Nottingham Spirk Innovation Center

Called a “visual spectacle” by The Plain Dealer, the former First Church of Christ Scientist underwent a $16 million renovation and expansion in 2005. Built in Cleveland’s Little Italy in 1931 to model the Pantheon in Rome, the historic landmark serves as the Nottingham–Spirk Innovation Center, home to one of the nation’s leading new product and invention firms, Nottingham–Spirk. History and technology have been fused perfectly at the Nottingham–Spirk Innovation Center.

Designed in 1930 by the prestigious architecture firm Walker & Weeks, the First Church of Christ Scientist, one of Cleveland’ most classic and significant historical landmarks, sat vacant on Overlook Road in Little Italy for several years.

Modeled after the Pantheon in Rome and serving as a prototype for Severance Hall, the church overtime received several purchase offers that repeatedly called for its demolition. However, John Nottingham and John Spirk had a different idea. They had a vision of restoring the distinguished structure and constructing a 7,000–square–foot addition to accommodate their company, Nottingham–Spirk Design Association, one of the nation’s leading new product and invention firms, which was looking for larger office space for their growing business.

Today, after a complete renovation and expansion, history and technology fuse perfectly at the Nottingham–Spirk Innovation Center, allowing creativity and inspiration to flourish. The completion of the project did not come without a few setbacks – among them budget and financing.

After months of struggling to resolve development and budget issues, Nottingham–Spirk called upon The Ferchill Group to serve as consultant, focusing primarily on innovative sources to finance the $16 million project. The Ferchill Group designed a lost development rights package worth $9.4 million that was sold to a qualified investor. The $9.4 million included $7.6 million in conservation easements and $1.8 million in tax credit equities. The lost development rights package bridged the gap in the current financing structure and enabled Nottingham–Spirk to begin construction.

Nottingham and Spirk wanted to maintain the character of the building yet incorporate modern amenities. Today, the facility houses 42 miles of Internet cable and 1,200 electrical outlets — 1,197 more outlets than there were before the renovation. The exterior of the building was cleaned and a new sign was inserted into the pediment. The congregation’s meeting place was divided into offices and meeting space and the high ceiling was painted to resemble the sky. All original light fixtures were rewired and restored. In the basement, where the Sunday school was located, offices for engineers surround a spacious area for building models and prototypes. Adjacent to the building on the 4.5 acre property is a 155–foot–tall bell tower that still stands.

“You have to be respectful of the past when you’re inventing the future. This building will be a metaphor for combining the past architectural heritage with an inspirational environment for creating future products,” said Nottingham.

Nottingham–Spirk’s idea of developing an innovation center that would generate company growth in terms of staff and product certainly transpired. Today, nearly 70 employees are housed in the Innovation Center. The firm is responsible for more than 400 patents and thousands of successful products, including the Dirt Devil Bagless Vacuum and the Crest SpinBrush, with combined retail sales totaling over $30 billion. The Nottingham–Spirk Innovation Center is a state–of–the–art center and serves as an ideal adaptive re–use project because of the nature of Nottingham–Spirk’s work.

“The entire building is a visual spectacle. The exterior, which looks like a Roman temple, has been washed free of soot. To the untrained eye, it looks as if it was just built. The interior remodeling made room for many modern features, such as keyless door entry and 42 miles of Internet wiring.”

The Plain Dealer, September 8, 2005

MCM Company, an affiliate of The Ferchill Group, served as construction manager. Construction began in October 2002 and was complete in June 2005.

“The culture of a company is affected by the building you’re in. If this place isn’t inspirational, you might as well take up organic farming.”

John Nottingham
Co-Founder, Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates

Project Specs
Location: Cleveland, OH
Completed: June 2005
Budget: $16 million
Owner: Nottingham-Spirk
General Contractor: MCM Company
Size: 57,000 square feet