Eastman & Smith renews commitment to downtown ToledoWritten by Brian Bohnert | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Following the early renewal of its lease agreement with the city, Toledo’s oldest law firm recently completed a major renovation to its downtown offices.
Eastman & Smith Ltd. upgraded its 47,590-square-foot property on the 24th and 25th floors of the Fifth Third Center in One SeaGate as part of an ongoing commitment to the city of Toledo.
Prior to the renovation, the firm signed an early renewal of its lease, keeping it in the Glass City through at least September 2021.
Mark Elliott, director of business development and human resources for the firm, said the renovation began in 2011 with construction on the 24th floor beginning first.
“They were doing it in phases over the course of a year,” Elliott said. “We looked at certain places that would better accommodate the clients and their needs.”
Rudolph/Libbe, Inc., the Toledo-based contractor in charge of the project, renovated the firm’s lobbies, conference rooms and restrooms with fresh paint, new carpet and flooring, and lighter woodwork for a more “inviting feel,” Elliott said.
The firm also added new conference rooms to accommodate growing business, as well as new technology that allows lawyers and their staff to participate in video conferencing from anywhere in the firm. Between both floors, Eastman & Smith has nine conference rooms.
“We can link up with other offices in the firm, as well as other firms and clients from anywhere,” Elliott said. “It’s kind of migrated into the way we do business now. It’s the industry standard.”
Large secretarial workstations with shorter walls, windows and a collaborative work area were created for better communication and higher morale among employees. Before construction began, all secretaries were enclosed in their own specific area, Elliott said.
“The work stations change the way we interact,” he said. “The glass allows extra light in and the openness enhances communication and collaboration, making it more comfortable and ergonomic for the staff.”
The firm’s technology center was also upgraded to include a new, waterless fire suppression system. The technology center stores and maintains all computer servers and storage units.
Elliott said crews worked in quadrants, dividing each floor into fourths so employees could be temporarily relocated while still remaining productive and away from the disruption.
“We still wanted productivity and we still wanted to minimize disruption of business to keep morale high,” he said. “Construction is noisy and dusty, so obviously took a little bit of effort on everybody’s part to get used to it.”
While the firm has always been headquartered in downtown Toledo, it was originally housed in the old United Savings Building. The firm moved to its current location in December of 1992.
David Nunn, a member of Eastman & Smith since 1989, said the firm has always loved being in downtown Toledo and the ultimate goal is to remain in the city for as long as the company exists.
“Based on our location and our history in the city, we feel like we’re very connected and in tune with the local business community,” Nunn said. “And, that helps us and helps our clients because we all know each other to some degree.”
Eastman & Smith’s lease is with One SeaGate Partners, though Nunn said there is a larger real estate company out of New York that owns the building.
“They keep adding tenants so I’m happy to see the building is doing better,” he said. “They took a building that was nearly empty and made it, what I think, will be a long-term, preeminent place where people will want to be.”
The firm renewed the lease early in order to ensure its spot in the building for years to come, Nunn said.
“We knew we wanted to make an upgrade; but, before you can make that kind of capital movement, you need to make sure this is where you’re going to stay,” Nunn said. “So, it made a lot of sense for us to sign the lease early. Downtown Toledo has been doing some really great things over the past few years. Every time I come downtown on a weekend night and see a traffic jam because of some event, it makes me happy because it did not always used to be like that.”
Eastman & Smith was founded in 1844 by Harvard Law graduate William Baker. Since its inception, the firm has had 14 name changes: the first being William Baker in 1844 and the last being Eastman & Smith in 1981. The firm became a limited liability company in 1996.
The firm has nine “broad areas” of specialization: business; employment; litigation; immigration; education; health care; taxation; environmental; and nonprofit. Eastman & Smith no longer sees cases involving criminal matters or domestic relations, Elliott said.
“There are typically two types of law firms, the plaintiff who pursues a particular product and the defense,” Elliott said. “We’re always on the defensive. We defend companies and individuals.
Some of the firm’s high-profile clients have included Fifth Third Bank; Glass City Federal Credit Union; Hickory Farms Inc.; Toledo Orthopedic Surgeons Inc.; Black & Decker Inc.; Chrysler Group LLC; Dana Corp. and Toledo School for the Arts.