Home Sweet Home President's Message November 2009 By Patrick E. Kelly
Since 1993, the MCB has been fortunate to have its headquarters in a beautifully restored Myers Park mansion set among the majestic oaks along Queens Road. The current Bar Center has been our not-so-humble home for these past 17 years, and it has served us well.
While the Bar Center remains a beautiful facility, it is no longer adequate to serve the needs of our growing MCB family. Not only is the facility too small, it is in need of maintenance and repairs. The main structure is more than 80 years old. The roof and basement leak, the walls are mildewed, and the paint is peeling. The archaic electrical wiring was recently deemed to be in violation of Code requirements, necessitating an approval of $30,000 to re-wire the facility. This unplanned expenditure is a stark reminder that our beautiful but aging facility could soon become a "money pit".
Left - MCB Executive Director, Nancy Roberson tarps the roof to prevent further leaking.
Right - Heavy rains flood the MCB Center basement on a regular basis.
In my last President's Letter, I pointed out that whether we need a new Bar Center is no longer the issue. The questions are where can we go and how soon? MCB leadership has talked about the need for more space since 2001. The current BarCenter has 5,900 square feet and approximately 20 parking spaces. This is less than half of the office space needed and barely 10% of the parking needed based upon a needs analysis completed by Gantt Huberman Architects. This analysis concluded that a new MCB Foundation Center will require a minimum of 15,000 square feet of office and meeting space, together with 150 parking spaces. This includes approximately 2,000 square feet for future expansion. Keep in mind that the Bar Center purchased 17 years ago housed 10 staff and served approximately 2,000 Bar members; our new Bar Center will house at least 16 staff and serve nearly 4,300 members.
In early October, our federal and state court judges swore in approximately 140 new lawyers in a beautiful uptown ceremony. Most of the new admittees will be remaining in Mecklenburg County. It is clear from this that we cannot assume that the size of our legal community or the needs of our Bar will shrink, even in bad economic times. We must plan for and prepare for continued growth in our Bar.
In a recent Bar survey, our members informed us that the two things they wanted most from the Bar were more continuing legal education (CLE) opportunities and more networking opportunities. A new Bar Center will enable us to meet both these needs. Because MCB's current facilities are not equipped to handle many of the CLEs we sponsor, MCB must rent space off-site. Off-site CLEs are much more expensive and less profitable due to rental and catering charges. A new Bar Centerwith larger and more modern CLE space and parking will provide both greater convenience and significant cost savings.
Left: CLE programming at the Bar Center packs people together very tightly.
Middle: Insufficient parking results in parking up and down the residential Luther Street.
Right: The parking "lot" across from the Bar Center can get very muddy.
A new Bar Center will also enable MCB to provide space for meetings, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) facilities, and even social networking. An attorney lounge or coffee bar might be just the sort of thing this Bar needs to encourage and maintain collegiality and foster informal networking opportunities.
The Future Bar and Foundation Center Committee, chaired by Pender McElroy and Bill McMullen, has considered both purchase and lease of existing facilities, as well as development of raw real estate. The Committee has explored sites in West Charlotte, East Charlotte, uptown and in areas near uptown. They continue to evaluate options. MCB will have to sell its current site before it can hope to relocate. In the current economy, it is a great time to buy but a tough time to sell. And even if MCB can sell its existing facility, we will need to borrow funds and/or raise funds to bridge the gap between the sale proceeds and the cost of new space. But it is only a matter of time before the right opportunity arises. When it does, the MCB, like any growing family, will need to move quickly to ensure that the MCB has adequate space for years to come.
The new Bar Center is about serving the needs of you, our members. If you have thoughts, ideas or leads (for potential buyers or sellers), please call me, Pender McElroy, Bill McMullen or Nancy Roberson. If you would like a Bar Center (or even a conference room) named after you, or know someone who would, and is willing to pay handsomely for the privilege, let us know. If you would like to serve on the Bar Center Committee, we could use you. The realization of a new Bar Center will necessarily require a cooperative effort of not simply the MCB and MBF leadership and staff, but the majority of our members.
The prospect of purchasing or building a new Bar Center is both daunting and exciting. Our hope is that it will be our professional "home" for the next 20 years, so it is worth doing it right. With your help and support we will.