Nixon Wenger was looking for a new home. The Vernon law firm ended up creating a new city landmark.
Just 14 months after developers broke ground on what was formerly home to Portillo’s coffee house (they also acquired some adjacent property), Nixon Wenger, with its team of 23 lawyers and 56 support staff, is already operating in the new state-of-the-art, four-storey building.
The structure sits opposite the new Tolko building on 30th Avenue, and not quite kitty-corner to the Vernon courthouse on 27th Street, with which it shares some heritage design characteristics. The new Vernon library is currently under construction across 28th Street.
“It’s kind of the best of the old and the new,” said Paul Nixon, a partner with the firm.
“Both Doug (Lemiski, partner) and I wanted the building to be sympathetic to the courthouse. With that in mind, we wanted a blend of old and new.”
After years of operation, and subsequent expansion, at their old location in the CIBC building on 30th Avenue, Lemiski said a move to a larger office space was inevitable.
“We spent three years looking to find alternate space. We ultimately concluded our best bet was to build our own given the lack of any other alternatives,” said Lemiski.
“We built it to be here for the long term. Hopefully we’ve built something that’s going to stand the test of time, and still look like something that’s attractive and well-designed 15 years from now.”
Each of the building’s bottom three floors are 10,500 square feet, with the top floor, which includes a gorgeous rooftop patio, main boardroom and staff room, equalling 4,500 square feet. Nixon Wenger shares the second floor with BDO Vernon, an accounting/financial firm, and occupies all of the third and the fourth.
Blenz coffee house takes up a corner of the first floor, leaving roughly 7,000 square feet available for leasing.
To alleviate the issue of street parking, the property design features 32 parking stalls for clients on the east side of the building.
In addition to energy-saving features like automated lighting and an ultra-efficient H-VAC unit, the building’s exterior uses Dryvit Outsulation, a highly energy-efficient cladding that gives it its stone-like appearance.
“Everything has worked well for us. The project was concluded on time and on budget,” said Nixon, who credited the efforts of local contractor Chuck Winn of Silverrock Land Corporation, and project designers MQN Architects.
“It lets us provide our services on a much more coordinated basis. We have all of our lawyers and all of our staff under one roof, which is helpful in terms of efficiencies amongst us.”
Nixon and Lemiski noted the transition to the new building hasn’t been without its challenges. They praised manager Val Trevis and office support manager Nancy Clarke for sorting out the logistics and orchestrating the move.
“Our staff have been tremendous in helping with our move and transition,” added Nixon.
Road construction on both 30th Avenue and the lane on the east side of the building, along with the library project, have hindered public access to the building, but Nixon can already envision the finished product and likes what he sees.
“Our clients are still struggling getting to the building, but now that we have a surface parking lot that goes with the building, they’ll enjoy it more,” said Nixon.
“We’re happy with how it’s progressing. The city has been good and the contractor has been good. It’s been a win-win situation for the community and for us.
“It’s important for the community to recognize that we’re committed to our downtown core. It remains essential to the well being of our Greater Vernon community.”