Great Lakes Granite & Marble and Booms Stone
Execute on Owner’s Vision
In 2013, developers Harvey Weiss and Najib Samona acquired an acre of prime frontage on Woodward Avenue in Birmingham, Michigan with a vision and a mission: to create something remarkable — a landmark Class A, mixed-use building to stand the test of time. Thus a new crown jewel on the Birmingham skyline was born.
Booms Stone and Great Lakes Granite & Marble figured prominently in the project after Hobbs + Black Architects and Ronnisch Construction Group came calling on behalf of Weiss and Samona.
Weiss loves European architecture, and Samona is passionate about natural stone. In that spirit, it seemed fitting for the Woodward Brown L.L.C. partners to christen their building “The Balmoral,” hearkening to the Scottish castle presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 and still used by Britain’s royal family.
“Weiss and Samona used copious amounts of granite, marble and mosaic tile supplied by Booms Stone and Great Lakes Granite & Marble,” said Thom Phillips, architect of The Balmoral. “These owners are people who intend to build and hold onto their properties. This is a point of pride; it’s a reflection of them as a business.”
The Balmoral — anchored by robust, 24-foot columns atop polished bases of Caledonia granite from Canada’s Laurentian Mountains — turns heads. Matching granite wainscoting graces the exterior, while large, contoured windows and metal grillwork add interest to the upper reaches of the 88,000-square-foot neoclassical structure. “The granite not only looks great, but it is very durable,” said Phillips. “The building is actually calcium silicate dry-cast stone, designed to look like limestone.”
The Balmoral entrance is a main event in and of itself. A 24-foot portico supported by massive pre-cast concrete/granite pillars works beautifully with the stunning main lobby entered through 8-foot-high glass doors. Step into the space, and experience a visual and visceral sensation. Spectacular creamy Kashmir White granite, rimmed with strips of Cambrian ornamental black granite, adorns the floor. Walls gleam with floor-to-ceiling buff Botticino Classico marble from Italy and polished Crema Marfil marble quarried in Spain.
The eye is drawn to a focal point directly opposite the entryway: an accent wall of black Canadian Cambrian granite — classic stone noted for its light-loving, rice-like flecks. The palette of layered white, buff, tan, beige and black stone extends to the elevator alcove, framed with yet another contrasting shade and type of stone: diamond-polished tan Spanish Emperador Light marble.
Elegant design components are consistent on every floor and down each corridor, and even in the restrooms. “Continuing the feel of the lobby, we wanted to stay with a hard surface in the corridors and create a flooring pattern so that it feels like a carpet, and has some detail to it,” said James Sharba, senior designer with Hobbs + Black. Booms Stone’s intricately-designed mosaic tile, in sync with the family of colors showcased throughout, is the pleasing outcome.
Dave Miller, associate broker with Signature Associates, leases space at the site. “The Balmoral has set the bar higher for office buildings in southeast Michigan,” he said. “The fit and finish of materials that were selected place it in the top tier of buildings in this region of the state. The bathrooms, for example, have a higher level of finish than most I’ve seen. I make sure people take a look inside to see the Brazilian Cygnus granite countertops.”
Not surprisingly, The Balmoral is now home to the Fortune 500’s Morgan Stanley and PNC Bank; The Private Bank of Chicago; and Birmingham Roast. The Balmoral also houses the new world headquarters for Lady Jane’s Haircuts for Men. A luxury two-story penthouse listed at $3.5 million occupies the fourth and fifth floors.
From beginning to end, Sharba was pleased with the performance of Booms Stone and Great Lakes Granite & Marble. “Color consistency in slabs of material is really important,” he said. Unfortunately, I have seen installations where — because you could be mining in a quarry one day, and two days later be mining in another — all of a sudden you have a whole different vein and contrast of material. You can end up with a spotty installation. A good contractor will take slabs as they come off the truck and lay them out, looking at everything and mixing it up so the pattern is evenly distributed.
“Our experience was very good,” Sharba said. “Booms Stone and Great Lakes Granite & Marble understood the concept; they knew and respected the level of design we were after, and what our expectations were. They found ways to make it all work, and make it all come together. That’s especially evident in the lobby,” he said. “It’s almost a snapshot of the initial renderings.”
Birmingham Planning Director Jane Ecker said, “The Balmoral is a welcome addition to our downtown. It’s an excellent example of the fine quality building materials and design that are common in Birmingham. This is desirable because the superior building materials stand up through the years, and they’re beautiful at the same time.”
The Balmoral project was gratifying for Booms Stone and Great Lakes Granite & Marble. “We’re proud of the quality of the installation of the exterior, and we are proud of the quality of installation of the interior,” said Wilson Garcia, project manager for Booms Stone. “Our stone is fabricated right, every time a job leaves the shop. We go the extra mile to get things done right. We try to be proactive to save our clients money and to be cost-effective.”
The Balmoral team reaped the benefits of Booms Stone’s vast experience, which spans three decades. “Having relationships built on trust with our suppliers ensures that the quality of materials that we receive is consistent with industry tolerances and color ranges,” said Rich Booms, company president. “Not every stone project can claim this attribute, but The Balmoral can.
“For Booms Stone Company, sourcing the materials from the different countries is always fun, and it’s a challenge to get the color shade the client is after,” Booms said. “On this project, we found the black and cream colors that suited the client’s needs. The finished product of almost all buildings that use marble and granite demonstrates a subtle elegance that speaks for itself — no description necessary.”
In Booms Stone’s Redford warehouse, a large sign reads, “Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with pride.”
Apparently, the adage is well-read, and taken to heart.