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July 27, 2020

Largest new office lease signed in Portland with BerryDunn expanded headquarters

aerial view of office campus Courtesy / The Boulos Co. Portland accounting and management consulting firm BerryDunn signed a lease for 87,906 square feet at the Unum campus. The deal is the largest new office lease signed in suburban Portland in recent memory.

BerryDunn has signed a lease for 87,906 square feet of space at 2211 Congress St. in Portland, a building owned by Unum Group. The deal is being called the largest new office lease signed in suburban Portland in recent memory.

BerryDunn, headquartered in Portland, is the largest accounting and management consulting firm in northern New England.

Unum (NYSE: UNM) provides supplemental insurance coverage in the workplace.

BerryDunn has been headquartered at 100 Middle St. for more than 30 years. Its move has been widely anticipated for the past few months, though its destination was under wraps.

“A tremendous amount of research, thoughtful consideration and broad-based input went into making the best long-term decision for us,” Robert Moore, director of operations at BerryDunn, said in the release. “The employee engagement and data gathering were immensely valuable. Boulos helped us secure the perfect place; our lease with Unum reflects that.” 

BerryDunn expects to occupy the new location in early 2021 after extensive renovations. Founded in 1974, BerryDunn has grown to 500 employees across the country, with 250 Portland staff spread across two office buildings. Short on space, the firm retained Boulos to assist in analyzing its options.

Chris Paszyc and Jessica Estes of the Boulos Co. represented BerryDunn in the transaction. Unum was represented by a team including Tim Stewart of Cushman & Wakefield, Boulos’ Drew Sigfridson, Craig Young and Jon Rizzo. 

Boulos surveyed BerryDunn employees on qualities they valued in a productive workspace. 

“We looked at every angle,” said Paszyc. “Downtown versus the suburbs, remaining together versus bifurcation of offices, company growth projections, and evaluation of new construction versus second generation space, all in terms of costs, amenities, and employee attraction/retention.” 

The building at 2211 Congress St. is unique in its footprint and ability to meet the needs of the employee culture. 

“Between the downtown and suburbs, there were anywhere from five to seven options at any one time on the list that could have realistically accommodated BerryDunn’s requirements,” Paszyc told Mainebiz.

True headquarters

The considerable square footage ticked the most important box for the growing firm. 

The search for more space was prompted by a growing workforce, the need for additional learning and employee development space, and a desire to create a hub for all of the firm’s employees, Colleen Oakley, BerryDunn’s director of marketing, told Mainebiz.

“We now have so many employees across the country that we wanted to create a feeling of a home base when they fly in, which they often do,” she said. “This will allow us to have a true headquarters.”

The company has been “bursting at the seams” at its Middle Street offices, which BerryDunn leases but at one time owned, she said.

“It was becoming bit of a beehive,” she said.

The workforce has seen steady growth in recent years, she added. The firm also established an employee learning and development department five years ago.

“Internal training and promoting from within is really important to us,” she said.

Rooms set aside for that purpose at Middle Street haven’t quite met those needs. 

The new space will accommodate airy gathering spaces, a sizable training facility, and client reception areas. 

“The fresh canvas of 2211 Congress allowed us to envision a world-class learning and development headquarters and hub for our employees from around the country,” John Chandler, president and managing principal of BerryDunn, said in the release.

BerryDunn began looking for a new space over a year ago. The goal was to be in greater Portland, but they looked at sites in nearby municipalities, too. 

Unum, headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn., has a prominent presence on the three-building campus, on which it completed a $42 million, multi-phase revamp two years ago. Unum occupies two buildings and leases out the third.

BerryDunn will occupy the full second floor, half the first floor, and the basement.

Pandemic considerations

The pandemic forced new considerations.

“Thank goodness we were still in the design-build phase,” said Oakley. 

The expansion already provided more space for cubicles, offices, conference rooms and the like, as well as a new HVAC system. 

“Those things were already in place and they’ll play to our favor,” she said. “The bigger question is how will people be working in the future.”

The firm successful shifted to remote work as a result of the pandemic, and already had a remote culture due to the considerable travel many employees undertaken, she explained.

“We consider our remote workers our second largest home office,” she said of the 50 to 60 employees nationwide who already work remotely.

The original goal of the new headquarters was to create a hub where people could gather and collaborate, she said.

That idea will remain in place.

“Even if there’s a shift to more flexible or work-from-home culture, it’s been designed to draw people together when they want to be working together,” she said. 

For the renovation, BerryDunn hired Lavallee Brensinger Architects to design an interior layout that makes the most of natural light. Consistent with the firm’s emphasis on well-being, the campus has outdoor space and access to walking and biking trails. 

BerryDunn will install a professionally managed fitness center, as well as a micro-market with fresh meal options. 

“This is the kind of office space that will attract employees for its spaciousness, amenities, and accessible location,” said Jessica Estes

The move dovetails with Unum’s own shifting needs. 

“We’ve invested in making smarter use of our workspace over the last few years,” said Richard Meadows, vice president of real estate at Unum. “Doing so has the added benefit of freeing up space that can be leased, which brings energy to our campuses that mirrors the vibrant nature of Portland.”

The project will bring 2211 Congress up to the highest 21st-century standards, while honoring the shimmering glass façade of the original design. By 2021, BerryDunn’s sign will go on top of the building.

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