Longtime Suburban Law Firm Moving Its Headquarters, 120 Employees To City
April 11, 2007
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN, Courant Staff Writer
After decades in the suburbs, the Cantor Colburn law firm is moving its headquarters to downtown Hartford, seeing a reinvigorated city as an asset that could attract young lawyers to its expanding practice.
Cantor Colburn has leased two floors in the 20 Church Street tower - the "Stilts Building" - and plans to move 120 employees from Bloomfield by the end of November. About half of the employees are lawyers.
Michael Cantor, the firm's co-managing partner, said hiring lawyers in the patent field, the firm's specialty, is "very competitive" and a downtown Hartford location would be an attractive asset. The 23-story tower is also undergoing major renovations.
Cantor Colburn's move is exactly the kind of news downtown boosters have been seekingas the city struggles to keep and attract high-profile office tenants.
Working in the city means being able to walk to lunch and to nightspots after work, amenities that young lawyers often seek, Cantor said. It also will place Cantor Colburn closer to other law firms in the city, he said.
"The fact that we are in a remote location in the suburbs is a detractor for us," Cantor said. "We had the gut feeling that our location was hurting us."
Since 2000, the firm has leased 35,000 square feet in the old General Cigar Co. building on Griffin Road South in Bloomfield. There was room to expand, and it came close to renewing that lease. It had already begun converting former cigar humidors into locker rooms for a gym.
"But something didn't feel right," Cantor said. "We feel like we needed to do everything to keep and attract our talent, and we felt we could do that best downtown."
Cantor Colburn evaluated its alternatives for two years, also considering moving to a location north of Hartford and buying land in the same area and constructing its own building. Being north of Hartford appealed to the firm because many of its lawyers live in the Springfield area.
Ultimately, the lure of downtown Hartford, with its nascent signs of revival, won out, Cantor said. The 20 Church Street tower is at the north end of downtown and close to highway entrances, making for an easy commute north, he said.
The only downside, Cantor said, is that workers will have to give up free surface parking, an advantage of the suburbs and one of the issues that is prompting MetLife to move out of downtown to the CIGNA campus in Bloomfield. Cantor said the firm will have some parking spaces in the tower and in nearby lots.
In most cases, workers in the city share some of the cost of parking with their employers. Cantor said those details have yet to be worked out.
The firm, which has leased 50,000 square feet on the 21st and 22nd floors, also believes the downtown tower will be an attractive place to bring clients. Those clients include General Motors, IBM and Samsung, Cantor said.
Robert Kelly, a broker at Cushman & Wakefield of Connecticut in Hartford who represented the firm, declined to disclose the price paid per square foot. But the asking price in the building is $21.50 a square foot, he said.
Since the Hampshire Real Estate Cos. purchased 20 Church Street for $19 million a year ago and launched renovations, leasing activity has raised occupancy from 23 percent to 43 percent, according to CB Richard Ellis, the building's leasing agent.
In 1997, Cantor Colburn had 15 employees - eight of them lawyers. Today, it has 170 employees - 85 of them lawyers and patent agents - and offices in Troy, Mich., Atlanta and Alexandria, Va. In 2006, the firm had revenue of $30 million, about double the levels of 2000, Cantor said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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