encourage innovation, and attract and retain great talent.
It’s designed with a wall of windows for pedestrians passing by to peek in on the innovation and there will be an event space in which ServiceMaster hopes to host a variety of technical events for the general public as well as local schools, such as hackathons, technology presenters, and technology meet-ups.
The group behind the space
Flintco, the construction company that built FedExForum and renovated and expanded the National Civil Rights Museum in 2014, is the general contractor for the $35 million in renovations at ServiceMaster’s new space.
Chris Chastain, who is responsible for business development at Flintco, says the company is proud of its history in Memphis and when the opportunity to work with ServiceMaster came along, Flintco felt honored to jump on the project.
“It just makes sense that a local firm would be the construction manager and general contractor on a project that means so much to Memphis and Downtown,” says Chastain. “The ServiceMaster project is special because it will transform not only the corner of Peabody Place and B.B. King Boulevard, but the landscape of Downtown.”
Chastain says Flintco is committed to hiring local subcontractors and vendors, which has created several jobs for local workers in the Peabody Place project.
“The men and women working on site are from here,” he says. “There’s a lot of pride knowing that this project means a lot to Memphis and we are putting Memphians to work.”
Yea or Nay?
Terence Patterson, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission, says after ServiceMaster was courted by multiple markets around the United States, it was a huge win for Memphis to retain them.
“To have them become an anchor in the Downtown Core is something the Downtown Memphis Commission doesn’t take lightly,” says Patterson. “We believe we are building the most employee-friendly, amenity-heavy office campus in the region and having ServiceMaster here really pushes us to continue to create an even better experience for everyone working and living in Downtown Memphis.”
Patterson adds that the additional 1,000-plus employees that ServiceMaster will bring Downtown daily will be a boost for the economy.
“Adding another thousand people to the daytime population will be great for the Downtown economy,” says Patterson. “Our restaurants, retailers, and service providers are all excited for the opportunity to serve their community. And our real estate agents and apartment communities are more than ready to put out the welcome mats.”
Ken Taylor, the executive director of the Beale Street Merchants Association, says he along with other members of the association are excited to have ServiceMaster as their soon-to-be neighbors.
Taylor says Downtown will continue to grow and thrive, and with the addition of ServiceMaster more people are expected to move to the area.
“People like to live where they work, especially millennials. More people will move Downtown and shop and better the city’s economy,” says Taylor.
Additionally, Taylor says the new space, being transformed from an empty building, looks great and works well for the Downtown aesthetic.
As the area continues to develop and grow, adding new bars and restaurants, more young people, millennials specifically are moving Downtown.
ServiceMaster is not specifically interested in attracting millennials, but hopes to attract the best talent. But with the new location and technology-advanced new office space, millennials seem likely to gravitate toward the company.
Wassmer believes that a modern, unique workspace will help attract and retain talent.
The new office space will be a “digital-first workspace,” according to Wassmer.
“Attracting best-in-class talent is always part of our strategy. Between the location, the office space, the unique innovation, and technology center, we feel the move will support our diverse recruitment efforts,” says Wassmer.
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