[Bell Bank Merges with Warner and Co.]
Story by Alyssa Nishek
Photography provided by Dan Francis Photography
With the merging of two deeply rooted institutions of the Fargo community, like Warner and Co. and Bell Bank, comes the need for a suitable workspace to house the new entity.
This downtown space, with its close proximity to the Fargo Theater, originally housed Warner and Co. The first renovation of the facility took place fifteen years prior and was done by Brian Berg of Zerr Berg Architects, who would also come to be the principal architect on the recent renovation. Just shy of thirty employees, the expansive four-story building was seemingly non-sensical for Warner and Co., so a decision was made to move their space exclusively to the third floor and renovate the rest to be prime real estate for tenants. However, timing as it may be, proved to have other plans for the space. Upon the merge with Bell Bank, each floor of the building became thoroughly occupied.
The front elevation of the building gives it an altogether new presence on Broadway. The addition of a vertical window and an iridescent look provided by the back lit metal panels offers a contemporary feel to the streetscape of Bell Insurance.
Brian Zerberg spoke on the new streetscape saying, “We took an existing building with a relatively rigid façade and added some playfulness to it that really made it a landmark on Broadway.”
A brick mural of Bell Bank’s logo was made to replace the previous Warner sign.
Balcony on Broadway
Brian Hayer, Managing Director at Bell Insurance, felt the impending itch to construct a rooftop patio, because of the building’s brilliant location on Fargo’s booming downtown Broadway. Hayer felt the space, equipped with a barbecue and TVs, would serve as a place to entertain clients as well as be enjoyed by Bell Insurance’s employees. And how could it not with the iconic Fargo Theatre sign hanging just a mere 20 feet away and a direct view of the grand Block 9 building?
Fourth Floor Break Room
“To add structure above an occupied building in downtown Fargo was a challenge of itself,” said Brian Berg on the creation of Bell Insurance’s fourth floor. The floor serves as a breakroom and walkout to the outdoor patio space.
This shared space boasts vibrant floor tiling and high ceiling millwork rich with character, creating a bright ambience.
The colorful artwork featured in this space was done by John Borge, an artist local to Fargo.
To take advantage of the stairwell being in the front of the building, Brian Berg proposed the idea for opening the space up and installing windows that would overlook Broadway.
Lining the stairwell up to the fourth floor is artwork created from acoustic panels, also a creation of local artist, John Borge. The artwork features photos of downtown including the previous Warner and Co. office.
“We tried to find a way to make pieces of art out of materials that were necessary for the space”, explained Amanda Reinke, principal interior designer on the project.
Boardroom with a View
The second and third floors serve the insurance side of the business. The third floor is home to the reception desk and stately conference room overlooking Broadway, while the second floor holds more office spaces. Hayer, on the insurance side, sought a midcentury modern design for these floors to tie into Bell’s other locations’ classic, timeless feel.
Third Floor Reception Space
The artwork featured near the reception desk was custom commissioned by local artist Rando.
You’ll notice a slight variance in design throughout the floors of the building. However, common themes throughout the building can be found in the preserved wood tones, paying homage to what once was with the remodel done in the early 2000’s. Furthermore, you can find the incorporation of the Bell brand within the cool color palette rich in hues of blues.
Brian Berg explained the main challenges of the Bell Insurance project being those of system integration. On the third floor specifically, with ceilings standing barely eight feet tall, headroom was already limited due to existing mechanical and electrical systems. Berg along with interior designer, Amanda Reinke, created a vaulted arched, wood ceiling as one of several visual tricks to make the space feel higher than it is.
The South Side Mural
To accommodate for the brick view on the South side of the building, the team of creatives at Fargo-based marketing agency, Abovo, were commissioned to create a mural. The tasteful art pays homage to the banks of the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Bright Working Spaces
The plethora of windows throughout the office spaces is a design element greatly valued by employees, who previously worked in the building’s dimly lit spaces.
A Floor Made for Marketing
The ground floor of the building houses Bell Insurance’s marketing department. Although Bell has a very specific brand identity, the wood on the main floor from the original renovation was in such great shape that a decision was made to develop around it. A vibrant, more playful palette is accessible throughout the Marketing department’s floor.
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