Sometimes it makes sense to think outside the box. Or, in this case, the swimming pool.
That’s how Durst Image Technology US ended up choosing the vacant Penfield Sport & Fitness Club as its new headquarters.
Converting a workout facility, pool and racquetball courts into office, training space and break room space is a little unconventional, to be sure, “but that’s kind of how we run our business,” Durst president Tim Saur said.
The Durst company recently closed on the purchase of the property at 667 Panorama Trail and hopes to move from Henrietta to Penfield early next year.
The search for a facility began better than three years ago, when it became apparent Durst Image Technology would be outgrowing the Methodist Hill Drive location in Henrietta that had been its home since 2003.
Having made the decision to maintain roots in Rochester, rather than move corporate operations to Atlanta, the firm needed to find a building that could accommodate current needs and future growth. The sweet spot would be between 30,000 and 50,000 square feet.
Easier said than done, as it turned out.
Three times Saur thought he had found the perfect location. Three times he couldn’t complete a deal.
The COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on plans to purchase a property on Hylan Drive in Henrietta. That was followed by a lost bidding war on a property on John Street in Henrietta. Then Saur considered the old Hart’s Local Grocers building in downtown Rochester, until it became clear there wasn’t a way to create warehouse space.
And then along came the Penfield athletic club.
“I had read about companies moving into unique spaces and started to realize it would work,” Saur said. “It has a nice layout and it’s kind of open. Plus, we really like Penfield.”
He brought on Hanlon Architects and Nichols Construction Team to examine the space and create the new headquarters.
“I immediately saw a level of excitement in Hanlon and Nichols, they saw this as a really fun project,” Saur said. “I think you’re going to build the best things in the world when people have passion for the project.”
Indeed, the architects at Hanlon liked the potential offered by the 40,000-square-foot fitness club.
“You look at the building and you see how the occupant can best use it, so it’s a fun environment to work in,” said David Hanlon, president at at architectural firm. “There’s a lot of good two-story spaces, a lot of connecting spaces, and you’re putting the parts and pieces together to keep that open character alive.”
Creating a new space from something that deviates greatly from a building’s original purpose isn’t new to Hanlon, having worked on adaptive reuse design of the Culver Road Armory and The Cannery in Fairport.
The architect also has worked with Nichols a number of times on design-build projects, so it’s a partnership that has worked well, Hanlon said.
The new Durst headquarters is a $7.74 million project. DGNA Real Estate Holdings NA, paid $2.6 million, closing on the deal earlier this month. A subsidiary of Durst Group AG of Italy, the company is a leading manufacturer of professional digital imaging systems with a specialty in inkjet technology.
As business continues to grow, more space will be needed, not just for employees, but also training and warehouse.
The athletic club property became available last year through Hanford Health LLC. Owner Alan Hanford closed Penfield Sport & Fitness in November after 44 years in business.
The Penfield property is about 2.5 times the size of Durst’s current facility. Approximately 15,000 square feet of the new building will be converted to office space, about 4,000 square feet — the swimming pool will be filled in — will be used as a training center, 6,000 square feet will become a warehouse, and the remaining 15,000 square feet will accommodate future needs.
The employee cafeteria will be constructed on what now are racquetball courts, and part of the fitness club and the locker rooms will be modernized and retained as an employee gym.
Durst has approximately 100 employees locally and about half that at an Atlanta office. The company continues to expand its reach in its four core areas: printing on corrugated materials, on textiles, labels and traditional wide-format printing, which is why the new facility was necessary.
Growth has been fueled by new product lines, a robust go-to-market strategy and what Saur calls “probably the best services in our industry, and that’s due to the people in Rochester.
“We’ve been forward-thinking,” he said. “Too many people try to minimize pain now and maximize profits now.”
Durst did receive tax breaks from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA). The board in October approved project incentives totaling just shy of $524,000, including $320,000 in a property tax PILOT agreement, $160,000 in sales tax exemptions and a $43,000 mortgage recording tax exemption.
Sauer said construction should begin by May 1, and he’s hoping to move operations from Henrietta to Penfield by early in the first quarter of 2024.
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