Pittsburgh Business Times
By Tim Schooley and Patty Tascarella
July 11, 2017
After 22 years at the same address, Pepper Hamilton LLP’s Pittsburgh office has become the latest law firm to opt for the Union Trust Building. The move, basically across Grant Street, is expected to occur in October 2018.
Ralph Finizio, partner-in charge, confirmed on Tuesday that the firm has inked a 10-year lease. Pepper Hamilton will occupy almost an entire floor after spending the past several years split among the 50th and 51st floors at BNY Mellon Center.
“The ability to have us all on one floor helps with the work dynamic and flow,” Finizio said. Adding to the appeal is the opportunity to “build out the space to our liking,” he said. “It’s a blank canvas so we can set it up the way we want.”
Pepper Hamilton’s architect is Gensler.
Space at the new digs is smaller than the 62,000 square feet Pepper Hamilton took at BNY Mellon in 2006, Finizio said. He pointed out that lawyers work differently than they did 10 years ago, and Pepper Hamilton wants more open space to encourage collaboration.
“We’re hoping to do interesting and innovative things,” he said.
Jonathan Davis, principal of Boston-based Davis Cos., owner of the Union Trust Building, said the lease with Pepper Hamilton was for about 40,000 square feet.
He added the building’s 40,000-square-foot floors enable for much more efficient use of space, without the need for duplicated reception areas, kitchens and bathrooms that an office on more than one floor typically requires.
Finizio said the firm “briefly considered” buildings in the Strip District and North Shore, “but it’s still important for law firms of our style and type to be downtown.”
The Philadelphia-based firm has been based in 1 Mellon since it first set up shop in Pittsburgh in 1995. It employs 78 downtown, including 35 attorneys, according to the Business Times’ list of the city’s largest law firms, published on Jan. 13. Pepper Hamilton was No. 22, as ranked by the number of lawyers here.
Davis Cos. bought the Union Trust Building three years ago and spent more than $100 million in buying and renovating the property.
Among the law firms that have either already moved to the Union Trust Building or have signed on to do so are Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC; Frost Brown Todd LLC; Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin; and Blank Rome.
Davis said the building’s large floors dovetailed with the trend of law firms working to be more efficient with their use of office space.
“One of the reasons our building has been so successful with these firms is we have figured out with our large floor plates how to help them to get into more efficient configurations,” Davis said.
It’s been a little more than a year since Davis completed its renovation on Union Trust, a top-to-bottom investment that included building out new subsurface parking, installing new mechanicals and adding new amenities such as a fitness center and a growing roster of restaurants.
“We’re in a very healthy position now,” Davis said, in terms of the building’s overall occupancy.
The new lease with Pepper Hamilton puts the Union Trust Building at more than 90 percent occupied for the moment, with only a few 15,000-square-foot dormer offices available along with some modest retail spaces.
That will change in 2019, Davis pointed out, when a long time lease with Foster Wheeler AG, which inherited space in the building when it bought a subsidiary of Siemens, expires. The lease with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, which will move from One Oxford Centre, will absorb much of that space, still keeping occupancy levels above 80 percent.
A Squirrel Hill native, Davis said the Union Trust Building’s leasing is ahead of schedule and a great “coming home” project for him and his company, describing it as a privilege to work on the historic property.
“This has been an incredibly gratifying project on so many different levels,” he said.
Finizio said the owner did “a great job” with the renovation.
“It’s exciting for us and for the city that an old historic building has come back on line in a major way,” he added.