IBJNews

Law firm sticks with unconventional space

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The concept of the fixer-upper is well known in residential real estate, but a local law firm is employing the same concept in the commercial office space realm. With its expansion last month into the historic Eden-Talbott House at 1336 N. Delaware St., the local environmental law firm Plews Shadley Racher & Braun now owns and occupies three historic homes and a 1950s-era office building in the same block.

The firm’s 55 employees are distributed between those four buildings and a nearby fifth building where it leases 1,000 square feet. The piecemeal headquarters, which totals 30,000 square feet and was assembled over the last 21 years, puts the firm in rare company. It’s almost unheard of for an organization of its size to conduct business out of five separate buildings.

And in today’s market, office users are more likely to rent space than own it.

It’s definitely a tenant’s market, said Jon Owens, a senior vice president with the local office of Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. With office vacancy rates topping 19 percent, landlords are cutting attractive deals.

A few years ago, when vacancies were relatively low and landlords were calling the shots, a wave of law firms turned to the market for buildings they could buy and occupy. That’s rare today, Owens said, but it still happens. Decision-makers in a firm don’t always follow the crowd.

That’s certainly true at Plews, where the partners prefer to own rather than lease and are proud of the firm’s support of historic preservation, said Jeffrey Featherstun, a partner in the firm.

“We like to think we’ve improved the neighborhood,” Featherstun said.

The firm was founded with three partners in 1988, the same year it bought the Italian Renaissance-style house at 1346 N. Delaware known as the William B. Wheelock House. Wheelock, an executive of the former L.S. Ayres & Co. department store, built the house in 1912.

By 1994, Plews needed more space and bought the 1892 Alvin S. Lockard House across the street. By early 2000 it had purchased a small office building in the same block, and at the end of last year the firm bought the Eden-Talbott House.

The 1871 house had a variety of owners before Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana bought it in 1979 to spur redevelopment of the Old Northside. Plews bought the house from the National Federation of Music Clubs and hired Marten Construction Management to renovate the nearly 8,000-square-foot structure.
Featherstun said the firm’s 17 partners are distributed about evenly between the five buildings, two of which are on the east side of Delaware. The other three are across the street.

Employees have gotten used to the unconventional office arrangement. “More business is transacted electronically on bad-weather days,” said Featherstun, but “we keep umbrellas by the door.” The flip side is that on good-weather days, employees have a good excuse to get some fresh air, he said.

Featherstun, who’s been with Plews since 1992, said the firm reexamines its real estate needs every time it runs out of space and regularly hears from real estate brokers interested in getting the firm under one roof. But clients, guests and employees enjoy the unique set-up, he said, and the partners haven’t been persuaded to give it up.

They also think they’ve gotten the buildings at the right price. “Our hope is that if we ever decide to do something different we can sell the houses for a nice profit.”

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

ADVERTISEMENT