On a vacant plot along Main Street across from the federal courthouse in South Bend, Barnes & Thornburg leaders grabbed their shovels Tuesday and helped break ground on a new office building that is not only on the first new construction within the downtown business core in 20 years, but which also will carry the law firm’s moniker.
The Barnes & Thornburg Building, to be located at 201 S. Main St., will become the new home of the firm’s South Bend office when it’s completed by early 2021.
“I think what this does is position us for the future,” said Philip Faccenda, Jr., managing partner of the Barnes South Bend office. He pointed out downtown South Bend now has a lot of energy and said, “We want to be part of that. That’s why this building is good for us.”
Since 1982, the South Bend office has been housed on the sixth and seventh floors of 1st Source Center, 100 N. Michigan St. Faccenda described the space as traditional but explained the firm needed to modernize either by gutting and redoing the current offices or finding a new place.
Barnes & Thornburg has been relocating or remodeling several of its 14 offices across the country. The Elkhart office left its longtime downtown home in 2016 for a new space with easy access to the city’s recreational vehicle manufacturers.
Faccenda said his office was considering moving from downtown South Bend until this construction project came along. The new location will put the attorneys within easy walking distance to the federal courthouse as well as the county courthouse and county offices.
Moreover, the new space will have the look and capabilities of a modern law office complete with collaboration spaces and drastically upgraded technology that clients demand. Also, in a nod to the new wave of thinking, all the offices will be the same size, whether for the managing partner or a first-year associate.
“We know what a modern law firm space looks like and feels like,” Faccenda said. “We wanted that for the South Bend office.”
In the five-story building, Barnes will lease the second, third and fourth floors. The top floor will be occupied by another tenant or tenants while plans call for the first floor to feature a coffee shop and restaurant.
Barnes will occupy 31,200 square feet in the new building, down from the roughly 40,000 square feet it uses in the 1st Source Center. However, Faccenda said because the new office will be more efficient and things such as a large law library are no longer necessary, the firm will actually have more room.
The South Bend office currently has a total workforce of 70, including 36 attorneys. Faccenda said the new space will help attract and retain younger attorneys. Also, it will enable the South Bend team to serve clients anywhere in the country.
Moving was not a decision made lightly. By the time it relocates, Barnes will have been at its present South Bend office for just shy of 40 years, and prior to that it was in the nearby former First Bank Building for 56 years. The firm anticipates being able to move into the new building by the summer of 2021.
“We are excited that this lease enables us to contribute to and share in South Bend’s ongoing revitalization, and our attorneys and staff look forward to a bright future in our new home,” Faccenda said. “Our new location enables us to continue to grow and support the needs of our clients throughout the area.”
The new building is being co-developed by Bald Mountain, LLC, Norris Equity Partners and Great Lakes Capital. The construction contract has been awarded to Weigand Construction of South Bend. Construction is expected to begin next week and continue for the next 12 to 18 months.
At groundbreaking ceremony, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — who’s exploring a Democratic presidential run — Jeff Smoke, of Great Lakes Capital, and Faccenda all made remarks.
In a press release about new building, Lou Hansell, managing member of Bald Mountain LLC, said, “It is gratifying to see Barnes & Thornburg’s long-term dedication to a project that will accelerate South Bend’s position as a professional destination.”