A Historic New Habitat

Two stories collide inside 210 East Eighth St. The story of Purple Land Management (as told by Jack Z. Smith in the Spring 2016 issue of FW Inc.) and the rich history of the Winfield Place building. As a side note: We don’t usually cover a company two issues in a row. But, when we saw the new Purple Land Management office space, we knew it was worthy of breaking the rules. It’s just that good.

Purple Land Management bought the historic Winfield Place building at the end of 2014 and has spent the last year retrofitting it into its dream headquarters.

Built in 1918, it was the first parking garage in downtown Fort Worth, built to accommodate what was planned as the Winfield Hotel and later opened as the Texas Hotel. In 1981, the building was converted into an office building for an engineering firm. Among all the changes, the building is perhaps most well known as the once home to nightclub/café/bar Embargo. The Cuban-themed club was forced to close after 80 years of business when Purple bought the building.

But, the ghost of Cuban sandwiches past can still be felt in the space that’s now home to a large first-floor cafeteria and lounge area for employees. Parks Pantry outfitted the space with a micro-market stocked with snack and lunch items. Employees are set up with an account so they can buy their provisions with just a thumbprint.

It’s that kind of history-meets-high-tech vibe that can be found throughout the building.

When co-founder Jesse Hejny met me (in purple socks, loafers and a purple button down), we immediately stepped into the conference room. It’s a sleek space with glass walls and a large flat screen. And then we started levitating. What looks like a conference room, set behind a large receptionist desk, is also a working freight elevator.

Hejny said they interviewed three different people, and the first two breezed by the elevator without giving it a second thought. Then, Michael Bennett of Bennett Benner Partners arrived. He said, “No, I think we should make that an elevator conference room,” Hejny recalled. “I said, What did you say? I said to him, that is the coolest idea I've ever heard. And then we hired him on the spot.” Henjy says the concept ultimately became the most expensive part of the project. While on the “elevator conference room,” as it’s been dubbed, your eyes are drawn to the glass walls that reveal the inner workings of the elevator shaft. “This is where you come when you really want to take an idea to the next level,” said Hejny. Look up and you’ll see exactly what he means. The logo for Overdrive, PLM’s new data management software system, covers the ceiling.

The moving conference room is just one of many gems among the 37,000-square-foot space. Muckleroy & Falls, the contractor on the project, also preserved the gears from the original freight elevator. One is used as a base for the coffee table in the waiting area, and another is incorporated into the receptionist desk.

The second floor of the Purple Land Management office sits mostly vacant, with a sea of empty purple-hued, shared workspaces surrounded by private offices. When the building is at capacity, the workspaces will be filled with petroleum landmen. It’s a sign of the future, but also a sign of current conditions for any oil and gas company. Hejny and Cortney designed the space for oil at its best and for the building to be 100 percent owner occupied. It can comfortably house more than 250 employees. Floor two also has odes to the past. The original parking spot numbers still grace the exposed concrete ceiling beams.

Each private office, located around the perimeters of floors two and three, mimics both the history of the building and the feel of the company with magnetic whiteboards, exposed brick walls and new interior windows that replicate the historic exterior windows.

“Brian’s style is more modern, and I’m more rustic so the designer tried to combine those elements throughout the building,” said Hejny.

Both owners were football players at TCU, and their common past can also be seen in the stairwells. The numbers identifying the floors look like yard-line markers on the football field. The stairs will eventually be outfitted with Purple Land Management branding and past marketing and press materials. The decorated space will encourage employees to take the stairs between the three floors in an effort to encourage health and wellness.

The grand tour ends in the executive suites on floor three. The area houses Hejny and Cortney’s offices. Cortney’s office is modern and sleek; Hejny’s is outfitted with his signature industrial style with brown leather chairs and a stand-up desk. The suite is also home to a small conference room, one admin and a luxurious executive bathroom. “There’s a story behind it,” Hejny said.

The story starts with their roots in an unassuming building where money and space were tight but dreams were big. The first Purple Land Management office was in an old building off of Hulen where the A/C was so unreliable it often blew hot air during summer months. Add to that, the elevators broke one summer day when clients were in the office, forcing them to walk up six flights of stairs. Finally, there were 100 landmen sharing one restroom. “We decided two things that day. Number one, we would eventually have our own building in our own office space. And, two, that we would have our own restroom,” Hejny said.

But, the biggest accomplishment might be the Millennial-friendly environment the building affords. While most energy companies stick to the basics, monotone colors and a corporate environment, the Purple Land Management founders have made company culture a priority from day one. The space they envisioned became a true reality during their first week in the building. Hejny says it was the second round of March Madness.

“They say the first two days of the tournament are two of the least productive workdays of the year. So we decided to embrace it instead of fight it,” said Hejny. “We ordered pizza and turned the TVs on. Everyone came down here and watched and played shuffle board,” he continued. “That’s when we realized we had actually created the culture we had dreamed of.”