BerryDunn signed an agreement to lease space at 2211 Congress St. After months of renovation, the firm is expected to move into the new space as early as next month. Courtesy / Joe Genender

PORTLAND — After decades downtown, including the last 30 years on Middle Street, BerryDunn is moving to outer Congress Street and freeing up close to 40,000 square feet of top-tier commercial space on the peninsula.

Once renovations on the accounting firm’s new 87,000-square-f00t headquarters at 2211 Congress St. wrap up in February, 250 employees, still working remotely due to the pandemic, will begin the transition to the site. The firm will share the campus with the insurance company Unum.

BerryDunn, a large accounting firm, has been based at 100 Middle Street for more than 30 years, but will soon move to outer Congress Street. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The move will leave vacant close to 38,000 square feet on the fourth and fifth floors and half of the second floor in 100 Middle Street’s east tower along with a small space in the west tower.

The Boulos Company is working to find a tenant or tenants for that space through December 2023.

In 2019, the top tier of commercial real estate – Class A  – had the lowest vacancy rate in about 20 years, according to a Market Outlook from Boulos published a year ago. About 4% of overall office space in Portland was vacant.

Boulos is now in the process of finalizing its latest Market Outlook, which will examine how the pandemic impacted commercial and industrial real estate in and around Portland, according to Jessica Estes, Boulos partner and designated broker.

The vacancy rate, Estes said, will rise as a result of the pandemic.

“This year, we will be reporting a higher direct vacancy rate, however, it will be less than 7%, which is remarkable considering the turmoil the market experienced in 2020,” she said.

“The largest needle mover” in downtown Class A commercial real estate, she said, is 300 Fore St., a nearly 60,000-square-foot-building that CIEE vacated early in the pandemic.

The 100 Middle Street building is home to Morgan Stanley, the Bernstein Shur and Eaton Peabody law firms, the local SCORE business mentoring office and the commercial banking offices of Androscoggin Bank and Citizens Bank, as well as federal government organizations such as The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Maine.

The new BerryDunn space will include training and gathering spaces, a fitness center, a mini-market and plenty of off-street parking. Courtesy / Lavallee Brensinger Architects

BerryDunn has been located at 100 Middle Street since its 1987 move from the Time and Temperature building at 477 Congress St. Its decision to move coincides with a rebranding and the pandemic wasn’t a factor, the company said.

“BerryDunn has had a good run at 100 Middle Street in the Old Port,” said BerryDunn CEO and Managing Partner John Chandler. “In fact, our Wealth Management team will continue to operate from that location, and we will retain a few guest offices and meeting spaces for employees and clients who want to meet downtown.”

The “campus atmosphere” of the new location and the potential to expand there made it stand out from among the 12 sites BerryDunn considered, Chandler said.

“Unum has already proven to be a great neighbor to us, creating a nice sense of community on that campus. Being able to put the BerryDunn sign atop 2211 Congress is an honor,” Chandler said.

While the new space was designed by Lavallee Brensinger Architects, the firm reached out to employees about what they wanted in a  new work environment.

“To make our decision, we turned to data and employee feedback,” said Robert Moore, BerryDunn’s director of operations. “We conducted extensive surveys to hear how our teams like to work, collaborate and even commute. We invited employee-driven focus groups to help guide decisions, such as the ‘green committee’ for sustainable practices. Importantly, the headquarters’ footprint allows us to accommodate a variety of work styles, which will serve us well as we anticipate future needs.”

Sarah Olson, director of recruiting, said the new building will help with employee recruiting and retention.

“The social and outdoor spaces are going to let us have fun and be creative,” Olson said.

 

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