leandog software to buy, renovate former hornblower’s barge

When John Stahl launched LeanDog, his now four-year-old software development company that has grown to 34 employees, he was looking for a space that would stretch his clients’ minds and embody the expansive thinking LeanDog tries to instill.

He found what he was looking for in a former Lake Erie barge, which dates back to 1892 and was last used as the floating restaurant Hornblower’s. “We help companies envision who they want to be,” says Stahl. “With a view of the trains, the Rock Hall, Lake Erie and downtown Cleveland, we figured this was the place to do that.”

Now Stahl has partnered with the owner of Arras, a 20-year-old marketing and brand innovation company that currently has offices in the Terminal Tower, to purchase and renovate the barge, now permanently moored at 1151 N. Marginal Road. The project will add a full second story to accommodate the companies’ growth.

Stahl and his business partner plan to purchase the barge for $500,000. They have also received a $275,000 loan package from the City of Cleveland towards the costs of renovations. That welcome support is part of a larger effort by the city to lure technology companies to the waterfront district, Stahl says.

The entrepreneurs will create open offices that maximize employee collaboration — in essence modeling what LeanDog teaches. “We help companies change how they work, even as we deliver software,” says Stahl. LeanDog is a practitioner of ‘Agile’ software development, which fosters an open, flexible culture.

The 34-employee company also hopes its offices will continue to serve as a meeting space for Cleveland’s tech community. Currently, LeanDog hosts software user groups as well as organizations like Cleveland Startup Weekend and Cleveland Give Camp. “It’s part of our values to help the community,” says Stahl.

Stahl also plans to create a dock so visitors can arrive by boat. The second floor bar will disappear — but not for long. Stahl hopes to recreate it on a new third-floor deck, complete with stunning views of Cleveland’s skyline and Lake Erie sunsets.

Fresh Water Cleveland, 8/4/11

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