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Concerns over building, downtown behind firm's move north

Merrill Lynch had been on Main Street since 1984

Friday, February 1, 2013 - 12:01 am

A lot of time and effort has been spent trying to bring jobs and activity downtown in recent years. But a long-time downtown business has moved in the opposite direction – taking 38 employees with it and creating more vacant office space.

The Merrill Lynch brokerage firm, which has been the main tenant in the 24,000-square-foot building at 130 W. Main St. since it opened in 1984, this week relocated to 9921 W. Dupont Circle – a decision the reflects the company's concerns with its former location and with downtown itself.

“The (Main Street) building was very outdated,” said Sheri Jones, administrative manager for Merrill Lynch, who added that clients, especially older clients, had expressed concerns about their safety because of panhandlers and other factors. “We listen to our clients and wanted to be on a corridor with future growth,” she said.

“We always hate to lose a business downtown, and we hate to see them go,” said Bill Brown, president of the Downtown Improvement District. The two-story building's ground-level access and parking should make it attractive to potential tenants, Brown said.

The DID, Economic Development Alliance and Chamber of Commerce are said to be looking for a joint location now that the Chamber has sold its building on Ewing Street to the University of Saint Francis.

When it opened, the Main Street building was conceived as the first of a three-building, $5 million complex. But the additional structures never materialized.

The building was conceived by Irmscher & Sons Inc. and developers Nicholas Litchen, Jay Hebig and Joseph Christoff. A spokesman for the ownership group, 110 General Partnerships, said new tenants are being sought for the “marvelous” building.

A few tenants remain despite Merrill Lynch's relocation.