Barnes & Thornburg moving to planned downtown South Bend building

South Bend Tribune

April 8, 2019

SOUTH BEND — Plans for the downtown’s first new high-end office building in nearly three decades now include a major tenant.

The law firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP will occupy the middle three floors of a five-story modern glass and steel structure to be built at the southwest corner of Main Street and Jefferson Boulevard, and it will be called “The Barnes & Thornburg Building,” the firm announced.

The firm will remain in its 1st Source Bank Center space until summer 2021. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Tuesday.

The business law firm resulted from a 1982 merger between Indianapolis-based Barnes, Hickam, Pantzer & Boyd, and South Bend-based Thornburg, McGill, Deahl, Harman, Carey & Murray. It has since grown to operate offices in 14 cities, from Atlanta and Chicago to San Diego and Washington, D.C.

Project developer Lewis Hansell’s River Park Leasing Corp. will take the top floor, while a yet-to-be-identified drive-thru coffee retailer and restaurant are planned for the street level.

Barnes and Thornburg will sign a 15-year lease in the new building, being developed by Great Lakes Capital, Bald Mountain LLC and Norris Equity Partners.

“Barnes & Thornburg looks forward to continuing its longtime commitment to downtown South Bend and the greater Michiana community,” Phil Faccenda, managing partner of the firm’s South Bend office, said in a statement. “We are excited that this lease enables us to contribute to and share in South Bend’s ongoing revitalization…”

The city’s Common Council in November 2017 approved a property tax abatement for the $9 million project, recommended by the Mayor Pete Buttigieg administration, that was more generous than typical abatements because Hansell was building the project on speculation, meaning without tenants lined up. The council approved a 100 percent abatement over six years, rather than the more common practice of phasing in the abatement over time.

At the time, the administration told the council it didn’t also plan to offer the project cash in the form of tax incremental financing district revenue, which comes largely from commercial property tax growth in an area. But that has changed. As the project planning progressed and higher than anticipated construction cost estimates came in, the city decided to also offer up to $350,000 in TIF money, said Dan Buckenmeyer, director of economic resources and business development in the city’s Department of Community Investment.

On Tuesday, the Board of Public Works will consider awarding a $265,000 contract to Hardman Construction Inc. for “earthwork.”

For much of the 20th century the site contained the Hotel Jefferson, demolished in 1979 to make way for a Hardee’s restaurant, which was demolished in 2000. Since then it’s functioned as a parking lot.

The last new Class A office building built downtown was Leighton Plaza in 2000. In 2008, new office space was added to the existing American Trust Place building at the northwest corner of Michigan and Washington streets.

“We’re all very excited to activate this downtown site and see such a gorgeous building going up there,” Buckenmeyer said. “It’s an exciting, landmark project that I think is an important step in our ongoing economic surge.”