JACKSON – One of the state’s largest CPA firms recently inked a long-term deal to occupy one of downtown’s most historic and most visible business locations.
On Jan. 1, 2001, Smith, Turner & Reeves, PA, will move from its longtime location on the 16th floor of the AmSouth Bank Building to the first two floors of the
“We think it’s the best location in Mississippi,” said Jon Turner, ST&R’s managing partner. “There’s a special synergy downtown. To us, that is a tremendous plus.”
Don Shea, president of Capital Center Inc., the downtown Jackson business development association, called the AmSouth Bank Building, located at the northeast
corner of Capitol and Lamar Streets, “the center of the universe in downtown Jackson, the actual heart of the business community.”
To accentuate its move, ST&R recently added the tag line, “at the center of Mississippi business.”
With 7,000 square feet of office space in its current location, the CPA firm will add 3,000 square feet with the move, which will accommodate its existing staff of 30,
and provide room for growth, Turner said.
“We simply ran out of space on this particular floor and wanted to remain connected,” he said. “We realize we’ll have two floors, but we consider it contiguous space
because we’ll have a private stairway from the first floor to the lower level. We’ll also have a private restroom instead a common area one, as in most buildings. And
rather than waiting for the elevator and the ride to 16 floors, employees – and clients – can walk into our offices once they get into the building. All of these
timesaving measures will mean more productivity for everyone. And we’ll continue to add staff as needed.”
The 18-story building has been a fixture in the downtown business district since 1929, when Merchants Bank & Trust originally built the structure. At the time, it was
the state’s largest financial institution until it closed for a national bank holiday in 1933 and never reopened.
In 1937, Deposit Guaranty Bank and Trust, which later grew into Deposit Guaranty National Bank, assumed control of the building, which was expanded in 1958.
The lobby and bank operations remained in place until the plaza opened in 1975. Since then, it has been used for various banking departments for DGB before it was
acquired by First American, which was acquired by AmSouth. The current owner is Plaza Investments.
“This is a significant building, and we want to continue its history by helping shape Jackson and Mississippi,” said Betty Lou Reeves, a principal who negotiated the
Turner declined to disclose the terms of the lease, saying instead that the move will cost “considerably less than renting in northeast Jackson.”
Before ST&R moves into the building, approximately $310,000 will be spent to renovate the existing space, with AmSouth absorbing the lion’s share of the cost.
Duckworth Company, the management and leasing representative of the building, will handle the major renovations, of which the biggest expense will be the removal
of two escalators. The telecommunications infrastructure will be completely updated and the bank’s massive walk-in vault, which will remain in place, will be used as a
fireproof storage area, Turner said.
“This (building) is one of the important landmarks of commercial architecture in Mississippi from the 1920s,” said Richard Cawthon, chief architectural historian for the
Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The building exhibits Sullivanesque design, named for noted Chicago architect Louis Sullivan, designer of many banks and commercial buildings. Like many early 20th
century office buildings, detailed exterior ornamentation is evident mainly on the first few floors and top floors, with minimal ornamentation in between.
“What distinguishes it as…. Sullivanesque is the relatively restrained use of decorative panels and bands of sculptural ornamentation in the form of abstract patterns or
stylized plant patterns,” Cawthon said. “There is also some Byzantine-style ornamentation, most notably the columns.”
In January 1999, ST&R acquired a CPA firm in Oxford, the firm’s first venture outside Jackson. The Oxford branch, which has eight employees, further established
ST&R’s presence in North Mississippi. Earlier this year, the firm acquired The Church Company, a smaller CPA firm in Jackson specializing in physician clinics.
Are more acquisitions planned?
“Nothing’s on the table,” said Turner. “We’re looking possibly to expand into the southern part of the state. That’s the next logical step. Whether that’s Hattiesburg or
the Gulf Coast, I don’t know. That may be a year or two away.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com.