EMC Insurance Group on Tuesday will celebrate the opening of its new four-story, 106,000-square-foot addition to its downtown campus. The building at 219 Eighth St. is located on the northwest corner of the block bordered by Seventh and Eighth streets and Walnut and Mulberry streets.

A view of the new skywalk-level atrium leading into the 219 Eighth St. building.

The $40 million project features an extensive fitness center facility that occupies the entire second floor of the structure. That center, which opens March 20, will serve the more than 1,300 EMC employees who work at the headquarters.

Another notable feature of the building is a 124-seat auditorium on the third floor that EMC will use to hold employee meetings as well as to host insurance conferences. The fourth floor consists of open collaborative space for EMC's information technology department. The building also has 6,000 square feet of retail space available for lease at street level.

Our photographer, Duane Tinkey, and I got a tour of the new building Friday, which began at the remodeled skywalk reception area. The skywalk-level atrium leading into the new building, which formerly had just a 9-foot ceiling, now soars to a majestic 3½ stories with a glass ceiling. It's adorned with EMC-blue banners that hang horizontally from the ceiling like clouds.

"It provides continuity of branding as an EMC campus," said Harold Capps Jr., vice president and director of facilities. "The goal was that visitors and employees will know that they are entering the EMC campus."

Brooks Borg Skiles Architecture Engineering in Des Moines designed the new facility, and Neumann Brothers was the general construction contractor. 

Among features designed to enhance productivity are four "mediascape" units — large standing desk stations where several employees can plug in laptops and use a couple of large-screen monitors to meet and collaborate on projects. The six reservable conference rooms are equipped with wheeled, foldable nesting tables that can be easily reconfigured for various types of meetings.

Training instructors based in the building will be able to provide live videoconference training to the company's 16 field offices across the country, said Bob Link, senior vice president.

As a risk-management measure, the building's electrical and HVAC equipment is all located on the penthouse level to eliminate potential risk from downtown flooding. The building also houses two emergency generators that can power the entire three-building complex in the event of a power outage.

The building is part of EMC's 20-year master facility plan, and looking ahead to the next 20 years the company has additional property to the south of its existing campus that can be developed, Link said.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie and Councilwoman Chris Hensley, will join EMC CEO Bruce Kelley and other officials for a dedication ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the new skywalk entrance, which will then be reopened to the public.

See all of Duane Tinkey's photos in an online gallery