Pierce Atwood law firm considers moving Portland office

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PORTLAND — One of the region’s prominent law firms is considering moving out of its downtown headquarters and possibly out of the city.

Pierce Atwood, the major tenant at 1 Monument Square, is looking at several properties in greater Portland, according to the firm’s marketing and business director, Christopher Batio.

“I can’t really confirm where,” Batio said in an interview last week.

Several local developers with knowledge of the situation said the law firm is considering at least one location in South Portland, along with alternative Portland locations. Batio said he could not disclose specific locations being considered.

Pierce Atwood has been at 1 Monument Square since the 1970s, when the building was built. The firm occupies more than 60,000 feet in the 122,000-square foot building, which is owned by Finard Properties.

The firm’s lease expires in March 2011, which makes new construction seem unlikely.

Although Batio did not rule out the possibility of Pierce Atwood staying put, the firm has shown interest in moving over the past few years.

It considered becoming the major tenant of an office building jointly proposed by CBRE/The Boulos Co. and Cumberland County next to the Cumberland County Courthouse, but reportedly backed out of that deal because the cost was too high.

Pierce Atwood also had conversations with The Olympia Cos. about building on property near the city’s Eastern Waterfront.

Portland stands to lose about 200 jobs if Pierce Atwood decides to move out of the city. Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell did not respond to requests for comment.

Godfrey Wood, the chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Pierce Atwood has not been in touch with the chamber about a possible move.

When asked about the possibility of Portland losing a major tenant, Wood said the greater Portland region acts increasingly as one economy.

“People are doing business regionally,” Wood said, noting that when people and businesses from out of state talk about Portland in business terms, they are considering not just the city but South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook, Falmouth and other nearby communities. “It’s kind of all the same economy.”

Pierce Atwood was founded in 1891 and in addition to its Portland headquarters has offices in Augusta, Boston, Portsmouth, N.H., Washington, D.C., Providence, R.I. and Stockholm, Sweden. The firm has more than 250 employees worldwide.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net