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A Building All Its Own

April 15, 2024 Projects

On an underappreciated spot in downtown Toledo, CNWR is thriving in a building all its own.

CNWR, Inc., a Toledo-based IT consulting firm, began in 1995. For years, CEO Jason Slagle dreamed of the firm owning its own building. In 2021, Jason saw the vacant two-story building at 616 Madison Avenue – listed for sale by the Lucas County Land Bank – and knew that it was time to turn these dreams into reality. Fast forward several years and CNWR is thriving in its newly renovated headquarters in downtown Toledo. The Land Bank caught up with Jason to discuss the building, his business, and the energy driving downtown Toledo’s redevelopment.

Hi Jason – thank you for talking with us! Tell us a little about CNWR. What all does the firm do, and how did you get started?

CNWR is a full-service cyber-security and IT services provider. We started as Toledo Internet in 1995, and went through a few organizational changes before becoming CNWR in 2012.

We prioritize long-term partnerships with our clients over short-term profits, and this philosophy runs through every aspect of our business. We work with clients on general IT services like establishing and maintaining networks, routine troubleshooting, and, of course, cyber-security, which is a critically important part of business operations at any level in 2024.

How many people do you employ? What kind of skills do you look for in those you hire?

We’ve grown to 25 full-time employees. We’re looking for talented people who are a good cultural fit for our environment. Tech skills are important, but we like hiring people who have a continuous desire to learn more, and who like fixing broken things! At CNWR, we’re truly a team, and our staff holds a shared responsibility mentality – we may start projects on a solo basis, but we thrive together as a business. We’re all working towards the same goals, and by working together as a team we can deliver the highest level of client services.

What attracted you to downtown Toledo, and this building in particular?

We were located downtown for a lot of our history – when we started as Toledo Internet in the 1990s we were located in the former Macomber High School. We had other downtown locations over the years before moving out of the downtown area. We realized that we needed more space and that we wanted to own a building, not rent. Toledo has the perfect blend of amenities, quality of life, and affordability, and downtown is the heart of Toledo. So when we began the search for a new building, we knew it would be downtown.

This building was the perfect size and location for us. It’s located in a spot where we knew there would be a lot of new energy with the redevelopment of the “Four Corners” buildings. Although when we were looking for a place, we didn’t initially plan to take on a renovation project!

Yet, here you are, with a newly renovated building! What was the building renovation process like?

It was a challenge, but one we were up for. The best part for us was seeing this building transform from a dirty, dark, empty shell into a beautiful office space that’s truly our own. A lot of the challenges resulted from COVID-related delays and cost increases – it was a difficult time to take on a project of this scale, but all said, it was the right time for us, so we had to make it work.

And do you have a first floor available for rent?

Yes, CNWR takes up the entire second floor of the building, but the first floor is available to rent as office space. We have about 5,400 sq ft. of first-floor space renovated and ready for further build-out to suit the particular tenant or tenants, as this could be subdivided. We’re looking specifically for professional office uses for this space, as opposed to restaurant or retail.

Do you have any advice for someone taking on a commercial renovation project like this?

Don’t be afraid to do it. This was a 118-year-old vacant building, and we knew that there would be challenges. But it’s worth it in the end when you have space that you own, that’s built out for your business – something that’s yours.

However, you should absolutely expect your budget and project timeline to exceed your initial estimates!

Did you find it easy to work with the Land Bank?

The Land Bank was very easy to work with! You were extremely accommodating when we needed additional time while also making sure that the project was moving forward. The project gave us our fair share of “red tape,” but the Land Bank helped us navigate through those agencies to our goal. It was clear that the Land Bank wanted to see this project succeed.

Would you do this project again, if you had the choice?

Yes, we absolutely would. Now that I’ve had this experience, I could see myself taking on new commercial renovation projects on a personal level. We need more small, local, independent property owners downtown!

You mentioned the redevelopment of the “Four Corners” – the Spitzer Building and Nicholas Building that the Land Bank owns, as well as the Nasby Building across the street from you. What do you hope to see there?

Simply put, the Four Corners project will be transformative. We’re excited to have lots of new neighbors – businesses and residents. This part of downtown is an underappreciated gem, and that’ll be very apparent when these buildings come back online. We’ll need to work out parking with so many more people here on Madison Avenue, but on the whole, it will be a tremendous net benefit.