After keeping shop at seven different locations in downtown Hartford over a span of 75 years, investment firm Coburn & Meredith is moving out of the city and into the suburbs, where the parking is free but walking-distance lunch spots are much more limited.
For CEO Barry Coburn, who joined the family-run firm in 1959 and is the son of one of the firm's founders, it's a bittersweet move.
"I remember as a child, sitting in the lap of the telephone operator, pulling all of her cords out," he said. "There was a time when you would walk down the street at lunchtime and see at least three or four people you knew. We loved being downtown."
But nostalgia couldn't win out over modern leasing realities for the firm.
Ten of Coburn & Meredith's employees are now working in an 1800s Victorian house in Simsbury, while another nine — the bulk of the firm's sales force — last week finished moving from space in Goodwin Square to rented space in Glastonbury.
"Our monthly mortgage payment to own the house is less than half of what we were paying in downtown Hartford," said Rob Daly, managing director. In Hartford, the firm pays $12,000 per month for 4,000 square feet of office space on the 15th floor of Goodwin Square on Asylum Street.
The mortgage payment for the 5,000-square-foot house on Route 167 is $6,000 per month, and rent for space in a Glastonbury office park is $4,000 per month. The Goodwin Square lease is up at the end of the year and both suburban offices are now up and running during the transition.
"It was sad to leave Hartford," said Daly, who can now ride his bicycle to work in Simsbury. "For 75 years we'd never left Hartford, so leaving now is a huge deal. But the economics of it was glaring."
The firm began its history in Hartford on Lewis Street in 1934 as Coburn & Libby, but the firm's name changed to Coburn & Meredith after a merger in the 1970s.
In addition to lower monthly rent payments, the firm is now able to offer free parking to clients and employees. Street visibility was another plus of the suburban move. The firm looked at several lease options in Hartford before ultimately deciding on the move earlier this year.
"We validated parking for clients parking in the Goodwin garage, but it was not at a discount for us," Daly said. "Getting out of the city will give our clients much easier access."
Parking tends to be the main reason companies leave cities in general, said Jay Wamester, principal at commercial real estate firm Colliers Dow & Condon.
"The differential between rents for Class A space in Hartford and Class A space in the suburbs is not that great," he said. "Parking in the central business district is really the biggest cost difference. Companies may see the value of having restaurants and cultural organizations close by, but when their lease is up and they put pen to paper, parking in a city becomes a huge consideration."
Wamester said he hasn't seen an abundance of businesses leaving Hartford for suburban areas, but he did note law firm Cantor Colburn's move last year from suburban Bloomfield to two floors of Hartford's "Stilts Building" on Church Street.
"This is the first high profile exodus from downtown Hartford in a long time," Wamester said. "It's somewhat rare."