Nearly two years after Flywheel became part of the WP Engine family, we’ve officially moved back into our home in the historic Ashton building!
The move comes after a major renovation project that included reimagining the space for both productivity and social distancing measures, and last week, Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon stopped by to check out all the progress being made in our little corner of downtown.
Touring the Ashton
Since the early days of American expansion, Omaha’s riverside position made it a hub for trade and commerce. The Ashton building—formerly home to a furniture company by that name—is located in the Millwork Commons area of downtown.
Once a bustling city center, the area fell into disrepair during the Great Depression and turned into industrial warehousing space. Now, these century-old buildings, including the Ashton, are being restored to their former glory as centers powering digital creation, commerce and innovation.
Upon his arrival, Rep. Bacon passed storefronts on the first two floors—both active and in the process of renovating—which are owned by local creators. Once one one of them, a local furniture maker named Hutch, opens to the public, the Ashton will return to its woodworking origins. The building will come full circle nearly 130 years after its initial construction!
As the Congressman continued his visit, WP Engine Omaha site lead Ben Jackson began with a quick tour of the third floor, explaining the sound dampening efforts WP Engine has taken throughout the building and the purpose of our “All Hands” space.
This is a room created for large employee meetings and gatherings (once it’s safe to do so) and can also be used for community functions, galas, and conferences.
Created to house more than 200 creatives, developers, engineers, support professionals, and teammates of all titles, the third and fourth floors are all open concept. This design was intentional, so departments can collaborate as needed while still providing space for individual work.
Rep. Bacon was inspired to see that much of the original woodwork, fixtures, and even freight elevators have been restored to remain focal points throughout the third and fourth floors of the building, both of which are occupied by WP Engine.
As he reached the fourth floor, the Congressman was surprised at how easily new and old architecture had been blended together to honor the history of the building while preparing it for a modern workforce.
The signature staircase, a piece designed by Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture and crafted by Polynomial, draws the eye upwards, and Rep. Bacon was delighted to catch a glimpse of the colorful Millwork water tower through the skylight above.
The congressman also showed immediate interest in the technical nature of WP Engine’s workforce as well as its products. As he toured the upper floor, Rep. Bacon was able to stop and talk with groups of employees, inquiring about their roles, their connections to Nebraska, and their visions for the future of tech in the state.
Employees shared their insights into the struggles and successes they’ve encountered while navigating the Nebraska employment landscape and discussed strategies for attracting and retaining young, talented professionals.
As he wrapped up his tour, Rep. Bacon shared his excitement surrounding the revitalization of Omaha’s north downtown and the additional buildings around the Ashton, as well as what this could mean for the future of the tech industry in Nebraska.
That renovation is already underway with the addition of Hello Apartments next door, which are slated to open soon. Four other buildings in the area are currently in the development process, with at least five more proposals for surrounding structures.
The grounds around the Millwork Commons are also undergoing renovations which include a native garden (to be planned and planted by the local horticultural experts at Mulhall’s), a skate park, a half court for basketball, and plenty of seating to enjoy the outdoor space.
As the anchor sponsor for the Ashton building, WP Engine has a vested interest in rehabilitating the neighborhood, helping return it to a place where creativity and innovation are front and center.