The Kresge Foundation is located on a 3-acre campus in suburban Detroit anchored by an 1850s-era farmhouse and barn. Nestled incongruously in the shadow of towering commercial office buildings and ringed by wetlands and native plants, the headquarters features an array of energy-efficient, water-conserving and health-promoting systems designed for sustainability and productivity.
At The Kresge Foundation headquarters, a restored vintage barn, the original farmhouse and a pair of iconic windmills connect us to our past. Sustainable, green building architecture connects us to our natural environment, while smart office design connects employees to one another. And spacious convening facilities with interactive technology allow us to connect with colleagues, partners and grantees in our hometown and across the nation.
Our current Troy, Michigan, site was acquired in 1982 – a sliver of land that remained of a once-thriving 300-acre dairy farm. Rather than raze the old structures and build anew – as was happening all around the area – Kresge leaders chose to incorporate the existing structures into the headquarters’ design.
From the day it purchased the Troy property, the foundation has committed to a headquarters campus that connects with the community, the natural environment and the history of the former farmstead.
While looking for larger office space in 1982, the foundation learned that the last remnant of the historic Brooks Dairy Farm was available near its leased facilities on Big Beaver Road. With the cooperation and encouragement of the city of Troy – which had a keen interest in preserving the property’s history – Kresge acquired the land and set about restoring the original farmhouse, outbuildings and windmills. A vintage barn – in need of rescuing from redevelopment several miles away – was sold to Kresge by the city for $10 and moved to the site.
The farmhouse was built in 1852 by dairy farmer Washington Stanley, and the property changed hands only once before it was purchased by William Brooks in 1911. Most of the property was sold in parcels to developers during the 1960s. The three acres that remain today were put on the market when Brooks’ daughter, Bertha Brooks Parks, died in 1982.
The farmhouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is constructed of split-faced stone in the Greek Revival architectural style, and includes Victorian-Italianate porches.
Kresge’s decision in the 1980s to preserve the farmhouse and renovate the barn, windmills and outbuildings set the stage for a series of ever-more complex projects over the next several decades that were designed to protect the existing features of the property and integrate natural systems as part of the headquarters’ sustainable infrastructure.
Tucked amid a busy commercial district, the foundation’s pair of vintage windmills serves as a landmark along the busy corridor. The iconic towers stood sentinel over the once-thriving Brooks Dairy Farm for generations. Today their 18 angled blades still spin freely. Both were manufactured by the Aermotor Windmill Company, which introduced the brand as the high-tech “mathematical windmill” in 1888, and the model became a mainstay at farms throughout the Midwest and Plains states. Their original cement bases and moving parts have been rebuilt over the years, but the towers are original. Periodic maintenance is provided by an Amish windmill mechanic from Ohio who scales the towers – 40 and 60 feet tall – to keep them in good working order.
Kresge was building “green” before green was mainstream. Why? Put simply, Kresge believes its campus should reflect the foundation’s values of stewardship, respect, creativity, partnership and opportunity.
Two small but thriving wetland ponds nestled behind the offices are the centerpieces of a lush, green landscape peppered with native trees, grasses and plants. The wetland is an oasis of fresh water and shelter for species that have included ducks, geese, heron, fish, wild turkeys, rabbits and even a fox. Crushed stone walking paths wind throughout the landscape, which includes a wildflower and butterfly garden that attracts a menagerie of visiting creatures.
The drought-tolerant plants require no supplemental irrigation, mowing or fertilization and provide a rest station and food buffet for many animals that use the landscape to raise young, fish for minnows, and pluck sunflower seeds. Each spring, a carefully controlled prescribed burn helps manage invasive species and allows the prairie plants to regenerate.
The wetland benefits more than wildlife. It serves as a settling basin to capture and hold stormwater that otherwise would surge into the municipal sewer system. Water from the landscape and the previous parking lot design is gradually filtered through natural substrate. Excess is pumped into a cistern used to irrigate vegetation on the foundation’s green roofs.
Nature is harnessed in a myriad of innovative ways to provide much of Kresge’s heating, cooling, lighting and physical infrastructure – efforts that earned the foundation’s 2005 expansion the nation’s highest green building designation, LEED Platinum certification.
