Media Open House and Ribbon-Cutting

Thanks to all who made it out to the ribbon-cutting and media open house on November 30, 2011. It was a great day and we are thrilled to be in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

GR Office Gets a New Home – Nov. 21

On November 21, 2011, Smith Haughey will open its doors at 100 Monroe Center NW, otherwise known as the Flat Iron Building, in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. The Flat Iron Building is a nationally registered historic landmark building that was built around 1860. It is the second oldest building in Grand Rapids. Smith Haughey will occupy a main floor lobby with client entrances on Monroe Center and Ottawa Ave., as well as all of the top three floors and a roof top deck.

The office build-out and renovation combines contemporary, modern design, furnishings and lighting, with the exposed brick and timbers of the old building. The resulting loft-style workspace will be a major change from the more conventional office space the firm occupied for 30 years at the Calder Plaza Building.

In addition to LEED certification (the firm is seeking Silver or Gold status), Locus Development, Design+ Architects and Wolverine Construction, the firm’s partners on the project, remained sensitive to historic preservation requirements. Even in Grand Rapids with its many LEED buildings, the combination of a new, efficient, environmentally sensitive build out in a very old, historic building is unusual. Overall, the new location has allowed the firm to reduce its environmental footprint, streamline processes, and improve flexibility and accessibility; all of which furthers its commitment to deliver exceptional efficiency to its clients.

Art. History. Scavenger Hunt. Prizes. Talking Paintings & More!

Don’t miss the chance to join us on September 30th and October 1st as we celebrate ArtPrize with this family friendly event!

Be an explorer of Grand Rapids Art & History with an interactive scavenger hunt brought to you by Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge.

Benefiting Kid’s Food Basket, this event appeals to adults and kids alike as they tour the city by following our explorer’s map and collecting guide badges to be turned in for a prize.

Get your picture taken in the explorer photo booth, decorate bags for sack suppers that will be given to Grand Rapids’ school kids, outfit yourself in the Discovery store and check out the talking photographs that are sure to thrill!

Flat Iron rehab presses on

GRAND RAPIDS — One local law firm plans to add some life to a prominent yet long-neglected corner building in downtown Grand Rapids.

Matt Zimmerman of Wolverine Building Group, Jon Siebers of Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge and Chuck Hoyt of Locus DevelopmentMatt Zimmerman of Wolverine Building Group, Jon Siebers of Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge and Chuck Hoyt of Locus Development stand in a future office for one of the SHRR attorneys to show off the wall murals unveiled as crews worked on the interior space. The project has plans for a roof-top deck and will bring a modern look to the law firm’s Grand Rapids headquarters.

Roof Deck Rendering Reception Area Rendering

The building at the intersection of Monroe Center and Ottawa Avenue will soon house about 100 employees, including 50 attorneys from the firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge. The law firm will take up about 26,600 square feet on the upper three floors of the 31,500-square-foot project, which involves combining the adjacent Flat Iron, Herkner and Groskopfs buildings.

Locus Development acquired the property three or four years ago and has been marketing it ever since, but the company knew it would take a tenant that could see through the challenges of the dilapidated building to the property’s true potential, said Chuck Hoyt, VP of development at Locus.

“We’re passionate about the downtown and this neighborhood. Because of (the building’s) presence and importance to the neighborhood, … we’re happy to make this a success,” Hoyt told MiBiz. Locus is continuing to market the 1,100 square feet of retail space on the sidewalk level of the Flat Iron Building.

The total development cost for the project is $5.6 million, Hoyt said.

Jack DeBruin, principal at architecture firm Design Plus, said SHRR had contacted his company to help the firm evaluate its current space as well as identify options for a new office.

“They wanted to be on a corner of downtown, and they enjoyed the character, …rawness and quality of the space, and they ended up landing there,” DeBruin said.

Chad Gould, the architect at Design Plus who handled the design of SHRR’s interior project, said much of the building had sat vacant for decades — some of it since the 1940s — and it was in various stages of disrepair, especially the upper floors that had been damaged by water from a leaky roof. A sizeable portable swimming pool was even in place on the fourth floor to catch the leaks.

“That’s an example of how forgotten the guts of this building were. To be able to participate in the refurbishment and creating new life for that landmark historic building was great for us,” Gould said.

