Raymond James Tower elevators soon to be modernized, landlord says

Skyscraper owner responds to reports that Raymond James may leave

By Updated: February 28, 2019 5:51 PM CT | Published: February 28, 2019 5:28 PM CT

The landlord of Downtown’s Raymond James Tower, responding Thursday to recent reports that the anchor tenant may leave for East Memphis, issued a press release saying it will soon complete a $2 million renovation of the skyscraper’s elevators.

“Some have connected the potential move to elevator issues in the building,” the statement says.

“We do not believe the elevator issues are the underlying reason for the possible departure,” building owner Jacob Sofer said in the prepared statement. “Our position stems from the fact that multiple offers have been presented to Raymond James executives since January 2018 to get the building’s elevators modernized at no cost to Raymond James …”

Several Raymond James employees, asking that they not be identified, told The Daily Memphian last weekend that workers received a company memo last Friday. The company informed workers of Raymond James' plans for a possible move from the Downtown tower into several buildings in the Ridgeway Center office park in East Memphis.

TOM BAILEY: Raymond James plans to move from Downtown to East Memphis

Raymond James Financial has not responded to a Daily Memphian request early this week for comment.

The company has been involved in a lawsuit since April with the landlord over the condition of the elevators serving the 21-story Raymond James Tower. The suit claims that employees have become trapped in elevators numerous times and there have been frequent rescues by the Memphis Fire Department.

In his Thursday statement, Sofer referred to an email sent to Raymond James 13 months ago. The email states:

“Ownership feels that their latest offers of completing the modernization now at no additional cost to (Raymond James & Associates), in exchange for RJA not exercising their Termination Option is reasonable, and remains hopeful that RJA would seriously consider these proposals, or come forward with some proposal of their own.”

Raymond James signed 10-year lease in 2014.

Sofer already has spent $2 million in building renovations and plans to spend another $3 million, including $2 million to modernize the elevators.

The landlord has been seeking clarity from Raymond James on whether the financial services company would remain a tenant by the time elevator renovation is completed, the release states.

“We have been prepared to act on the elevators for more than a year,” Sofer said in the release. This week, the landlord sent an email to Raymond James stating:

“Such a move would be a big loss for Downtown Memphis. Therefore, if the reason for a potential move is in any way related to the modernization of the elevators, we would like to make it very clear that we can still get this done, as a modernization contract will be finalized shortly, and we presently have a completion date for all nine elevators in approximately 18 months from now.”

The landlord said the incidents of elevator entrapments were more frequent with the previous building owner as it negotiated the lease in 2014 than they have under Sofer’s ownership.

“Records indicate that during that time, 37 Raymond James associates were trapped in elevators, which is more severe than what the company alleged in a complaint,” the statement says.

“However, Raymond James’ focus at the time was not cast on a plan to modernize the building’s elevators; rather, they opted for 33 months of free rent during those negotiations,” the release says.

The statement released Thursday also says:

  • The landlord has been researching and planning modernization of the elevators for more than a year;
  • An elevator-modernization contract will soon be awarded, with project completion to be sometime between April and June in 2020;
  • The building’s windows and façade are now being caulked and resealed, and all façade windows are undergoing grinding and polishing;
  • Work over the past four years has included a new roofing system, new domestic water pumps, and an overhaul of the chiller;
  • And the lobby furniture and elevator-cab interiors have been upgraded, and a new outdoor canopy has been installed.

Late Thursday afternoon, The Daily Memphian asked for a response to the landlord’s statement from Raymond James Financial. None has been received by the time the story was published.


Commercial Real Estate Downtown Memphis
Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey

Tom Bailey covers business news for The Daily Memphian. A Tupelo, Mississippi, native, he graduated from Mississippi State University. He's worked in journalism for 40 years and has lived in Midtown for 36 years.

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