Press and Media

First Base Building View Promises to be a Hit







Originally April 1, 2016 in the print issue of the Columbia Regional Business Report featuring the Bull Street Development Update

By Melinda Waldrop


When employees at the Columbia office of law firm Ogletree Deakins settle into their new home, one can almost imagine a cry of “Play ball!” echoing down the hallway.

Later this month, the office’s 35 lawyers, paralegals, and support staff will move to the fourth floor of First Base Building, a striking centerpiece of The Commons at BullStreet redevelopment project. Large, glass-fronted conference rooms overlook the manicured outfield grass of Spirit Communications Park, home of the Columbia Fireflies, the city’s new minor league baseball team.

Ogletree Deakins, currently occupying 13,000 square feet at the Meridian Building on Main Street, signed a 10-year lease last August for 12,275 square feet of space at the First Base Building. It remains the only announced tenant.

“People were so excited,” said Kathy Dudley Helms, managing shareholder of Ogletree Deakins’ Columbia office. “This had the wow factor. It was new, and it was a neat opportunity.”

The new offices will feature a more open floor plan divided into practice groups, said Helms, who said the move will be completed by April 28.

“It’s a more economical and a smarter configuration,” Helms said. “It’s less personal space and more communal space. My office is literally half the size of the one I have right now, (but) we think it’ll make things more collaborative.”

Three conference rooms, equipped with audio/visual capabilities, and a reception area have views of the ballpark, as do some offices. Others overlook treetops and the steeple of the old chapel on the campus of the former S.C. State Hospital, while some face the yet-to-be-renovated broken windows of the Babcock Building.

“We have space for 25 attorneys here, which I would love to fill up,” said Helms, pointing out an internal conference room, a training room, and a kitchen area.

Helms said the office will feature a blue accent wall the color of the Carolina sky and artwork emphasizing the Midlands presence of a firm that has locations nationwide and in Europe.

“We have our unique stamp for Columbia,” she said. “Traditional law firms can be really heavy-looking. That’s beautiful, but this is not going to be very ostentatious. It’s going to be comfortable and pretty, but it’s going to be not a whole lot of decoration.”

The First Base Building is one of three properties to attract tenants to the mixed-use Bull Street redevelopment project. Commercial real estate brokerage and development group Diversified Development has purchased and renovated the Parker Street Annex, while Vista-based work-place sharing company SOCO plans to move into the former asylum’s bakery.

At the First Base Building, general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham, Ala., has been on site for 12 months, navigating close quarters just 6 feet removed from the baseball field and its different contractor, as well as other, harder-to-control factors.

“We’ve had over 5 feet of rain right here on the site in 11½ months,” Brasfield & Gorrie superintendent Michael Clowdus said. “Stuff like that is hard to overcome, but we’ve had a lot of guys here working the weekends trying to stay on top of it. We’re on a good schedule.”

A soaking overnight rain left recent visitors to the First Base Building squishing through mud, but the outlook grew sunnier on the rooftop deck, where Helms envisioned al fresco lunches and maybe even a yoga class with an occasional side of afternoon baseball.

“The whole thing is to have a place where you can really work efficiently, but it’s a good place to work,” Helms said. “It’s really neat that we can be part of what is a first-class project.”