Hampered by its looks: The big picnic basket nobody wanted

How would you like to work in the world’s biggest picnic basket? For anyone fond of sandwiches, jam or weirdly-shaped buildings, the answer, surely, is a resounding “yes”. But the distinctive appearance of the Newark building has hampered attempts to sell it.

Sitting 40 miles outside of Columbus, Ohio, the basket building is a stunning seven-storeys tall, spanning 180,000 square feet – which is, to put it in technical terms, enough space to have a lot of picnics. It was once the headquarters of the Longaberger Company, whose signature picnic basket inspired the property’s unique design. But in 2012, when sales fell from a once peak of $1 billion to $100 million, its holding company, JRJR Networks, decided to move its workers to a nearby factory and streamline assets and operations.

The building was therefore put up for sale 18 months ago – but, despite a couple of offers, is still struggling to find a new owner.

Why? It’s partly the fact that the building is so big. Local businesses are all too small to fill the space, even if they brought with them some incredibly ambitious plans for lunchbreaks. The location is also far out from Columbus, which means that companies based in the town, or looking to be based near a town, are reluctant to make the hike. The price, on the other hand, has been taken out of the equation. First built for $32 million in 1997, the building’s price tag was $7.5 million when it was first listed on the market in 2015. Now, that figure has been slashed to $5 million, or $28 per square foot – half of the area’s usual $50 to $80 per square foot.

The main obstacle, though, may well be its looks. After all, it is a gigantic office block shaped like a picnic basket.

“You might see it three or four miles off before you come around the bend, and then you say, ‘That is a basket. That is unquestionably a basket,'” comments Tom Rochon, of JRJR Networks.

“There’s nothing baskety inside,” listing agent Michael Guagenti of Cushman & Wakefield reassures Bloomberg. “Nothing makes you feel like it’s in a basket. You feel like you’re in a nice, high-rise office building.”

“You could take the handles off,” he adds. “I’m sure a good architect could come up with some paint scheme to make it look not like a basket.”


Photo: Phil and Jo Schiffbauer