Lowe Foundation headquarters celebrates with open housePublished 5:58pm Sunday, December 16, 2012
CASSOPOLIS — Edward Lowe Foundation hosted a public open house on sunny Friday afternoon to show off its new headquarters.
The month-old facility with offices for 24 employees replaces a building largely destroyed by fire in January 2011, though a family montage that fell beneath drywall survived well enough for the original 1991 artist to restore scorched areas.
Although two sections of the old building were salvaged (and renovated into an archives center with offices for researchers, along with a laundry center and storage), employees worked from temporary digs spread across the foundation’s 2,600-acre campus for many months.
“I’m extremely proud of how our staff rallied and adapted during this interim,” says Darlene Lowe, the foundation’s chairman and a former interior decorator, “but it’s wonderful to be back under one roof again.”
Her office, which Bob Cochrane and Sandi Hoger of the Council on Aging are exiting, features a telescope, Ed’s collection of wristwatches and another of coal miner tags.
Darlene’s son, Doug, deals in antiques. Her son Dan, who is ambling down the hall, is Gov. Rick Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality director and served as agriculture director for Govs. John Engler and Jennifer Granholm.
Since 2005, he was president and chief operating officer of the Edward Lowe Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship and helps second-stage business owners accelerate growth for their companies.
An unusual number of maps and globes adorn the building. Even the restroom is of note. A dilapidated truck door painted with “Sanford and Son” hangs in the men’s room.
“I worked for Ed, who was unique and interesting, for five years,” said Barbara Groner’s sister, Nancy Goodrich, who joined the staff in 1988. “He and my dad were born the same year. I had been here a week and I was on a plane to a board meeting in Sarasota, Fla. I worked at Clark Equipment Co. for 10 years, then I stayed home with my kids. Ed and I got along great because he liked local people, and I was from Wakelee.”
The new headquarters is located closer to the foundation’s entrance at 58220 Decatur Road. Troyer Group of South Bend, Ind., provided design-build services, and the new building incorporates numerous energy-efficient features, such as a geothermal heating and cooling system and a unique insulation system. Aesthetics include modern furnishings, lots of natural light and vistas of surrounding prairie and woodlands.
At 13,000 square feet, the new building which resembles the Tower of Tomorrow retreat center in Billieville is about the same size as the old one; however, its interior design and circular traffic flow make it feel more spacious and enables greater employee interaction.
It’s also a bit of a museum, with framed cat calendar pages and news articles detailing the rise of Kitty Litter along the corridors, such as a 1973 Daily News front page about Jones coming back as a tourist destination.
The old headquarters building was originally built in the late ’70s as a barn for a black angus cattle program Ed Lowe ran, according to 32-year veteran Mike McCuistion, the foundation’s vice president of physical resources.
“Even though we expanded and renovated it over the years, the new HQ is quite a step up,” he says. “Instead of trying to continually adapt a building, this facility has been designed specifically for our needs.”
Though winding up as executive director since 1998, Mark Lange mingled with visitors.
Penny Lewandowski has been promoted to vice president of entrepreneurship and strategic direction.
In addition to touring the new building, guests could learn more about the legacy of Ed Lowe, along with the foundation’s current entrepreneurship and land stewardship programs, by color-coded displays created especially for the event.
Dowagiac was well-represented, with City Manager Kevin Anderson, Mayor Pro Tem Leon Laylin, City Clerk Jim Snow, Dick Judd of Judd Lumber Co. and his daughter, Beth Cripe of Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, among those checking it out.