James Center lands new law firm tenant

The One James Center downtown. (File photo courtesy Riverstone Properties)

A Richmond law firm is swapping downtown office towers, helping fill a sizable chunk of space in the James Center.

Christian & Barton signed a lease for 33,000 square feet in One James Center at 901 E. Cary St.

The law firm, which has around three dozen attorneys in Richmond, expects to move into the new space in spring 2021 and will vacate its current longtime home in the Mutual Building at 909 E. Main St.

It’s a slight downsize for Christian & Barton, which occupies about 39,000 square feet on the top four floors of the 12-story, 132,434-square-foot Mutual Building.

Christian & Barton is leaving the Mutual Building for One James Center. (Michael Schwartz)

“We look forward to going over there,” managing partner James Moore said of the pending move to the James Center.

The firm has been in the Mutual Building since at least the 1940s. The building is owned by an entity tied to Shamin Hotels, which bought it at auction in 2014 for $3.27 million.

“We’ve enjoyed our stay here,” Moore said.

Bruce Boykin, senior asset manager overseeing the James Center for owner Riverstone Properties, said Christian & Barton is taking over the 17th and 18th floors of the 21-story One James Center. Atlantic Union Bank is in the process of moving out of the 17th floor space as it consolidates into other space elsewhere in the other two James Center towers. And the 18th floor came available after Davenport & Co. moved down to the 16th.

“That takes a big chunk,” Boykin said of the Christian & Barton deal.

One James Center still has around 120,000 square feet of contiguous space available for lease — the former McGuireWoods space on floors three-six. Boykin said Riverstone continues to market the space as a single tenant offering.

Boykin said negotiations with Christian & Barton had been underway since prior to the pandemic. The space will be renovated for Christian & Barton with a tenant improvement allowance. JLL’s Charlie Polk represented Christian & Barton in the deal.

Christian & Barton adds to other recent new tenants at One James Center. Restaurant chain Chopt opened on the first floor last year. Virginia Economic Development Partnership is finishing renovations on an additional 30,000-square-foot seventh floor space, adding to its existing offices on the eighth and ninth floors.

Boykin said interest in office space remains, despite the pandemic’s disruptions. He said Riverstone invested in 3-D virtual tour capabilities that have helped it show spaces across all three James Center buildings during the coronavirus.

“We’re pretty steady on tours these days,” he said. “People are still looking.”

Riverstone’s asking price for space in One James Center is $23-26.25 per square foot per year for a full service lease. Lease rates in the other two towers range from $23-$28.

Riverstone has owned the three-building James Center complex since buying it out of near-foreclosure in 2017 for $108 million. It has since set off on a renovation and plan to modernize the 1980s-era properties. One James Center has seen the bulk of the initial work, although heavy upgrades are underway at the Atrium at the hands of Hourigan. That work is expected to be completed in November.

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
18 days ago

The unanswered question lies in the future of the iconic Mutual Building, one of the few “dinosaurs” remaining downtown. What does the Shamin group have in store now?

Jay Randal
Jay Randal
18 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Who knows, but he’s been neglecting it since he acquired it in 2014, which is the only reason CB is fleeing. Shamin is a pox on the city.

Jay Randal
Jay Randal
15 days ago
Reply to  Jay Randal

Down vote me all you want, But I have family who works there – and about 70% of the time in the summer they can’t actually be in the building because its’ over 90 degrees, and Shamin refuses to adequately fix the air conditioning. I’m actually surprised a law firm tolerated that as long as they did.

David Bass
David Bass
18 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

That building would make an amazing boutique hotel…

Thomas Nelson
Thomas Nelson
18 days ago
Reply to  David Bass

Would be great but can’t help but think in this pandemic hotel announcements are really on the horizon. When in doubt I’d just turn it into apts, always demand downtown for it