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February 1, 2012 5:09 PM

Real Estate Roundup: Firms Trading Spaces in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York

Posted by Sara Randazzo

Though not commenting publicly, Chadbourne & Parke is reportedly in line to be the first law firm to take space at One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

The New York Times reports that Chadbourne is eying a lease in the massive tower, which is currently under construction with an estimated completion date of fall 2013. The Times notes that the firm—whose Manhattan headquarters is currently located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza—would make a fitting tenant for the property, given that Chadbourne counsel—and former three-term New York governor—George Pataki gave One World Trade the moniker "Freedom Tower" and pushed to have it built in the face of heavy criticism. 

Contacted by The Am Law Daily, Chadbourne spokesman Andrew Blum said the firm declined to comment on a potential move. A representative for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the property along with the Durst Organization, also declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal reports that at a cost that has already reached $3.8 billion, One World Trade is shaping up to be the world's most expensive new office tower. Other tenants that have committed to the space include Conde Nast Publications and Chinese real estate firm Vantone.

To the north, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker signed Westchester County, New York's biggest office lease of 2011 in the year's last month. Under a 15-year rental agreement that begins in December 2013, the firm will occupy 125,000 square feet at 1133 Westchester Avenue in White Plains, the firm announced in late December.

On its Web site, Wilson Elser describes the 12-year-old Westchester office—which houses 150 attorneys across such practice areas as professional liability, products liability, intellectual property, environmental, and corporate law—as "more than just a home in the suburbs." The new offices, which are owned by RPW Group, will be retrofitted by architect John Borrelli, who has worked on more than 20 such Wilson Elser projects around the country.

In Chicago, meanwhile, Latham & Watkins will downsize slightly when it moves its Second City office in 2014. The firm is set to leave its 144,414-square foot location at Willis Tower for roughly 137,000 square feet at 330 N. Wabash Avenue, the former IBM Building, sibling publication Globe Street reports. The firm's 15-year lease on the new space will begin in about April 2014, the building's owners at Prime Group Realty Trust announced in mid-January.

In moving into a smaller Chicago space, Latham is following a trend pointed out to The Am Law Daily last year by Mitchell Steir, chairman and CEO of commercial real estate services firm Studley. "Everything is trending toward greater efficiencies," Steir said at the time, pointing to higher lawyer-to-secretary ratios, smaller libraries, and more flexible use of interior space.

Further south, Paul Hastings is moving its Atlanta offices closer to the center of the city's midtown area, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The paper reports that the firm has filed applications for permits to demolish three floors of 1170 Peachtree Street, which is known as the Proscenium building. Paul Hastings's lease on the space it has occupied in the Bank of America Plaza for 17 years is set to expire in October, according to the Business Chronicle.

A handful of other law firms have announced recently that they are staying put for the forseeable future.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, for one, renewed the lease on its Philadelphia headquarters, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.  Under the lease's terms, the firm will continue to inhabit the entire 289,432 square feet of Six Penn Center at 1701 Market Street until 2021, according to the Business Journal.

In Washington, D.C., McKenna Long & Aldridge renewed 172,000 square feet of space at 1900 K Street for another decade, according to CoStar news. The firm occupies eight of the building's 13 floors. McKenna will soon have need for more space, though not in D.C.--the firm is merging in March with California firm Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, the two firms announced last month.

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