LendingTree’s new headquarters in South End melds a commercial workspace with at-home features, all designed with input from the financial technology company’s employees.
The company provided the Observer with a private tour of the new digs on Monday, the week before about 75 employees begin moving in to the office.
LendingTree’s name adorns the outside of one of two 11-story towers on South Tryon Street at Carson Boulevard. The firm, which will occupy 175,000 square feet, is on part of the sixth floor and all of the seventh through 11th floors in the west tower. The east tower is still under construction.
The company did not disclose the exact cost of investment but in 2018, pledged to invest more than $26 million to expand its headquarters in Charlotte.
LendingTree’s new space mixes raw materials — glass, metal, brick and wood — and comforts of home like big, comfy leather couches. It provides a residential and commercial feel, company spokeswoman Kelsey Tennyson told the Observer during the tour.
“What we tried to create is a place that feels like home so that you want to be here, that you’re comfortable being here and it’s got the amenities right here, so you don’t want to leave,” said Jill Olmstead, LendingTree’s chief human resources officer.
It’s the first time executives will have offices. At its current Ballantyne offices, they worked from cubicles, Tennyson said. In their new home, there are 16 private offices, each with glass exterior walls.
It’s also a space where employees needs can be taken care of, Olmstead said, including having a doctor’s office on site.
The official, first phase opening of the new headquarters is optional for all vaccinated employees on July 12.
Competing for fintech workers
Fintech is a hot commodity in Charlotte these days.
Several other fintech companies have announced expansion plans in Charlotte this year, including USAA, Credit Karma and Robinhood. City Councilman Tariq Bokhari, executive director of Carolina Fintech Hub, said recently that Charlotte has more than 60 fintech companies.
LendingTree is a 25-year-old Charlotte-based online loan marketplace with offices with in San Francisco, New York City, Chicago and Seattle. It has 633 Charlotte-based employees and expects to add more than 500 people locally over the next four years.
Olmstead said investing in a headquarters like this shows that LendingTree is ready to compete for workers, too. Median employee salary is over $107,000. “It’s a beautiful place, but it really was designed to make it not only inspiring, but really productive,” Olmstead said.
The Spectrum Companies developer broke ground in 2019 on the more than $300 million, 5-acre project called Vantage South End that includes the two towers.
The mixed-use 635,00-square-foot campus includes a 1-acre urban park, a 200-room boutique hotel and ground-floor restaurants and shops. The two buildings will have a combined 577,000-square-feet of office space.
LendingTree employees helped shape the space that was designed by architect Redline Design Group and interior designer Kelley Vieregg Design.
Workers wanted more conference rooms, Tennyson said. The new headquarters has 64 conference rooms, all with Zoom capability. Rooms can be reserved on a touch-pad. There also are 27 open meeting areas and collaborative spaces.
Employees also helped named conference rooms by suggesting their favorite songs and movies.
Each floor has a different theme, for example, the seventh floor rooms are named for songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and “Bye, Bye Bye” by NSync, while eighth floor rooms are all movies, like “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park.”
While there are 771 workstations, employees also wanted a place to work other than their desk. So there is enough alternative seating that each employee can sit somewhere else, like a pod chair or other social area settings, Tennyson said.
“It’s been built so that for every work space you have at least one other place you can go to to give people that variety,” Olmstead said.
That includes two soft swings in windows in the stadium seating, where employees can sit and work and gather for large quarterly town hall-style company meetings. The decor also gives a nod to the LendingTree brand, said company spokeswoman Megan Grueling, with tree stumps that can be seats or tables.
Employees also wanted to be able to step outside for fresh air without having to leave the building. That’s why each floor has a patio.
Office space flexibility
Like much of Charlotte, LendingTree’s employees have been working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, LendingTree said it would move out of its Ballantyne offices as the company’s lease expired. LendingTree had three offices and about 64,000 square feet.
“We have a lot of new employees that have never stepped foot in a LendingTree office,” Tennyson said. The company hired more than 300 last year and nearly 100 so far this year.
Despite the new digs, LendingTree expects to still have hybrid work flexibility for people who want to continue working from home.
“We want people to be comfortable coming back in and be comfortable when they’re here,” Olmstead said.
New office features
Other LendingTree headquarter amenities include:
▪ A wellness room
▪ Mother’s suites
▪ Four libraries with rentable books and fireplace
▪ Game room with ping pong, board games, video games and an arcade
▪ Multi-purpose room for yoga and other activities
▪ A “Speak-easy” social center room with full-bar to host partners, private and family events on the 11th floor. There’s also a sliding glass garage door that opens to a large patio with a view of the Panthers Stadium and the mountains.
▪ Each floor has a social center with beer, coffee and water.
▪ In-house studio to create video and photography
▪ Free garage parking
▪ Locker rooms with showers
▪ A visual history interactive wall.
▪ An Instagram wall with a gold and emerald green velvet throne, plus crowns and staffs for props.
“Our new headquarters is more than just a new workspace. It’s a representation of LendingTree and our culture,” company spokeswoman Megan Greuling said. “The goal was to build an iconic space that employees are proud to come to and a space that will support productivity and creativity.”