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Melissa Price and Detroit’s dPOP continue to reinvent the way downtown Detroit workers make and do

|This article appeared originally in the February 2016 edition of Bellow Press|

By John Q. Horn

The physical aesthetics of the American workplace has transformed.

Enormous, glass-encased conference rooms, hideaway work pods, popcorn machines and pinball are the new beige. Functionality, design and how a company introduces its story to visitors has superseded the significance of the receptionist’s desk.

And nobody exemplifies that reinvention more than Melissa Price and her Detroit-based company, dPOP

We say, “her company,” because Price is the CEO. But dPOP rests comfortably under the umbrella of ownership of billionaire and Founder and Rock Holdings and Quicken Loans, Dan Gilbert. He also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. And at some point of every busy day, he makes it a point to let team members know that they have value. Gilbert’s CEOs, VPs and others do the same. To call is “rah-rah” is being tame. Rock Holdings not only includes Quicken Loans, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Fathead, there are corporate sponsorship relationships with NASCAR, The PGA Tour and the Detroit Lions.

Gilbert set the standard for development in downtown Detroit when, in 2010, he relocated his suburban mortgage company headquarters in the middle of a drowsy Central Business District, its bored workers and overwhelming plentitude of empty, aging skyscrapers.

 

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In five years, Gilbert would sire 92 companies and acquire dozens of buildings in and around central downtown, while spending more than $2 billion in the process. And it all started, much like dPOP!, when the company moved in to the former Compuware Building in Campus Martius Park at the city’s urban core.

When that building opened, it marked a landmark unveiling for Price and her Facilities team. It would lead to the formation of dPOP, ushering in a new jack movement fortifying downtown Detroit and establishing sustainability for generations.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

For Price, that includes not only the recent transplants now working downtown but to those stalwarts who have always been here. She said she recognizes that calling Detroit’s growth-resurrection a “comeback,” could be considered by many as a poor choice of words.

“It’s not a rebirth,” she said. “There are so many community members who have cared and curated through the years. They’ve been here the whole time.”

She earned the crown when she moved downtown last year, setting up shop in a renovated Albert Kahn-designed apartment building, The Albert, blocks from dPOP’s stunning space, The Vault.

“Living downtown is a great bit of pride,” she said. “Not only is my business downtown, but I live here too.”

And what a business. What an amazing, significant, necessary business operation she leads and guides. During the most dismal years, downtown Detroit office space had a 47-percent occupancy rate. That number is rapidly on the uptick, with more than 150,000 people working downtown, including 15,000 who, like Price, work for Gilbert-owned companies.

People Matter

Its swell became noticeable to outsiders with Gilbert moving Quicken Loans to the Compuware Building from suburb to city in 2010, just two years after an pic mortgage crisis that fed like a host virus on the nation’s crippling recession.

“That was a tough time,” Price said. “Dan made sure that the emphasis was ‘every single minute, every day, every lever we can pull, we need to make sure our clients are safe and happy.’

“They were strategizing on caring about the people-side first.”

Gilbert was committed to moving downtown, irrespective of the commercial housing market. And Price’s facilities and purchasing knowledge would have a role so significant in that transition that it can be described only as hemispheric in its size and scope.

“There was a lot of energy and passion behind that move,” Price said. “Compuware was the first building.”

Bedrock, Gilbert’s massive property management company, now holds clean title to 85 buildings.

But in her salad days, Price, who was raised in Florida and moved to Detroit at age 21, started with Quicken in IT on the help desk. She would later advance to IT project management.

Positions morph. Companies grow and adapt, and Price did just that.

“I was doing all of the purchasing and contract buying,” she said, of outside vendors and assorted tradespeople. That experience proved invaluable when it was time to move. In terms of equipment, space, design and functionality, she knew exactly what everyone needed.

 

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Price and her team took all 500 employees, to a crosstown move that, years later, would later usher in 15,000 company team members.

In crafting the look of Compuware, Price shattered conventional design expectations and assumptions of the brave new workplace. Beaming, bold colors rage in in a pop-out work pod with a killer view that can hold only only three people. Cool, soothing-colored walls do their work in a different space, maybe a roomy, built-for-12 conference room. Price embedded casual and comfortable work concepts that married up to prominent levels of functionality. Dynamic and inspiring breakout work spaces. Transparent conference rooms. Isolated work areas where it’s quiet and calm as you employees need it to be. Commanding color schemes in high-use kitchens keep you awake. A high-end cafeteria with every taste and lifestyle sated is at the read. The world’s largest indoor water structure is sin the lobby. You should see the nap pod.

It was so impressive, other companies wanted a tour.

“As all of that was happening, companies wanted to tour our building,” Price said. “This was all day. It turned in to a full-time job.”

The more outside decision-makers saw of the space Price and her team created, the more they liked. And they wanted Price to do something similar for them. dPOP then was birthed.

When Bedrock buys a mothballed skyscraper, Price and her crew are the first to walk through, and commence strategizing on how to convert previously unused space into something magnificent. Nearly mummified, these countless structures still retain rich architectural DNA and unrivaled hand-crafted detail.

That’s when the ideas start. And it results in plans, execution and installation, conceptualizing and deep-diving to the core of what the company represents. Price eventually reveals a space that ultimately looks like no place you’ve ever worked, coupled with the functionality unlike anywhere you’ve ever been. And this, from a heap of empty office space most people wrote off.

