August 03, 2015

Farris Bobango Consolidates Law Firm Offices with Lease in East Memphis

By:  Andy Ashby
Memphis Business Journal

Farris Bobango Branan PLC is consolidating its Memphis law firm operations with a 10-year, 17,370-square-foot lease in Boyle Investment Co.’s newest East Memphis property.
It has been leasing 10,000 square feet at 1100 Ridgeway Loop in East Memphis and 13,715 square feet in One Commerce Square Downtown. The firm occupied a whole floor in One Commerce and couldn’t expand any more at 1100 Ridgeway.
“When you have two offices in the same city, you lose that camaraderie and the efficiencies of being in one space on one floor,” says John Bobango, managing partner.
The firm has had a Downtown presence since the early 1950s and plans later to open a smaller office there. It will also continue to have its Nashville office, which operates as Farris Mathews Bobango PLC.
Mark Jenkins, senior vice president with Commercial Alliance Management LLC, handles leasing at One Commerce Square.
He says he hates to lose a tenant with a great reputation like Farris Bobango, but is working to fill their space.
“This is one of the nicest floors in the building and it has spectacular river views,” he says. “We already have some interest in this space.”
The move brings occupancy to 45% at Once Commerce Square, but Jenkins is working on some deals to help fill it.
John Farris, a partner with Farris Bobango who works in the Downtown and Nashville offices, says with the advent of electronic document filing, physical location is less of a factor for law firms.
“It wasn’t really a decision to be Downtown or in East Memphis; it was to get the lawyers under one roof,” he says.
The firm will add office space Downtown after it completes this consolidation.
 “We are going to open something Downtown at some point, once we make this move, to help the lawyers who have matters at the courthouse, the federal building and city hall,” Farris says.
Bobango says office design was key in the move. Having a shell space allowed them to design the office space from scratch.
“If we were to go Downtown or in an existing office space, I don’t think we would have been able to gain the square foot efficiencies we have been able to build with Boyle,” Bobango says.
John Vergos, an architect with Boyle, and Scott Fleming, owner of Fleming and Associates, worked together to design the space on the fifth floor of 999 S. Shady Grove. Mid-America Construction, Boyle’s construction arm, is the general contractor on the buildout.
The average asking lease rate for Class A office space in East Memphis is $25.55 per square foot, according to Commercial Advisors LLC’s fourth quarter report.
In this new office, less space is dedicated to common areas compared to other properties the firm was considering, according to Kemp Conrad, senior vice president of Commercial Advisors.
For example, the firm’s new conference center is clustered around the reception area. The combined space can also be used as a reception area for community, political and non-profit events.
“We did a real deep dive into the three building finalists and did numerous plan revisions,” Conrad says. “We really compared the spaces and because we had a blank slate on this first-generation piece, we could really design it and be efficient.”
The firm’s choice was helped by the large floor plans, which are 25,000 square feet. The firm wanted its entire operations on one floor.
The lease brings the 150,000-square-foot building to 75% occupied.
The property has the whole sixth floor open with other vacancies scattered throughout.
Boyle has a parcel of land next door to 999 S. Shady Grove where it can build an identical building. It would take a significant anchor tenant before the company started construction of that building at 949 S. Shady Grove, according to Mark Halperin, executive vice president with Boyle.
Halperin, who handled lease negotiations with the law firm along with Boyle vice president Kathy Pampuro, says while the market has seen rents drop a little, Memphis hasn’t seen the dramatic decreases like Atlanta, Dallas or Manhattan.
“The A portion of the market has remained pretty stable,” Halperin says. “There hasn’t been an oversupply of space.”
Leasing activity has picked up a little recently, according to Halperin, and Boyle is working with some potential tenants to fill up the remainder of 999 S. Shady Grove.
“It’s still a long way from what I would call normal or typical,” he says.
Conrad says that this time last year, companies were doing one-year renewals to see how the markets fared.
“Right now, tenants are looking to take advantage of the market and lock into long-term rates,” he says.