by CHRIS ROGERS
The largest development in downtown Winona in recent history, Fastenal’s new riverfront office building opened on Dec. 7. The work stations are still half-empty as the accounting, IT, and a few other departments make a gradual relocation to the space and contractors put the finishing touches on it, but it will soon house 400 employees, with room to grow to 600.
“It feels great,” Fastenal Vice President for Corporate Real Estate Dana Johnson said of opening the building. “I’m very proud of how the building turned out, and it’s a great way to end my career at Fastenal.” The longtime executive retires in January.
When Fastenal CEO Dan Florness and Johnson first announced plans for the building in 2018, they set out dual goals: providing needed space and a great environment for Fastenal staff and boosting the vibrancy of Winona’s downtown, which Florness said would also help the company’s recruitment.
“I absolutely feel we’ve done that,” Johnson told the Post on Tuesday. Fastenal’s office building joins Bob Kierlin’s Main Square Development, Latsch Building’s renovation of 102 Walnut Street and a host of other construction and renovation projects as part of a recent boom in downtown investment. “You think of all the energy changing downtown since Opportunity Winona started … It takes entrepreneurs to take the risk to do something like this to generate the momentum to get everything else downtown moving in a positive direction,” Johnson added.
Throughout construction, crew members have been frequenting downtown restaurants, grocery stores, and watering holes, and the office’s opening brings in a new crowd of potential customers for downtown businesses.
The building features a largely brick and stone exterior, and inside, it’s full of open concept cubicles, tall ceilings, exposed wooden beams, and floor to ceiling windows with views of the river and downtown. Some of the huge bolts holding braces together and other industrial-style hardware in the interior were custom made by the fastener manufacturer.
Fastenal Facilities Manager Ben Gordon said employees’ reaction to the new building has been very positive. He thanked co-workers for their help with the big move. Johnson noted the new space features more natural light, wood materials, and generally a “warmer” feel than many of the company’s existing offices.
Johnson said that as the Kubala Washatko Architects and Fastenal leaders were planning the building, they asked, “How do you build a building that’s respectful of the community and our founders? How do you build a brand new building that looks like it’s been here for a century? And I think we did a pretty great job. It looks like an industrial building that’s been remodeled.”
Echoing city style guidelines for historic downtown Winona, the building also directly abuts the sidewalk on Second Street rather than being set back or placed on the river’s edge. “The architect said if you really want to engage the community, you need to put [the building] on the sidewalk and not have it standoffish with parking in front of the building,” Johnson said.
After over 16 months of construction, C.D. Smith Foreman Ryan Stackhouse and his coworkers and subcontractors were getting down to the final punch list for the building. “It’s nice seeing it done,” he said.
“I think it turned out really well,” Fastenal Facilities Manager Ben Gordon said. “It’s got the old school feel from the outside, but inside it’s really new.”
Alongside the new office building and its parking lot in the rear, Fastenal purchased the former YMCA property and a block of former bridge construction land at Huff and Third streets, and created nearly two full blocks worth of surfacing parking, which is currently reserved for Fastenal employees.
A recent Winona County study of parking in the area — commissioned because the county’s new jail project is forcing the county to find more parking — pegged the total number of parking spaces Fastenal created between the three parking lots at 584 stalls. The study also suggests the county consider leasing some of those stalls from Fastenal.