“To be able to walk through and see those spaces, to bring it back, the craftsmanship, the trades; not everyone gets to unravel something like that,” Price said. “That’s a real honor. We are the first to work on it. It’s stunning, it’s humbling, to be able to figure out how to bring a building back.”

 

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Working for Gilbert, Price and her Facilities team where charged with one building that would later into 85 buildings. That’s a lot of conference rooms, kitchens, restrooms, elevators, work stations, storage and parking.

Jennifer Gilbert is Chairperson of dPOP, wife of Dan Gilbert and deeply embedded in these massive undertakings.

“I am always inspired by Melissa Price’s creativity and passion for designing spaces that are both innovative and purposeful. With her guidance, the dPOP team is revolutionizing the environments in which people live, work and play. dPOP’s designs are far more than just pretty spaces; they foster innovation and collaboration for those who work in them.

“At dPOP, our clients are as diverse as the industries from which they originate. One common thread across the board, however, is the importance placed on culture. Our work fosters vibrant company cultures and vibrant company cultures help businesses thrive.”

|images courtesy of dPOP|

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By John Q. Horn

The holidays are nearing, and first up on the calendar is Thanksgiving. You can smell the bird roasting in the oven. You can nearly taste the pumpkin pie. You can, well, you can cut the tension with a knife is what you can do.

Loathe the holidays or not, Thanksgiving is the gateway drug to the late-December madness that can either add to the already existing glow in your heart, or heap massive fuel to that fireball of rage you call an attitude.

Either way, you need a blueprint. Holidays hit Defcon-4 for folks because people go in without a roadmap.  Make it easy on yourself, and those around you, should you have any consideration for them. And if you lack consideration for those around you, you’re probably some miserable bastard whose going to be lonering it in your unkempt, furnished apartment for the day, watching the Lions lose.

What is the most stressful part of Thanksgiving? For many, aside from travel-related headaches, it’s dealing with family members. And why are we stressed? Because we have an underlying resentment toward some, or all, of our family members. And this is resentment that we never bother reconciling. Put everyone together in the same room and the tension hangs like a lead curtain.

The late-November holiday is meant to inspire us to reflect on the components in our lives for which we are grateful, or thankful, or however you choose to identify it. While we should be happy to be alive and have a roof over our heads, we choose to snipe and trade passive-aggressive mind-fuckery with our siblings and other relatives. Don’t be the one who buys into it. Here’s how:

Make a plan

Nathan Moore is a licensed counselor at Moore and Associates on Connor Avenue in Detroit. He says that holidays become problematic because people enter them without a plan.  Thanksgiving is a prime example. When stressed out among family, people overcompensate by over-eating or getting absolutely hammered. You don’t have to immediately process that snide comment from your brother when you have half a loaf of banana bread crammed down your throat or are pummeling your fifth Jack and Coke, and it’s not even kickoff. Moore suggests people plan ahead.

“Before the holiday, set up a plan,” Moore says. “Set up an eating plan. ‘What will I substitute for fattening foods? If I plan on drinking, am I going to have a designated driver?’ Set this up before the holidays, so as they unfold, you have a plan in place.”

Be proactive

Have a beef with your old man or younger sister? Be a grown-up for once in your life, pick up the phone and settle it. Take the high road and make it easy on yourself.  If you reach out and they still behave reprehensively, then it’s on them. You did your part and you can move from the living room to the dining room with a clean soul. You have three choices with respect to Thanksgiving-related familial stress. You can either bend over and keep taking in a manner akin to prison sex. You can be respectfully assertive and communicate your concerns to the people who need to hear it. Or, finally, you can just stay home. If you can’t hang for five hours with the people who have known you longer than anyone else, if it’s that much work and that stressful, then stay home.  And do so with authority. Call your family and tell them you’ll see them at Christmas. And if they ask why, tell them. “Real Detroit Weekly said I should man up. This is I, manning up.”

Let someone else cook

If you host, you know it’s a lot of work. Depending on the size of your family, it can be short of a nightmare. The bird alone requires an incredible amount of time and attention. Cleaning the house, making the rest of the food and managing the household can take its toll. And we haven’t even approached the clean-up stage yet. Make it easy on yourself and either have the family meet at a local restaurant, or have the holiday catered. I know, I know, you’re not an entertainment venue and “catering” is something that most assuredly is not in your vocabulary, let alone your budget. Please, trust us.

Restaurants all around metro Detroit are ready to help. And Pronto! in Royal Oak is no exception. For 18 years, Jim Domanski says the restaurant has been catering Thanksgiving dinner for customers with great response. This year, you can feed a party of 10 for $125. In return, you get a pre-cooked, 15-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, cranberry relish, dinner rolls, and a pumpkin pie. Pre-order by 11/22 and pick up the goods at either their downtown Royal Oak location or corporate office (on Normandy Court in north Royal Oak).

“It’s really easy and really, really simple,” Domanski says. “Just warm it up when you’re ready. It takes 20 minutes to prepare a turkey dinner. Just preorder and pick up.”

It’s a good bet one of your favorite restaurants could be open Thanksgiving, saving you time, hassle and dishpan hands. Now, get your head right, stand up to your family and eat up.

Published originally by Real Detroit Weekly Magazine

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