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VOL. 125 | NO. 112 | Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tough Call

Move east a difficult decision for Glankler Brown

By Andy Meek

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With the ink dry on a lease that moves Downtown mainstay Glankler Brown PLLC out of the landmark One Commerce Square building and into a prominent East Memphis building, one thing is clear: The decision to relocate was excruciating.

The nearly 100-year-old law firm’s decision to relocate to Highwoods Properties’ Triad Centre complex later this year was driven by several factors, including getting closer to its client base, cutting costs, the exorbitant price of renovating its existing space and the lack of suitable alternatives Downtown.

“Our initial intention was to renew our lease Downtown and slightly expand our East Memphis office,” said Glankler managing member Bill Bradley.

“The reality was that when we got back to pricing for what it would require to renovate Downtown, it quickly made little sense from our perspective to spend a lot of money extensively renovating space down here when we could actually save money by consolidating our operations to the east.”

Bradley anticipates his firm will save about $200,000 annually on occupancy costs as a result of combining its existing offices.

The law firm’s planned departure from its space in the 31-story One Commerce Square tower, which The Daily News reported first on June 4, culminates more than a year of consideration – and consternation.

“This was a difficult and lengthy decision for the firm, but it is best for us for a number of reasons,” said Hunter Humphreys, Glankler Brown attorney and real estate chairman. “We will be much more accessible to most of our clients and we will have more efficient office space, which was simply not available to improve our size Downtown.”

The decision was especially hard on Humphreys, who began working

Downtown as a summer associate during law school and has been there ever since. Furthermore, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law that recently opened on Front Street is named for his father.

“I have enjoyed my years Downtown very much, and I obviously have mixed emotions about our move east,” he said. “It was a very difficult decision, but we are individually and as a firm still very committed to Downtown.”

Another factor that influenced the move: the draw of East Memphis’ bustling office corridor.

Downtowns are frequently the central business district in large cities. In Memphis, that “central” designation for Downtown is less about a point on a map than the prominence of Downtown’s political, legal and entertainment hubs.

Offices of many corporate clients, as well as the bedroom communities where lawyers, staff and clients live, are in many cases east of Downtown.

“This also puts us in a central location as it relates to our clients and our staff,” Bradley said of the move.

During the yearlong decision-making process lots of variables changed dramatically, including a recession that cast a pall over the real estate market and pricing issues that pulled Glankler’s attention away from Downtown and to the east.

The firm began focusing on the possibility of consolidating its offices following the 2008 renewal of its lease for its East Memphis space.

At the time, Glankler attorney George Nassar said the firm was ready to get busy evaluating the future of its Downtown presence. He mentioned options that included staying at One Commerce Square, moving to One Beale or another Class A space Downtown big enough to accommodate the firm.

“We are also actively exploring construction of a new building Downtown large enough to accommodate us and other tenants,” Nassar said at the time.

Bradley said Glankler decided it didn’t make sense to consolidate Downtown because of two main reasons:

It was cost prohibitive to finance a renovation at One Commerce Square, a fixture on the Downtown skyline for more than three decades and where occupancy has dipped in recent years.

Finding a suitable alternative site Downtown was difficult.

“There is no Class A building Downtown with sufficient vacant footage to accommodate a firm our size,” Bradley said.

With the difficult decision to leave Downtown behind them, Glankler Brown members remain ardent supporters of the central business district.

“I am convinced that Downtown will grow stronger as a residential, entertainment, governmental, medical and tourist area,” Humphreys said. “The recent relocation of the law school and the addition of the Bass Pro Superstore and Pinch redevelopment will certainly be great positives for Downtown. I will continue to be a supporter of Downtown and a frequent participant in Downtown activities.”

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