By Gail Kalinoski, Contributing Editor
Miami—Akerman LLP, Florida’s largest law firm, is moving into its new offices at Three Brickell City Centre in downtown Miami, taking most of the space in the 130,000-square-foot building with a lease of 110,508 square feet in the $1.05 billion mixed-use project transforming the Brickell neighborhood.
The law firm, which has been representing the developer Swire Properties as real estate and land-use counsel since the project’s inception, is relocating its team of 290 lawyers and support staff from its longtime home at the SunTrust International Center, where it leased about 116,000 square feet. The move was split over two weekends and by Monday everyone will be working in the new building. The firm is the lead office tenant at Three Brickell City Centre, one of two mid-tier, Class A office towers in the 5.4 million-square-foot development, and will occupy 80 percent of the building. The remaining space has not been leased but there is “significant interest from the business community,” in both office buildings, according to a Swire Properties spokesperson.
Two Brickell City Centre should receive its temporary certificate of occupancy soon. The 12-story, all-glass office buildings, designed by Arquitectonica, allow for office spaces from 4,000 to 130,000 square feet. Tenants in both buildings will be able to connect with the city’s mass transit, including the Miami Metromover, which will stop on the third floor of the Brickell City Centre shopping center. The 500,000-square-foot high-end shopping center, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and many luxury brands, is still under construction and set to open in the fall.
The shopping center will also feature 70,000 square feet of international restaurants, cafes and entertainment options such as a dine-in Cinemex theater. The massive project includes the EAST, Miami Hotel, and two residential towers, Reach and Rise, expected to be completed within a month. EAST, Miami, will begin taking reservations May 1. Reach is 88 percent sold and Rise is 40 percent sold. Swire Properties is the main developer but brought on mall giant Simon Property Group and Whitman Family Development to jointly develop the retail portion of the project.
“It’s just a magnificent project,” Neisen Kasdin, Miami office managing partner at Akerman, told Commercial Property Executive.
Kasdin called Brickell City Centre “one of the most important, large-scale developments in the country in recent years, not so much because of its size but because of how innovative it is.” Both Kasdin and Akerman Chairman & CEO Andrew Smulian pointed to the $30 million “Climate Ribbon,” which is an elevated trellis system that creates a comfortable microclimate for the three blocks of walkways and terraces and also has a holistic approach to water management and resource conservation.
“There is real value in having our law firm surrounded by the Climate Ribbon, one of the most stunning and innovative pieces of environmental architecture in North America,” Smulian said in a prepared statement.
Top design firm Gensler was the interior architect for Akerman’s nearly seven floors of space at the pre-certified LEED Gold Three Brickell City Centre. Akerman, which has 20 offices and is one of the top 100 law firms in the United States, decided to create a legal workplace that incorporates some of the best practices in contemporary office design, including utilizing lots of glass to let natural light flow through and using uniformly-sized offices for all employees for more efficient use of space, Kasdin noted.
“That means from the top partner to the first-year associate,” he added.
Not surprisingly, the “very democratic nature of the space,” was one of the features the staff liked best, Kasdin said.
The new office, which features a lot of collaborative and shared flexible spaces, also allows for easy expansion, so the firm can grow its headcount by at least 10 percent or more, he said.
While it’s a relatively new concept for the Miami legal market, Kasdin and Smulian said more firms in major cities are increasingly moving toward this model and Akerman plans to use it as a template for its other offices, including Chicago, where the firm recently announced it was more than doubling the size of its offices at 71 South Wacker, adding nearly 41,000 square feet.
“Akerman’s new space is designed to bridge the needs of today with the opportunities of tomorrow,” Smulian said. “The changing law business has an insatiable need for new ideas, and we saw this project as an opportunity to reimagine not only where we work, but how we work. We turned concepts such as collaboration and transparency into convention, and created a working environment that is forward-thinking and efficient.”
Other highlights of the new office are coffee bars on each floor and the Akerman Café on the building’s top floor. Each floor will also have Office Commons, shared space for visiting professionals or teams of lawyers. When privacy is needed, employees can use the War Rooms on every floor. The firm also built one of the largest private state-of-the-art conference centers in Miami, with the capacity to host meetings for up to 300 people.
“Everything is very much in the spirit of new office and collaborative working spaces and a long way from the model of the old, giant dark private offices,” Kasdin said.