Lee Moore doesn’t have an explanation for it.
“The long and short of it is that RMP wasn’t supposed to grow like this, to be honest,” he said. “At least in my mind.”
RMP refers to Fayetteville-based law firm Reece Moore Pendergraft. Moore, Joseph Reece and Neal Pendergraft are the founding partners of the firm, which opened its doors in September 2005 in a small, lower-level space inside the Arvest Bank building on North East Street. They met one another working for Fayetteville firm Ball & Mourton.
From those cramped beginnings, RMP has continued to grow, steadily at first and rapidly as of late. Now with satellite offices in Bentonville and Jonesboro, the firm that specializes in offering expertise in tax, transactional and trust and estate planning has 45 employees (16 attorneys, 29 staff), Moore said. That’s nearly tripled since 2011, when the firm employed 16 people.
RMP eventually moved to larger quarters in the Arvest Bank building a few years ago, but Moore, 64, says the firm has long outgrown those offices, initially about 3,500 square feet and later about 5,000 square feet, all on the fifth floor.
To accommodate the growth — for now and the future — RMP is partnering with principals of local firm High Street Real Estate and Development to build a 21,000-square-foot building in the sprawling “new urban” project in Johnson that’s being called Johnson Square.
RMP will occupy the majority of the top two floors of the three-story building. It will be owned by the law firm and High Street, each business with a 50% interest.
“They [High Street] are trying to create a really good thing, and they’re going to create a really good thing,” Moore said. “And we’re going to be a part of it. We trust in the experience, quite frankly, of the folks we’re going in with. We feel good about their expertise.”
Moore also praised Reece’s leadership in the search for a new office location.
“Joe gets all the credit; he is the visionary for RMP,” he said.
Ward Davis, a developer and principal in High Street, said construction will begin in mid-September, with completion anticipated in May 2018.
“They [RMP] are a great law firm and a quickly growing law firm,” Davis said. “It’s a convenient location where they can grow, and they understand the vision of the neighborhood.”
Fayetteville firm C.R. Crawford has been chosen as the general contractor. First Security Bank of Searcy is financing the project.
‘A BEAUTIFUL ANCHOR’
The RMP Building will be the first building in Johnson Square to come out of the ground north of Johnson Mill Boulevard. High Street and Washington Regional Medical Center partnered last year to develop an urgent care clinic south of the boulevard, at the intersection of Main Drive.
Johnson Square is an approximately $200 million project that will ultimately be a pedestrian-oriented neighborhood, blending office, retail and restaurant space with multiple residential options of houses, townhomes and cottages. Infrastructure work has been ongoing throughout the summer.
The men leading the project are Davis, Morgan Hooker, Bob Hill and Gerald Johnston. Davis, Hooker and Johnston are the owners of High Street, in charge of marketing the property to potential tenants, both residential and commercial. Johnston and Hill, who is a broker for the company, own the land. The center of Johnson Square will be a square itself, situated at the intersection of Johnson Mill Boulevard and Main Drive.
“The RMP Building will provide a beautiful anchor for the west side of the central square,” Davis said. “We view the square as the heart and soul of the neighborhood.”
Besides the law offices on the top two floors, the RMP Building will have two restaurant spaces on the ground floor, both facing the square. Davis said there are working letters of intent in place for leasing agreements of both spaces.
“We are negotiating those leases right now and hope to make some announcements very soon,” he said. “The restaurant on the south side of the building will have a 1,200-square-foot porch, and the restaurant on the north side will open onto a small park.”
Davis said being able to start the 74-acre project with a commercial building will set the bar high for architectural quality. Robert Sharp of Fayetteville is the design architect for the RMP Building and the architectural firm of record is Allison+Partners.
“It shows people what we’re doing,” Davis explained.
Davis said the RMP Building will be a ‘cornerstone’ building for Johnson Square, and “definitely one of the most important” buildings in the neighborhood. He hopes it will spur interest for other planned buildings. He said the next building to begin construction is the Hill Building. It’s a mixed-use project as well, but will introduce the first residential units to Johnson Square.
“It’s nine apartments and two commercial spaces, and these will probably be some of the finer apartments in the neighborhood,” Davis said. “Corner balconies, wraparound front porches …they’ll be some of the more expensive [units] and worth every penny. This one will be pushing some envelopes.”
Davis said construction should begin in December. A design firm in Savannah, Ga., is handling the building design. A general contractor has not been chosen.