In late July, when news broke about two prominent companies — Butler Snow and Horne LLP — moving from downtown Jackson, much of the talk and media coverage focused on their exit, not the new Renaissance at Colony Park development located on Highland Colony Parkway at the intersection of Interstate 55 and Old Agency Road in Ridgeland that has also attracted Cellular South and Merrill Lynch.
Horne LLP executive partner Hugh Parker was quick to point out: “It’s not about moving away from downtown, it’s about moving toward our future. It simply made more sense for our firm’s long-term strategy to be based in Madison County.”
On July 31, after being located in AmSouth Plaza for a decade, Horne LLP, one the South’s leading accounting firms and one of the nation’s top 50, announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters in 2009 to 200 Renaissance at Colony Park in Ridgeland.
The evaluation process for location options began more than a year ago, said Parker, whose firm employs more than 350 staff members at its offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
Renaissance at Colony Park, a 75-acre site that is one part of the 430-acre Colony Park master development, includes more than 1.1 million square feet of commercial improvements, most of which is either completed, under construction or committed to begin construction. The 1.1-million-square-foot total includes approximately 550,000 square feet of retail and dining space, 500,000 square feet of Class A office space and a 120+ room hotel. When completed, the total investment in the development will exceed $230 million.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a vital community where the whole metro area is strengthened as businesses evolve and develop,” said Parker. “Highland Colony, and specifically Colony Park, continues to attract new business, retail and residential projects and we wanted to be in the middle of it.”
Also in late July, Butler Snow O’Mara Stevens & Cannada, PLLC, announced plans to build a new office building at the new Renaissance at Colony Park development. The agreement calls for H.C. Bailey Companies and Barksdale Management Corporation to joint venture on the $250-million project and construct a building to be named after the law firm.
Butler Snow, a 52-year-old Mississippi law firm with more than 140 attorneys, anticipates occupying approximately 100,000 square feet of the total 250,000 square feet available in its building, which will be joining other buildings occupied by Cellular South, Merrill Lynch, Hyatt Hotel and others in the Colony Park development.
“Butler Snow is the largest premier law firm in Mississippi, with a sterling reputation for rendering quality services to its clients on a highly professional basis,” said Jim Barksdale, chairman of Barksdale Management Corporation. “I cannot think of a better organization to have as the lead tenant in our building.”
Barksdale estimated that total employment within Renaissance should exceed 2,700 people, representing most of the jobs newly created by the project. Annual city, county and state tax revenues are expected to exceed $18 million.
“Those economic benefits are in addition to jobs and taxes generated by capital expenditures during construction and build-out of the project,” said Barksdale. “It’s been my good fortune to be able to make significant investments, both charitable and economic development, throughout my native state of Mississippi. These investments have ranged from Oxford in the north to the Gulf Coast in the south, with many points between. One example is in Holmes County, where I have a cattle operation and home. The Butler Snow Building will add to my financial investments in the Central Mississippi metro area, complementing those I have made to Jackson State University, Jackson Public Schools and other area projects.”
Butler Snow chairman Don Clark said, after being located in the AmSouth Plaza building for more than 30 years, the law firm began exploring relocation options two years ago. Last April, the law firm hired Studley Consulting Firm of Atlanta, a national tenant advisory firm that has represented major law firms in every market in the U.S.
In April, the law firm was presented with three site options, including two in downtown Jackson — one in AmSouth Plaza; another involved building a new facility, such as Two Jackson Place, located near One Jackson Place. Clark said not selecting another downtown location was not the result of crime or safety concerns. “Downtown Jackson is critical to the success of the metro area, and the firm will continue to support the development of a vibrant downtown,” said Clark.
Clark said recent changes in court filing procedures facilitated considering a move from downtown Jackson.
“In this electronic day and age, having a location near a courthouse is not the advantage it once was,” explained Clark. “Most legal documents are now filed electronically, eliminating the need to be located in close proximity to a courthouse. According to the Studley Consulting Firm, of the 12 largest, homegrown Atlanta-based law firms, all but one has moved out of downtown Atlanta over the past 10 years.”
Partners of Butler Snow, which also has offices in Memphis and Gulfport, voted July 29 to select the Ridgeland site. Until Butler Snow moves into the new building in 2009, the law firm will continue to lease space in the AmSouth Plaza building. When Ted Duckworth, president and managing broker of Duckworth Realty Inc., completed a multi-million dollar renovation project of AmSouth Plaza in March 2004, Butler Snow had expanded its offices to 18,500 square feet.
“It was a very tough and emotional decision for us, you can’t deny that,” said Clark. “This firm had to make a decision. We did make a decision. It was our decision. It was not our consultant’s decision.”
The lifestyle center retail development and the Hyatt Place Hotel, located in Renaissance at Colony Park, is scheduled to open next fall. 100 Renaissance, a 52,000-square-foot office building and home to Merrill Lynch and H. C. Bailey Companies, opened in February. 300 Renaissance, an 180,000-square-foot office building and future home of Cellular South’s corporate headquarters, will open next summer.
“I think this new development will be one of the most impressive ones that Mississippi has ever seen, and we want to be part of that development,” said Clark.
“Architecturally, it’s very unique and has many new urbanism elements you hear talked about, plus water features, a park-like setting with sidewalk cafés and restaurants and an interesting combination of local and national businesses. Being within walking distance of all those amenities was a very important feature.”
Stewart R. Speed, president of Colony Properties, LLC, an H.C. Bailey Company, said, “To our knowledge, the environment we’re offering at Renaissance at Colony Park can’t be found anywhere else in Mississippi, and, truthfully, only rarely found nationwide.”
“In a pedestrian-friendly environment, we’re offering a critical mass of high-end office, hotel, shopping and dining,” he said. “In most commercial developments, you might find some of these components in walking proximity, but rarely all of them together and on the scale we’re building. For an office user’s employees, customers and other stakeholders, it just doesn’t get much better than this.”
Speed pointed out that H.C. Bailey Companies began acquiring the prime location acreage some 50 years ago and began developing Highland Colony Parkway. “We have a unique opportunity, and we’re working hard to make the most of it,” he said. “If we do our job, we believe the end result will be something that literally enhances the quality of life in the metro area and beyond.”
Even though neither firm-Butler Snow or Horne LLP-mentioned specific cost savings resulting from the move to Ridgeland, Clark said relocating to the new space would save the law firm approximately 15% over the life of the lease.
“The Butler Snow and Horne commitments represent a continuation of the excellent momentum we’re experiencing at Renaissance and at Colony Park in general,” said Speed. “The past year or so has been an active time at Colony Park in terms of commitments for commercial space. Butler Snow and Horne are household names in Mississippi, and they’re exactly the kind of people with whom we want to associate ourselves and the development. We’re grateful that firms of their stature have concluded that the environment we’re creating will meet their business needs now and in the future.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.