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Brooks Pierce adds 8 Raleigh attorneys, leasing more space

Business law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLP added eight new attorneys to its Raleigh roster in the last seven months, leading the firm to seek new space to ease its growing pains.

The firm, which has offices in Greensboro and the Wells Fargo Capitol Center in downtown Raleigh, added two attorneys in March and six more since August to help satisfy growing demand in the Triangle.

As a result, the firm will be leasing more space in the Wells Fargo building, said Mark Prak, a Raleigh partner. Brooks Pierce already occupies the 16th floor of the building, about 18,500 square feet.

“Many firms in the profession have been getting smaller since 2008,” Prak said. “We’re improving our capability and growing our Raleigh presence in a way that we can serve a large number of businesses who are here in the Triangle area.”

Durham law firm to move downtown

DURHAM — The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin are filling a high-profile office in downtown Durham.

The personal injury firm announced today that it has agreed to lease about 50,000 square feet at Diamond View II, beyond the outfield of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in the city's American Tobacco district.

The space is at least 25 percent more than what it leases at Imperial Center, off Interstate 40. The firm is expected to move out of most of its Imperial offices by the end of the year.

It's the latest in a string of companies moving from the outskirts of Durham to the city center. Last month, Burt's Bees, a maker of natural beauty products, moved from Keystone Park in Durham County to another American Tobacco building.

As part of the Farrin deal, the firm gets its name on Diamond View II, facing the hundreds of thousands of fans who visit the ballpark each year.

The 14-year lease fills the last big office vacancy at American Tobacco.

What's clogging the criminal justice system? Lawyers

During his visit to The N&O this week, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison was asked about the crowded conditions in the jails and whether he thinks the criminal justice system moves a bit too slowly for his taste. For starters, he said he has about 1,300 beds and about 1,400 prisoners on any given day, one time reaching a high of 1,550. Most days, there are 90 people in the jail who admit to being gang members (see attached audio). Interestingly, he said that about 100 countries are represented in the jail population. About 85 percent of those in jail are people awaiting trial, he said.

And the biggest hindrance to getting those folks to their dates with madame justice? Game-playing lawyers.

Take a listen.


Do architects rule the City Council?

When City Councilman Thomas Crowder took his colleagues on a 5 p.m. bus tour earlier this month, he could have easily still been at work.
At each stop on the 90-minute tour Crowder, founder of the Raleigh architecture firm Architekturpa, explained why the property in question represented some the worst in modern urban architecture.
“Quality construction,” Crowder said sarcastically at one point in the tour.
Focusing on, and debating, the aesthetics of development in Raleigh has become a staple of this City Council, largely because of the presence of Crowder and Councilman Russ Stephenson, who is also an architect with his own practice.
While their frequent trumpeting of the urban form is welcomed by many, it also has its critics.
Philip Isley, the only council member who was unable to attend Crowder’s tour, said he frequently hears complaints from developers who say Crowder and Stephenson want to redesign projects they don’t like.
Their objections can be particularly infuriating for developers who have spent months, even years, working to meet the recommendations of the city’s Planning Department and the Planning Commission.
“Sometimes the desire to get everything just perfect, as architects do, becomes maddening,” Isley said.
Councilman Rodger Koopman, who admits to being a layman when it comes to architecture, said he understands the frustration some developers must feel.
“At the same time, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if it forces developers to pay attention to the aesthetic component,” Koopman said.
Koopman also notes that Crowder and Stephenson each represent one vote on the 8-person council, meaning their support is not required for a project to get approval.
Crowder and Stephenson were both elected to the council after serving on the Planning Commission. Crowder joined as the District D representative in 2003; Stephenson as one of two at-large members in 2005.
Each has shown a willingness to raise aesthetic concerns about a wide range of projects — with varying degrees of success.

* In 2006, Crowder crusaded for the use of stone walls instead of synthetic stucco on the new Marriott Hotel along Fayetteville Street. Although he failed to excise all the stucco from the project, the developer did eventually agree to trimming back the stucco to 25 percent of the hotel’s exterior, all of it on the upper floors.

* In September, Crowder held up the approval of a new McDonalds on Peace Street because he felt the design could be more pedestrian-friendly. A McDonalds representative said only stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn had the characteristics Crowder was seeking. Crowder said he’d seen them in Tennessee. The council approved the project, with Stephenson and Crowder voting against it.

* Last month, Stephenson wanted to delay approval of the Powerhouse Plaza project in downtown’s Glenwood South district because of concerns about how the facade on a parking deck would look. Mayor Charles Meeker pointed out that, in addition to meeting the city’s current standards, the developer had already agreed to make changes to the facade that will be visible at street level. The council approved the 11-story project with only Stephenson voting against it.

Crowder and Stephenson deny they are against projects that doesn’t meet their personal architectural standards.
“We’re not here trying to impose a personal critique on every project that goes through,” Crowder said. “I see it as helping to educate.”
Stephenson said he doesn’t prefer one architectural style over another — rather, he just wants something that improves the surrounding community. He said he’s trying to raise the bar for what kinds of developments get built in Raleigh.
“For a long time, there was this idea that we were just Raleigh. We can’t aspire to being a really top-notch city,” Stephenson said. “I think that’s changing. I think people want more and expect more.”
Even Isley admits that, as one of two lawyers on the council, people could make the same argument against him and Mayor Charles Meeker as they do against Stephenson and Crowder.
“I’m sure people look at the mayor and me and say ‘they’re meddling in things that we don’t need to be meddling in,’” Isley said.
And if enough Raleigh voters become convinced that two architects is too much, there’s always the ballot box.
“The whole notion behind elected officials is that they will be representative of the community,” said Gordon Whitaker, a professor of public administration and government at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government. “It’s up to the voters to decide which they want to have representing them.”

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