Wednesday's grand opening of Zurich North America's opulent new headquarters in Schaumburg provided not only a privileged glimpse inside for some members of the public, but also a chance for several employees to get a first impression on where they soon will be working every day.
Both found the new 783,800-square-foot architectural marvel breathtaking inside and out.
"Aesthetically, it's a big step up," said Bill Floriano, who's worked for Zurich for 4½ years. "The feeling of openness is a real positive change. I'm really digging all the greenery outside."
"Everyone's really excited and looking forward to the move," said Donna Hachiya, who worked for Career Education a short distance away in Schaumburg before moving to Zurich not quite a year ago.
Zurich will begin next month moving about 3,000 employees to the new headquarters from its twin 20-story towers located about a mile away. The company has called the towers home for about 30 years.
Floriano said there was actually some anxiety among Zurich workers about how far away the company's new headquarters might be located, before officials chose the Motorola campus near the Jane Addams Tollway and Meacham Road.
Kaili Harding, president of the Schaumburg Business Association, said that apart from the impressiveness of the building, Zurich's renewed commitment to the area will be a boon for the local business community for years to come. It shows that Schaumburg has the resources to accommodate a company that could have gone anywhere in the country, she said.
Zurich North America Business Lead Jennifer Kyung, who played a strong role during the design and construction of the building, said many of its interior enhancements will be introduced at the company's other offices across the country.
With the first traces of autumn coolness in the air Wednesday, Kyung's listing of the site's features received applause when she got to the enclosed walkway between the main building and the parking garage.
"No more wind tunnel!" she laughed.
Doug Widener, director of community advancement for the U.S. Green Building Council, was on hand to present Zurich North America CEO Mike Foley with the building's platinum rating under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification system. The rating recognizes the building as energy efficient.
Even as someone who's seen many environmentally friendly buildings, Widener's reaction showed that Zurich's headquarters was something new.
"Let me start off by saying wow! I mean wow!" Widener said. "I can feel the inspiration here."
Many Schaumburg village officials were on hand for the opening, including Mayor Al Larson, who took part in the official ribbon-cutting.
Village Trustee Tom Dailly was among those who were seeing the interior for the first time Wednesday.
"How do you put this into words? That's the problem," he said. "It really is a gorgeous place."
The new headquarters honored the memory of four Zurich employees who were killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. A tree planted near the old headquarters in their memory has been relocated to be the central element in the KAMP garden just beside the new building's fountain.
KAMP is an acronym of the last names of the four honored employees, but has also come to mean "Keeping a Meaningful Perspective" -- a guiding philosophy behind the company's community service projects.