Originally Published: 1/27/15
By Erin O'Brien
Earlier this month, TPI Efficiency Consulting moved into newly renovated offices at 2020 Center Street in the Flats. The energy efficiency consultants previously occupied a 3,700-square-foot space at 1250 River Road above the space that once housed the storied Watermark restaurant, which closed more than 10 years ago.
With natural light pouring in from a glass atrium roof insert and vintage floor-to-ceiling windows framing stunning views of the surrounding historic neighborhood, TPI's new office is a dazzler.
"It's a fantastic bright place to work," says Lenny Carlsen, TPI's director of client services.
Ironically, the company was obliged to forego a cutting-edge energy efficiency plan during the build out.
"With historical buildings," says TPI president and founder Roger Zona, "LEED certification goes pretty much goes out the window."
Hence, Zona did as much as he could, outfitting the offices with LED lighting and a robust air circulation system. Depending on how comfortable the space is in the summer, he may opt to have 3M Industrial film installed on the atrium glass to fend off the blazing sun, but it's a pricey prospect. Thus far, TPI has invested $100,000 in the remodel, a figure that could double courtesy of the 3M window treatment.
While Zona acted as his own general contractor, he hired Harrington Electric to upgrade the lighting and wiring. HSB Architects and Engineers helped with the interior design.
"Renovations started in late October on the day we closed," he says.
Per Zona, the handsome brick structure was originally built as a metal forgery in the late 1800's. Most recently home to a queue of defunct restaurants, the 13,000-square-foot space works beautifully as a two-story office with an airy floor plan and room for expansion, unlike the Old River Road location.
Buoyed by a municipal economic incentive grant of $45,000, Zona purchased the Center Street building for $416,500.
"They really held our hand walking through it and made it as seamless and painless as possible," he says of Councilman Joe Cimperman and Kevin Schmotzer of Cleveland's Economic Development Department during the grant application process. "They really helped us get it approved very quickly." To be sure: TPI closed the deal less than 60 days after they found the property.
The grant will be forgiven if TPI hires three to seven employees over the next three years. To Zona, the prospect is not problematic.
"We're anticipating getting a lot bigger than that," says Zona, adding that he anticipates having more than 40 employees in the Cleveland office by then. The company currently employs about 22. Zona is also eyeing expansions into Pittsburgh, Chicago and Columbus over the next three to five years.
He credits TPI's growth to an old-school business creed: you have to give clients face time.
"There's a value in physically walking out and shaking hands and meeting the people you work with," says Zona. As he watches demand for energy consumption consultation rise, he's confident that he'll have to hire more people to continue providing the level of service his customers expect. "We're not going to have call center in another state."
Clients include entities such as the Ashtabula YMCA, the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown and Hattie Larlham. TPI advises them on how to efficiently consume an array of resources, from electricity to refuse services.
"This is my first place on the West Side—the west bank of the river," quips Zona, who lives in a townhome on West 10th. He estimates the walk between the new office and his front door at five to seven minutes.
Zona founded TPI in 2009 out of a West 9th Street apartment, where he also lived. He moved the company to the Warwick Communications Building, 2806 Payne Avenue, in 2011 and then to the Old River Road location in 2012.
While he laments the loss of the river view, Zona enjoys the "old world" feel of the Center Street neighborhood.
"I like the flats," he says. "I like the history of it."
TPI's new offices are populated by several large-scale sculptures by Artur Vasilevich, many of which are for sale. The one featured in the above slideshow has a secret: her mouth is actually the deck of a commercial pizza oven, which is also for sale.