Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Jan. 26, 2021

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M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust unveils its new digs in Vancouver

Philanthropic group first office tenant at development

By , Columbian business reporter
9 Photos
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust staff has spent the past three months settling into its new home in the The Murdock.
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust staff has spent the past three months settling into its new home in the The Murdock. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

It’s move-in season at The Waterfront Vancouver. Three new restaurants are setting up and preparing to join Twigs Bistro and Wildfin American Grill, and dozens of tenants have claimed their new apartments inside the Rediviva building.

And at the top of The Murdock building, the building’s namesake — and the waterfront’s first office tenant — has spent the past three months settling into its new home. The offices of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust occupy the top two floors, creating a hub of art and technology that executive director Steve Moore says will serve to showcase the work of the organization and its trustees.


The two floors of the office are connected by a large central staircase in the lobby, as well as the Murdock building’s own elevators. The office was designed by the architecture firm Ankrom Moison, and the total internal build-out cost about $1.5 million, according to Moore.

The lobby design emphasizes natural elements, including wood paneling meant to symbolize trees and a series of hanging lights next to the stairs that look like rain cascading down on a future sculpture that will be installed at the base of the stairs.

“Part of the idea was to reflect and feel that we’re in the (Pacific) Northwest,” Moore says.

On the top floor, the front desk area connects to a staff kitchen and gathering space that can also serve as an extended reception area during large events. The hallway between the two features a bank of TV screens that form a “Mindfulness Gallery,” displaying images and information about Melvin “Jack” Murdock and the trust’s history.

The kitchen area includes doors to access the outdoor deck that wraps around the southwest corner of the building, which is equipped with lighting and speakers for use during events.

Moving through the atrium and around to the south end of the office, visitors will find themselves passing by the office’s “Purpose Wall,” an ornate collage feature that displays the work of the trust’s grantees from Murdock’s major funding sectors: health, human services, education, scientific research and arts and culture. The photos and panels on the wall are designed to be swapped out and updated periodically.

“We wanted to bring forth the stories of our grantees as much as we could,” says communications director Colby Reade.

The Purpose Wall hallway connects to a 64-person training room with panoramic views of the Columbia River, which can be divided into two smaller spaces by a sliding barrier. Some of the wall sections are equipped with floor-to-ceiling white-board panels for use during brainstorming meetings.

Visitors to the offices will likely notice the many art installations throughout the space; whether it’s the paintings that line the hallway walls, the series of glass display cases peppered throughout the offices or the sculptures that sit in the various conference rooms and public areas.

“Throughout the space, we try to take every opportunity we can to honor or celebrate artists that are in the region,” Moore says.

The display cases feature shelves to hold smaller collections of artwork and artifacts, and will be periodically updated to highlight new partnerships. The first round was curated by OMSI and highlights science and technology.

The big move

Planning for the new offices began about four years ago, Moore says, at a time when Gramor Development was looking for partners for the first office building in its waterfront development. The Murdock Trust became the first announced tenant for the development in 2015.

“It look a lot of courage and a lot of vision” to make The Waterfront Vancouver a reality, Moore says.

The move-in started at the beginning of December and is now largely complete, Moore says. There’s still a few pieces of artwork to be installed and a few boxes to unpack, but only a few. Much of the furniture and technology is new, which simplified the moving process — at least when it came to setting up shop in the new location.

The trust had been in its old offices for nearly 30 years, Moore says, and one of the goals for the new office was to make more efficient use of space by adding more technology and relying on fewer physical files.

“We were pretty much maxed out at the old office,” Moore says. “Here there’s still room to grow.”

The slimming down required an extensive planning process beforehand, as well as a donation operation to find new homes for much of the old office’s furniture and technology, which was distributed to about 20 to 25 nonprofit organizations and other groups, according to Reade.

The new offices will house approximately 26 full-time employees, Moore says, along with a varying number of adjuncts, fellows and interns. The trust relies on the advice and expertise of several panels to help guide it.

“You’ll see a lot more than just 26 people here,” he says.

The office is also equipped with automatic lights throughout, and every desk can be adjusted to a standing position.

The investments in new technology will also benefit grantees, Reade says, and the upgrades are on a scale that could only be achieved by designing a new office from the ground up.

Several aspects of the office design emphasize that it won’t just be used by staff at the trust; more than a half-dozen conference rooms of various sizes are spread out between the two floors, each equipped with cameras and screens for video callers, as well as its own unique artwork.

“Every conference room has a little bit different style, a little bit different space,” Moore says.