Uncertainty about its long-term future in the Bank of America building, coupled with the changing nature of the legal industry, led Miles & Stockbridge PC to decide it would move its Baltimore office to the Transamerica Tower at 100 Light St.
Miles & Stockbridge, which had occupied the art-deco 10 Light St. building since the firm was founded in 1932, announced Thursday it would move its 275 employees down the street beginning in April 2013.
William G. Psillas Jr., administrative director for the firm, called the decision to leave the building that represents the firm’s “heritage” a “heart-wrenching” one.
Bank of America, which sublets 125,000 square feet of 10 Light St. to Miles & Stockbridge, offered a very competitive deal for the firm to stay beyond the end of its lease in 2013, Psillas said. However, the bank’s own lease on the building ends in 10 years; and in the end, he said, that was what pushed the law firm to walk away from the space.
“We had no clarity as to what the plan was after that,” Psillas said.
The firm also realized that in this legal market, it needed more flexibility and a more updated space to host clients and work collaboratively.
“We were compelled by the changing nature of the legal industry and a continuing demand to provide more for less in terms of everybody wants more value, whether it’s going to Wal-Mart or going to a high-end legal firm,” he said. “It really was a decision about what’s best for the future of the firm.
“We felt like being tied into a more open space plan was in our best interests,” he said.
10 Light St. was built in 1929, while 100 Light St. dates to 1973 and has been heavily renovated since the departure of its previous signature tenant, Legg Mason Inc., in 2009.
Miles & Stockbridge was impressed by the changes the building’s owner, Lexington Realty Trust, had put into it, including a new parking garage, cafeteria and open plaza in front of the building. They liked the open space, natural light and lack of columns, Psillas said.
Miles & Stockbridge has leased about 107,000 square feet on seven floors in the 35-story tower, with the option to lease additional storage space on the basement level for a total of up to 120,000 square feet.
Legg’s move to Harbor East left 100 Light St. with a 26 percent lease rate, which will climb to 95 percent with the Miles & Stockbridge deal. Joe Bonventre, executive vice president with Lexington Realty Trust, said the company was pleased Miles & Stockbridge would be joining Ober | Kaler, another Baltimore law firm, which moved into the building in April.
“It really showed the draw of the building and we think that’s a direct result of the work we’ve done over the last two years to make it the premier building in downtown Baltimore,” he said.
No architect has been hired, but Psillas said he expects the space will be laid out to allow for a more collaborative approach with infrastructure that supports the large role technology plays in the firm’s work.
Psillas said he was confident the firm reached a competitive deal with Lexington, although he could not disclose the terms of the lease agreement. The firm’s lease expires in March 2028.
J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, said he was pleased, but not surprised, Miles & Stockbridge decided to stay downtown — and not just because John B. Frisch, chairman and CEO of Miles & Stockbridge, is also chairman of the Downtown Partnership’s board.
“Downtown remains the center of the legal community in Baltimore,” Fowler said. “Attorneys can bump into clients and it’s something you can’t replicate in an office park.”
Frisch could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday, but in a prepared statement he echoed Psillas’ sentiment about leaving 10 Light St.
“We did not take the decision to move lightly and carefully evaluated our options,” Frisch said. “However, the time is right for a change. We will be creating an exciting and collaborative workplace environment that offers more openness, connectedness and useable space.”
Miles & Stockbridge was represented in the transaction by Robert A. Manekin, senior vice president and director of brokerage and investment services for Manekin LLC, as well as Elizabeth Cooper and Michael Singer, of Jones Lang LaSalle.
David Downey, John Schulze and Matt Seward of Cassidy Turley represented a subsidiary of Lexington Realty Trust.