Jon Siebers, real estate attorney at SHRR, said Design Plus and the developers at Locus helped the firm’s management see the potential the space held.

“They had a passion — they could tell what this could be,” Siebers said. “We could create our own space here and it would make economic sense.”

The new location will actually be smaller than SHRR’s current office, but that’s not because the firm is contracting in any way. Instead, they’re moving away from a more traditional law firm office — complete with two libraries and onsite document storage — to take advantage of technology and the work styles of many of the newer attorneys. “We were very inefficient,” Siebers said. Many attorneys don’t need a large office anymore, but rather just private “touch down” space a couple of days per week as they move from office to office.

“This is a group of attorneys and they all want private offices. We had to try to work those offices to fit in the framework of the existing openings,” DeBruin said. “The challenge was — and this is not unique to Smith Haughey — between the old guard and the new guard. The old guard can be comfortable where they’re at and not interested in change, while the new kids coming in want to work in a hip, urban and chic environment. We had to try to blend in the conservative nature of the older folks, yet the space had to be conducive to hiring new talent.”

The design of the space is intended to show off the features of the historic building — the exposed brick and wood — while blending in a “fresh and modern” style fit for a high-tech office. To do that, Gould said he used a great deal of glass throughout the interior of the space to allow occupants to “look through” the space and still be able to distinguish the original structure.

“We wanted to get the architecture out of the way and let the quality of the existing building come through. Whereever we could highlight the existing walls and murals, we left them exposed,” Gould said. “We tried to have a light touch on this. We’re putting a big law firm in a compact space, and we wanted to use glass and distribute that space.”

The 100 or so wood-and-glass exterior windows are a key part of the renovation project, said Matt Zimmerman, project manager for Wolverine Building Group. But because they were in poor condition, the developer decided to replace them with historically appropriate replacements that recreated the same profile as the windows they replaced.

Another challenge was that the facility was once three separate buildings and crews had to work to connect the floors so that everything would be on the same level, he said.

The rounded prow that faces the street intersection became a focal point on each of the floors, with it housing either a conference room or gathering spot. The curved wall and original windows will be incorporated to add a traditional element to the interior.

Locus is pursuing LEED certification for the core and shell of the property and is working with Orion Construction and Cornerstone Architects. SHRR tapped Wolverine and Design Plus for the interior portion of the project. The firm is going after LEED for interiors.

DeBruin said some projects can run into conflicts with simultaneous LEED and historic preservation efforts, but he noted the Flat Iron project was “somewhat painless.”

“To overlay a historic preservation project on a LEED-certified building is unique because those two things can fight each other,” he said.

Full MiBiz story here:

Long vacant Flat Iron Building readies for new glory days in downtown Grand Rapids

Word on the street is that the upper floors of Grand Rapids’ Flat Iron Building haven’t had occupants since the 1940s. Those days are long past now that future tenants Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge (SHRR) have begun the buildout of some 27,000 square feet for its growing law firm.

Locus Development owns the circa 1858 structure, which is actually three connected buildings stretched along Monroe Center at Ottawa Avenue NE. Locus spent the last months preparing for the interior buildout by installing a new elevator, subfloors, energy efficient windows and HVAC; soda blasting the interior brick; repainting the façade, and installing a new roof.

Besides private offices for attorneys and open workspaces for support staff, there will also be eight conference rooms and a main floor reception area. But one significant feature could be the new hallmark for buildings of the 21st Century: casual workspace in a communal setting.

“The prow of the building that overlooks Monroe Center and Ottawa will have a café atmosphere on the fourth floor, just below the new rooftop deck,” says Bill Scarbrough, COO. “People’s work styles have changed over the years, and younger people in particular are attracted to that way of working and not sitting in a traditional office.”

Scarbrough expects to relocate SHRR’s 100 employees from their current Calder Plaza Building offices the week before Thanksgiving.

“We’re using this as an opportunity to rethink how we use space,” he says. “Books and law libraries and files are all electronic today, so the amount of space we need for those things has dropped quite dramatically.” Scarbrough adds that though the law firm is growing, it is downsizing its footprint from 32,000 square feet to 27,000.

Both the core and shell of the building, and the interior buildout, will be LEED certified.