Efficiencies start with the placement of the modern office building. Much of it is embedded below-grade, cradled by a berm of soil that provides stability and natural insulation. The building is oriented to harvest daylight and reduce the need for supplemental lighting. Careful placement of the building, interior light shelves and exterior sun shades work together to maximize interior lighting while shielding occupants from direct summer sun.
Below ground, 40 geothermal wells plunge 400 feet into the earth, bringing constant 55-degree water to the facility’s three heat pumps through six miles of pipes. The system virtually eliminates the need for supplemental heating and cooling by taking advantage of the earth’s near-constant temperature.
The roofs also serve multiple roles. Four living roofs help retain stormwater, insulate the building and provide habitats for insects and birds. The remaining portions of the roof are covered in a light-colored membrane to reflect heat that might otherwise contribute to the “heat island” effect that raises temperatures in urban areas.
A 40-kilowatt, 144-panel rooftop solar array installed in 2016 is designed to generate 140 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each day, reducing the foundation’s consumption by 12 percent on average. Over the 25-year life of the system, it is expected to avoid the release of 819 metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide and offset the energy equivalent of almost 2,000 barrels of oil.
Recycled materials comprise a significant portion of the headquarters construction infrastructure, including caged stone gabion walls on the exterior that are filled with concrete demolition waste and finished with granite – an alternative to traditional concrete walls.
The tranquility of nature found on the Kresge grounds also is evident indoors, where a combination of natural and manmade amenities are part of an integrated design aimed at fostering collaboration, accommodating diverse work styles and promoting employee health.
The workspaces, common areas and building grounds are designed to foster teamwork, collaboration and creativity.
A convening center, constructed during the 2015 renovation, is the centerpiece of collaborative design. With state-of-the art multimedia technology and seating for 120, the space is filled with light from a two-story, north-facing glass wall. A room divider descends from the ceiling to create separate meeting spaces.
The convening space doubles as an informal gathering spot and lunchroom for employees patronizing the new cafeteria – also part of the 2015 expansion. The kitchen offers a variety of healthy, locally prepared meals as part of Kresge’s commitment to holistic well-being for its staff.
An open floor plan with an integrated circulation pattern connects workspaces and common areas to one another via sunlight-dappled, art-infused corridors. Glass office walls contribute to the feeling of collegiality; teaming rooms for each department provide quiet spaces for meetings and calls.
The headquarters also offers a number of spaces designed to foster informal interaction among staff including the outdoor walking paths, soft seating areas, a lounge in the barn, several kitchenettes, Sebastian’s cafeteria, and the “5&10¢” coffee nook.
Overlooking Woodward Avenue in the city’s vibrant Midtown district, The Kresge Foundation’s Detroit office is an expression of the organization’s commitment to the revitalization of our hometown and our mission to expand opportunity in America’s cities.
Kresge opened its Detroit office on the second floor of the Woodward Garden Block in Midtown 2012 as the home base for its Detroit Program. Endangered by blight, decline and urban renewal in the surrounding area, the 130-year-old building had sat vacant for more than two decades. Then came developer George Stewart, and Kresge saw the opportunity to support his vision for preserving a rich cultural history. The nearby Sugar Hill district, for instance, had once been a hub for businesses catering to and operated by African Americans; in segregated Detroit, it offered the only hotel accommodations for Blacks, notably the plush Gotham Hotel, a subsequent victim of the wrecking ball. Kresge’s investment helped Stewart save what is now a mixed-use apartment and commercial development anchored by the iconic Garden Theatre, originally the work of architect C. Howard Crane, known for Detroit’s famed Fox Theatre.
After opening with roughly 3,100 square feet in 2012, the Detroit Program’s expanding work, and the creation of the American Cities Program working in close collaboration, necessitated a major expansion to 9,200 feet in 2019. Today the modern, sophisticated office offers a library, kitchen, three conference rooms, dedicated work desks, touchdown spaces and private offices all under LED lights. Features throughout the office echo Kresge’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
Nearly 50 original artworks from metro Detroit artists are showcased in the space, ranging from abstracts to naturalistic styles in multiple artistic formats.
The exhibits serve as an extension of the foundation’s commitment to the robust local arts community and are intended to expose staff and visitors to a range of modern artistic works created in Southeast Michigan.
Grounded in our organizational values and commitment to the heart of the region, the recent expansion of the Detroit Office provides a creative working environment for grantee partners, community organizations, and Kresge staff to address community needs.