Nov 4, 2016

Akron's Oldest Law Firm Makes Case for Adding Its Name to Downtown Skyline

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Akron’s oldest law firm, Roetzel & Andress, is the latest company to light up the Akron skyline with its name.

The new sign went up this past week on the old O’Neil’s department store building at 222 S. Main Street, overlooking Lock 3 Park in the city’s downtown.

So what took so long? After all, a large portion of the six­story building has been the firm’s Akron home since 1999.

Brian Moore, partner­-in-­charge of Roetzel’s Akron office — which has roots that go back to 1876 — said folks at the firm had thought off and on about getting a skyline sign, and the idea “really got legs when we were hitting our 15­year­anniversary of being in this [former O’Neil’s] building,” in 2014.

The building management company — McKinley & Associates — got the necessary approvals from the city, and Ellet Sign Co. in Akron built the illuminated sign that went up Tuesday near the top of the building.

Suzie Graham, president of the nonprofit Downtown Akron Partnership, is a fan of the sign, which features black letters during the day and white letters at night.

“I think it makes an incredible statement about the firm’s intentional decision to be part of the downtown neighborhood,” she said.

Without naming names, Graham noted that some historically downtown businesses have migrated out to the suburbs over the years.

One of those companies that left is another longtime law firm — Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs — which moved to an office park in Fairlawn in 2006. Its departure from downtown was seen as a big loss to the city.

Moore said the sign wasn’t designed to send a message about the firm’s commitment to downtown.

Nevertheless, he said, Roetzel is proud to be downtown.

When the firm was looking to move in the late ’90s, he said, the decision to stay downtown was the very first decision made by a committee dealing with the move.

“Unanimously, we said, ‘We are staying downtown,’ ” Moore said.

Roetzel owns and occupies the fifth and sixth floors of the former O’Neil’s store, and occupies the largest amount of square footage in the building. A portion of the ground floor is occupied by Barley House bar and restaurant.

Roetzel’s Akron office previously was in the historic Carnegie building — built as a library in 1904 — across East Market Street from the Akron Art Museum.

The stately building has been home to the Brennan, Manna, Diamond LLC law firm since 2000.

“A sign is just a sign, but this also represents the 130 people we have here in this building,” Moore said, with about 55 lawyers “practicing great law in a great city.”

The 130 employees include administrative personnel. Roetzel, founded in Akron, employs a total of 341 people at 11 offices.

The sign simply says Roetzel and includes a logo that looks like a lens. (The company uses the catch line “Focused on what matters to you” on its website.)

Moore explained that the company went through a rebranding several years ago. It’s official name remains Roetzel & Andress, a Legal Professional Association.

Clients and others were in the habit of simply calling the firm “Roetzel,” Moore said, so it made sense to use a “shorter, snappier, one­word identification.”

PNC Bank added signs atop its 23­story Cascade Plaza building, at South Main and Bowery streets downtown, in July.

Further changes to skyline signage are likely for the nearby FirstMerit Tower following the bank’s acquisition this year by Huntington Bancshares.