Carlton Fields’ new downtown Miami location is at the Brightline train station’s 2 MiamiCentral tower in a space that embraces the latest in law office design. The firm implemented an increasingly common law firm feature — almost the same-sized offices for all attorneys regardless of title or seniority. Carlton Fields hasn’t brought its 150 employees back to the Miami office but leaves it up to them if they want to come in or continue working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Strict public health safety regulations cover those who go in, including using face masks. Carlton Fields, which moved from the 42nd floor of Miami Tower a few blocks away, announced its moving plans early last year and pursued its original plan for a 50,000-square-foot office across 2.5 floors.
It’s unclear when that might occur given a national surge in COVID-19 cases. Florida reported over 10,000 cases on Sunday, a high that hasn’t been seen since July.
“We are hoping to get back like every other business does. We miss the camaraderie,” said Steven Brodie, Miami co-managing shareholder. The firm has embraced virtual communications, but “there is nothing like a personal interaction.”
Sticking to PlanThe pandemic prompted many office tenants to reevaluate their physical space needs with productivity high among remote workers. Some are considering downsizing their central downtown offices and opening suburban satellite centers. Others embarked on lease renegotiations, and those that can’t come to terms with landlords will close, according to a July JLL report on the coronavirus impact on flexible workspace. Carlton Fields stuck to its plan, saying it looks forward to resuming in-person “camaraderie” and already downsized by 35% from its previous 77,000-square-foot home.
The firm hasn’t laid off or furloughed staff during the pandemic and expects growth. It opened its new office on the 10th, 11th and 12th floors at 700 NW First Ave. on Monday under a 10-year lease. It declined to provide the lease terms. JLL managing directors Matthew Goodman and Matthew Cheezem and executive vice president Jeffrey Gordon, all based in Miami, represented the law firm on the lease.
“We already had made the commitment before COVID and started the build-out before COVID,” Brodie said.
Trendy, Centrally LocatedSouth Florida law firms even before the pandemic were reevaluating their real estate, embarking to various degrees on new design trends and generally shrinking their footprints. Carlton Fields is embracing change by decreasing its office size and choosing the more egalitarian approach of equal-sized offices. Both are trends identified in a CBRE Group Inc. legal sector study in 2018. All Carlton Fields attorney offices are 150 square feet, except the shareholder offices are about a smidge bigger because the layout didn’t allow for exactly equal space. In other trends it’s embracing, Carlton Fields has several conference rooms equipped with the technology for video communications and a multipurpose space that can be reconfigured for big or more intimate gatherings. It also has space for attorney collaboration and attorney-client meetings. Floor-to-ceiling windows make the space inviting, and the east side offers expansive views of Freedom Tower and Biscayne Bay.
Conference rooms are named for Miami-area neighborhoods and a suburb, including Brickell, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Liberty City and Wynwood. A core values wall depicts a map of streets with such names as “enjoyment of work,” “service to our communities and the profession” and “appreciation of diversity.” The new office is at Brightline’s downtown Miami station with the high-speed train connecting to downtown Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and an Aventura station is under construction. But service has been suspended since the onset of the pandemic. Metromover, Metrorail and buses have nearby stops. Miami-Dade County and Brightline are in talks about running a commuter rail service with six stops envisioned in Wynwood-Edgewater, the Design District, Little Haiti, 79th Street, 121st Street in North Miami and 151st Street across Biscayne Boulevard from Florida International University. Tri-Rail, a public commuter train, operates on a suburban line and is the likely to run the new commuter line since it is already allowed to stop at MiamiCentral and use the tracks up to a junction in Little River. The 17-story 2 MiamiCentral sits atop the train station and is one of two office towers built by Florida East Coast Industries LLC in 2018 as part of its mixed-use station project. 3 MiamiCentral, a block to the west, has an eight-story parking garage topped by four floors of offices. Carlton Fields, with headquarters in Tampa, opened its Miami office in 1997.
“We have a catering hall that has food prepared to serve for events, and each floor has a workstation where people can come and meet and connect and work together,” Brodie said.
“Although we have all experienced much change in 2020, in-office and remote work must be balanced,” Brodie said. “Miami is one of our largest offices, and it’s a key market for many of our clients — it’s the gateway to Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond. Our new home is a vibrant, creative and sustainable space that is necessary to serve our clients.”
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