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VOL. 126 | NO. 244 | Thursday, December 15, 2011

Marty Regan Blends Civic, Community Duties

By Sarah Baker

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When Marty Regan looks out from his penthouse view at One Commerce Square, he sees an array of public and private partnerships that wouldn’t have been possible without real estate attorneys.


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

FedExForum, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and the smoke stacks on Presidents Island are just a few examples the lawyer points out from the 29th floor of the landmark Downtown tower where Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell PLLC has been housed for nearly 20 years.

For Regan – who practices business, estate planning, municipal, public finance and real estate law – Downtown Memphis is second nature. Upon obtaining his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Notre Dame University and his law degree from the University of Tennessee, he returned home to Memphis and began working for Bill Bruce and Donn Southern at a small Downtown law firm.

Working in a narrow-niche, religious-sponsored housing venture for the elderly that was financed through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, some of Regan’s first projects were St. Peter Manor in Memphis, St. Mary Manor in Jackson, Tenn., and St. Joseph Manor in Dyersburg.

“I’ve always enjoyed being part of the Downtown community and was given the opportunity at Bruce & Southern to practice in the area of nonprofit law and real estate development as well as a very broad scope,” Regan said. “It was there that I became involved in working in the area of public-private partnerships to develop church-sponsored elderly housing and programs for the frail and poor.”

With each development, Regan learned the ins and outs of forming separate nonprofit corporations. He not only had to have a solid understanding of nonprofit and HUD law, but also mortgage credit principles, “and really the nuts and bolts of how to make developments work, not just on paper, but in reality and within budget,” Regan said.

“You have all ages and all sorts of social programs, yet somehow, it has to all come together and be financed, meet code and zoning, and operate as a corporation.”

Since many of the organizations Regan serves are funded by government programs that change rapidly, his practice requires staying up to date with congressional funding, HUD program changes, new treasury market tax credit offerings and economic development allocations.

“Those types of programs are always changing,” Regan said. “They change by the passage of time, from administration to administration and to a large degree with the demographics. As we have an aging population, you’ll see the greater emphasis for health care, elderly housing and nursing homes.”

Regan considers his greatest professional accomplishments when he’s able to help navigate elderly and frightened clients through a system that can oftentimes be overwhelming.

“People always need to feel supported in convictions, and one of the roles of an attorney is to provide the role of both counselor and practitioner,” he said.

Regan’s partners at Thomason Hendrix have allowed him the latitude to get involved in numerous community endeavors, from working as chair of Iris Orchestra with fundraising demands to assisting Catholic Charities of West Tennessee to handling estate planning needs of clients.

“I’m not doing one during the daytime and catching up on the other,” Regan said. “I have them both as complementary and I like to think that what I do professionally has a civic component that is good.”

He spends very little time in the courtroom and instead exerts his energy on civic and community engagement with Southern College of Optometry, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, the Catholic Diocese, Ave Maria Home and the Memphis Land Bank – the partnership responsible for rebuilding neighborhoods like Dixie Homes.

Regan also serves as senior staff attorney to the city of Memphis, including recent involvement with the Economic Development and Growth Engine – the city and county’s new board established to retain and attract new business to Memphis.

When he’s not working, Regan enjoys music and playing racquetball at Southern College of Optometry. He hopes to better enjoy the Shelby Farms Greenline and other Memphis “recreational treasures” like the riverfront, but relaxing is not exactly at the top of his list.

“There’s the saying of which my older sister reminds me constantly, that rarely does one look back at the end years of life and say, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office,’ Regan said. “But I think we all wish we had more time, more hours, more capacity to stretch farther, accomplish more and better serve.”

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