A tech company brings a dose of fun and funk to the city’s oldest commercial building
Written by Joe O’Donnell
Photography by Edward Badham
Kinetic Communications’ Jay Brandrup finds it hard to contain his enthusiasm during a tour of his Morris Avenue office space. After all, there is the caboose reception area to consider, as well as the authentic English railway signs and telephone box and the kaleidoscope of lights illuminating the repurposed bar and the lucite floor that anchors the centerpiece office cube. The cube rises two stories and houses eight customizable workstations to allow Kinetic employees to both interact and focus on turning out work for the company’s clients.
Inside the glass and brick-walled conference room, two 1,500-pound train wheels and axles hold up the table. Off to the side, a long custom heart pine bench gently rocks back and forth as it rests on massive railcar springs. Outside a steel staircase leads to the rooftop covered in synthetic turf and outfitted with seating, golf games, and a giant lawn chess set. Set in the steel staircase at intervals is the Kinetic logo. “Details, details,” Brandrup says.
Attention to detail is at the heart of Brandrup’s business developing websites and tech applications for a roster of corporate, retail, and nonprofit clients. His company, Kinetic, is in its 21st year, a history that stretches back to the dawn of the Internet era. He finds the juxtaposition of his modern-world company housed in the oldest commercial building still standing and in use in the city nothing short of invigorating.
Kinetic’s office space is a combination of the 10,000-square-foot Dixie Coffee Company building and the adjacent restaurant space from the 1970s that was home to one of the most interesting theme restaurants of that era, Victoria’s Station (purveyors of prime rib and potable spirits). The space was later a succession of nightclubs, the last one closing in 2010.
Melding these two spaces into one became the job of Appleseed Workshop, a design/build company that has had a hand in many of the renovations and adaptive reuses of commercial spaces downtown. The Kinetic space was an early project for the company and one that displays their belief in the authenticity and creative reuse of quality space. “If we did one thing right in building out this space, it was choosing and then listening to Appleseed,” Brandrup says. “They did everything right.”
Authenticity is a major focus of the work Brandrup does. The web user experience, the messaging that brings his client’s business into focus, and the belief that understanding client needs and then servicing them with clear solutions spring from this belief in authentic experiences and relationships. Kinetic’s office space, grounded in the last years of the 19th century, gives physical meaning to that philosophical belief in the authentic. Brandrup has had his office on Morris Avenue since 1997, with his original rented space just doors down from his current office. He bought the current space out of foreclosure at the end of 2011 and began the restoration work shortly thereafter.
One of the most important elements in the space is a sense of play in the midst of the work day. The second floor of the building and the outdoor rooftop are devoted to making the office an enjoyable refuge as well as work space. You’ll find billiards and video games, workout space with exercise machines, and a large communal kitchen. Illuminating it all is an abundance of light created by Appleseed’s plan for the restoration, flushing what once a darkened warehouse and entertainment space with plenty of natural sunshine. At the very top of the building, visible from the viaducts that cross the city from north to south, is a readaptation of an original weathervane with a cube of Kinetic’s logo encasing this ancient method of determining which way the wind blows. For Kinetic the direction home points to this authentic, cobblestone corner of downtown.