Construction manager: Wolverine Building Group
Architect and engineering design: Design Plus

Source: Bill Scarbrough, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge; Kim Bode, 834 Design & Marketing
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Rapid Growth Development News Editor

Smith Haughey named one of Michigan’s “Economic Bright Spots”

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge has been named one of Michigan’s “Economic Bright Spots” by Corp! Magazine.

The annual award recognizes 50 Michigan businesses for their success and focus on service, innovation, and utilizing Michigan talent.  The firm and other recipients were honored by Corp! at a recent breakfast program in Troy.

With offices throughout Michigan in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City, Smith Haughey is well-established in the communities it serves and continues to grow. A recent achievement is improved financial performance and no lawyer layoffs during a time when most law firms struggled.  In 2010, the firm expanded its Ann Arbor office space and also moved into a brand new building in downtown Traverse City.  In late 2011, the firm’s Grand Rapids office will move to the newly renovated, historic Flat Iron Building in the heart of downtown.


Grand River felt Flat Iron was a home run

Ryan Wolthuis, left, and Dave Blossey of Grand River Bank were pleased to work with Locus Development on financing for the Flat Iron renovations.

The youngest bank in the city decided to finance the historic renovation of one of the oldest buildings in the city. The collective age of the trio of downtown structures that make up today’s Flat Iron building borders on 400 years, give or take a decade, while Grand River Bank just turned two a few weeks ago.

Top floors of historic Grand Rapids buildings to finally get tenant

GRAND RAPIDS — After more than a half-century of being virtually empty, the upper floors of three historic buildings at the center of downtown are expected to be abuzz with activity.

Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge has signed a deal that will move the law firm into 25,000 square feet spread across the upper three floors of what is collectively called the Flat Iron Building, 100-114 Monroe Center.

The buildings, built between 1860 and 1870, house Groskopf’s Luggage & Gifts and Mexican restaurant Cinco de Mayo on their ground floors. A portion of the former Blake’s Turkey at Monroe Center and Ottawa remains available for lease to a retail tenant, with the western portion of the storefront being transformed into a lobby for the law firm.

The 103-employee office is downsizing from a 38,000-square-foot, two-floor space it has occupied inside the Calder Plaza Building, 250 Monroe Ave. NW, for about 30 years.

Lisa Young, marketing director for the firm, said smaller office space reflects changing trends in the legal industry, including standardized office sizes for all lawyers, elimination of a hard-copy law library, and the increasing trend of allowing lawyers to work from home when they don’t need to be in their office.

“The world has changed so much from when we moved into our current building 30 years ago,” said William Scarbrough, the firm’s chief operating officer.

At one time, the firm had one secretary for every lawyer, he said. Today the ratio is three lawyers per secretary.

Scarbrough said the finances of the deal made sense because of the relatively depressed real estate market and the competition for large tenants. He also said there was overwhelming support among the firm’s partners for being in a renovated historic building near the center of the city.


The firm wanted to stay a short distance from downtown courtrooms since most of its lawyers are litigators, he said.

“This is right in the middle of downtown, easy to find for clients,” Scarbrough said. “Financially, the edge also went to Flat Iron.”

The buildings are owned by Locus Development, which announced plans to spend at least $4.5 million to renovate them to earn a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. The build-out plan for the law offices is being designed for a separate LEED designation.

The project already has qualified for $527,000 in brownfield rehabilitation tax credits and $225,000 in grants from the Downtown Development Authority. Construction is slated to begin in late fall with occupancy by July.

Locus, which occupies a portion of the second floor of one of the buildings, will relocate this fall to space in its recently completed building at 38 Commerce Ave. SW.

Locus’ John Green said Smith Haughey’s move reflects a shift of the center of downtown activity that has taken place over the past two decades.

“‘Central City’ has moved from Calder Plaza to Rosa Parks Circle,” said Green, who co-owns Locus with Andy Winkel.

The renovation is expected to include a rooftop deck, where the firm can entertain. Employees and visitors can park at five nearby ramps or at a Ellis Parking-owned surface lot adjacent to the buildings.

Green said the firm will have room to grow into the neighboring and connected Ledyard Building. Locus is a minority owner of that building.

Smith Haughey was founded in Grand Rapids in 1941. It has 52 lawyers in Grand Rapids, 29 in Traverse City and eight in Ann Arbor.

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