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Designed to Create a Signature Space

Written by Jane Trabert Schmitt
Imagery by Sanda Kicman

What’s old is new for Phillips Lytle LLP, a prominent law firm that recently settled into the top four floors of an eyesore-turned-jewel in what’s being called “the new Buffalo.”
    Indeed, all eyes are on the downtown core, which is seeing unpre-
cedented construction and development, including a revitalized waterfront district called Canalside.
    The excitement and momentum isn’t lost on Phillips Lytle,  which 
made big news last year when Managing Partner, David J. 
McNamara, announced the firm’s plan to leave One HSBC Center
after 40 years for new digs nearby. Now that the move to One Canalside is complete, employees and clients alike are feeling the energy in this state-of-the-art, impeccably designed space.
    The look is clean and contemporary with traditional under-tones that add warmth and character. The color scheme favors neutral tones but here, there and everywhere are glimpses of the law firm’s signature color – copper. It’s the basis of the company logo, and various shades of this distinctive hue have been incorporated into elements ranging from imported lighting fixtures, wallcoverings and fabric on furniture to towering exterior pillars that reflect the waterfront sun.
    The offices here boast the most advanced technology, not to mention energy and environmental-efficiency standards that earned this former state office building LEED Silver certification. The space was carefully designed to facilitate collaboration among 
the firm’s seven offices and various practice areas to help attorneys,
paralegals and support staff be more efficient and effective.
    “The story here is professionalism, efficiency and a very pleasant environment for our employees to spend a significant amount of their time in each day,” McNamara says. “We believe that the space – both its location and the design – are very well-aligned with our overall business objectives in terms of our ability to deliver the highest level of services back to our clients.”
    In contrast to the law firm’s previous office space, which featured lots of dark wood and a traditional colorscape of maroon, gray and silver, the aesthetic here is sleek yet classic, multi-dimensional yet timeless. Eucalyptus was the preferred wood in this design, lending a subtle sophistication as attorneys and clients stroll down hallways on their way to the offices and conference rooms.
This is a classic example of space that functions as well as it looks, said the base building architect, Philip DiNicola of Fontanese Folts Aubrecht Ernst Architects in Orchard Park, New York.
    “It’s a unique building that is authentic to its place in time. It’s not
trying to mimic any one style. It’s just trying to bring something that’s genuine to what it houses,” he said, adding,  “Our heart and
soul went into this project from day one because it’s that important of a project for downtown.”
     “There was a lot of thought given to the design process,” McNamara said. “We hired one of the foremost law firm architects
nationally – Roy Abernathy to design an office space. He and 
his colleague, Rafael Diaz, did a fabulous job creating a smartly designed office that fits all of our business objectives.  … It’s a 
clean, light look with multiple-textured surfaces. It’s not ultra-
contemporary but it’s certainly not traditional. It’s not staid at all.”

Some highlights:
•  “Authentic” materials and ergonomically superior furnishings by Millington Lockwood Inc., Datascapes, Inc., and other suppliers.
•  Ten technology-rich conference rooms, including one with a 10-by-30-foot stylized mural of the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and “skywalls” that allow it to be split into three separate event spaces.
•  Impressive use of natural light throughout the offices and gathering spaces.
•  Custom engineered glazing to act as an acoustic barrier to exterior noise, such as highway traffic.
•  Cultural and historic wall hangings, framed mementos from years gone by and a one-of-a-kind “timeline” sculpture that traces the history of Phillips Lytle.
•  Panoramic views of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor, the city skyline and Coca-Cola Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons.
    This is Phillips Lytle’s signature space now and for many years to come in the mixed-use building, the lower floors of which will feature a Marriott hotel and retail/restaurant space. Benderson Development Co. led the renovation project.
    For the law firm, which dates back to 1834, the decision to leave its longtime home in One HSBC Center at the end of its lease was bittersweet. After considering several options around town, however, the partners focused on a nearby building that had been vacant for nearly a decade and was primed for adaptive reuse.
    “The future looks bright,” McNamara said. “This was a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we decided very early in the process that if we were going to take on a build-to-suit option, 
we were going to do it right. We’re very proud of the results.”

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