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Whatever your vision of Detroit, it doesn’t come close to Dan Gilbert’s. For the past few years, the founder of Quicken Loans has been doggedly buying properties downtown, betting big on the Motor City.

To date, Rock Ventures, the parent company of Quicken Loans, has purchased more than 30 buildings in the central city. Plans call for housing all of Quicken Loans’ Michigan-based team members downtown, occupying portions of multiple buildings to help revitalize the urban core.

Rock Ventures’ real estate strategy is so visionary it comes with its own brand—Opportunity Detroit—and includes plans to reintroduce a critical mass of retail, restaurants, and housing.

All things considered, Opportunity Detroit amounts to “one of the most ambitious privately financed urban reclamation projects in American history.” So says MIT professor Brent D. Ryan, author of Design After Decline: How America Rebuilds Shrinking Cities.

“We’ve made Detroit our home,” says Melissa Price, director of facilities for Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online mortgage lender. “And we intend to help recreate the Detroit that’s meant to be here.” Price also heads dPOP!, the design team charged with outfitting Quicken's spaces.

BRIGHT, NOT BEIGE

Quicken Loans has furnished its Detroit home—multiple homes, actually—mostly with Herman Miller furniture.

“We want the inside of our buildings to be every bit as transformative as what’s happening to the downtown streetscape,” Price says. “To make that happen, we need to work with people who are thinking about the future of the workplace.”

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Canvas Office Landscape panels spur communication by keeping work areas open. Everywhere Tables and Embody Chairs are standard.

That means not just Herman Miller, but also some of the top interior designers in metro Detroit. Quicken Loans tends to select a different designer for each renovation, but all of its spaces end up sharing three traits—fun, vibrant, and stimulating.

“We’re bright, not beige,” Price says. She means culture as much as color. Tour the company’s downtown facilities, and you’ll run across things like pool tables, putting greens, and ping pong, amenities that already might be considered old-school cool.

But around the next corner, you’re likely to spot something so quirky it could only be Quicken Loans. How about blowing off some steam with a slushy and some popcorn? Or grabbing a chew from a seven-foot gumball machine? Or perhaps cruising around the office in an adult-size Big Wheel? One high-rise occupied by Quicken Loans even boasts an indoor basketball court with a spectacular view overlooking downtown.

“Quicken Loans is creating something fun and exciting for the Gen X and Y talent they recruit,” says Rick Reid, a Herman Miller territory manager. “They’re merging culture and space in a way that’s making them one of the most desirable places to work in the country.”

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The lobby of one Quicken Loans high-rise includes classics like Eames Molded Plywood Chairs, Eames Walnut Stools, and a Noguchi Table.

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Quicken Loans welcomes guests with distinctive lobby seating like this Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman and Nelson Coconut Lounge Chair.

THE THREE ASPECTS OF ERGONOMICS

When it comes to furniture, Quicken Loans’ desire to support a high-energy workplace is rivaled only by its interest in ergonomics, making sure there’s a healthy and supportive fit between the person and his or her furnishings. Most team members are equipped with Embody Chairs, Everywhere Tables, and Flo Monitor Supports, all part of Herman Miller’s Thrive Portfolio of ergonomic products.

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Versatile Setu Chairs are used in various applications that require short-term seating.

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Flo Monitor Supports allow team members to nudge their monitors into the ideal ergonomic position.

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Swoop Lounge Furniture helps team members connect in comfort in a Quicken Loans collaboration area.

The highly adjustable Embody Chair survived what Price calls a “hard-core audition process” to become the company’s standard, in part because the first installation of 1,700 chairs produced only three doubters.

“It’s crazy hard to find one chair that can please thousands of people,” Price says. “Embody does it better than anything else we evaluated. Our team members rave about it.”

Everywhere height-adjustable tables give team members the ability to move within their workspace by alternating between sitting and standing, making the workday less sedentary and—here’s that word again—more energetic.

The third aspect of ergonomics is completed by Flo Monitor Supports, which use patented geometric spring technology to permit precision adjustment of computer screens with minimal effort.

Each time Quicken Loans moves into a building, Herman Miller consultants conduct workshops to help team members take full advantage of the ergonomics at their disposal.

“We explain that they’re getting a complete solution,” says Bob Cichocki, an account executive with Herman Miller dealer Facility Matrix Group. “The adjustable chair, work surface, and monitor arm work together to give them the finest ergonomic foundation available.”

In most of the company’s offices, Everywhere Tables are partially wrapped by low Canvas Office Landscape panels, which keep work areas open and encourage collaboration. Mobile Meridian storage units are another staple. They ease moves and changes since team members can just push them to their new location. Topped with cushions, they also can be used as guest seating.

“We want to create an environment that inspires our people,” Price says. “There’s a new sense of energy in downtown Detroit, and it absolutely needs to be reflected inside our workplaces.”

Photo credit: David Ellison

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Cushion-topped Meridian storage units provide a convenient seat for quick conversations.

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