Grubb & Ellis/Harrison & Bates celebrates 100 years

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires


Grubb & Ellis/Harrison & Bates celebrated its 100 anniversary last night with a party, a history lesson and a shout out to other Richmond companies founded in 1910 or earlier.
About 150 people attended the centennial celebration of the commercial real estate firm at the Jepson Alumni Center at the University of Richmond.

Managing Director and CEO David Williams noted during his remarks that what began as a two-man firm by Robert R. Harrison Sr. and John W. Bates Sr. in 1910 has remained locally owned and operated throughout its history. Today, the firm employs 52 people. It averages 350 transactions a year, manages 2.9 million square feet of space and offers a national platform through its affiliation with Grubb & Ellis, one of the country’s largest real estate companies. 

In the Richmond region, Harrison & Bates has been a force in many major deals. In 1956, the firm helped develop Willow Lawn, the area’s first open-air shopping center. In 1984, it created the first Commercial Real Estate Review and Exhibitor Showcase, a precursor to an annual real estate conference, now sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University, which draws hundreds of real estate professionals from throughout the state.

More recently, the company completed its most successful fiscal quarter of production in late 2009 amid a recession.  Setting the stage for such a strong run were deals like a 140,000-square-foot-lease Harrison & Bates negotiated for BB&T at Richmond’s Riverfront Plaza.

At last night’s gala, an elegant ice sculpture bearing the company’s name and 100 years towered over a reception attended by representatives from other companies with centennial histories, including Williams Mullen, Baskervil & Son and Froehling & Robertson Inc. “Your continuing commitment deserves a toast, and we raise a glass to you,” Williams said. 

Guests also were treated to a history lesson from Dan Roberts. The radio host of the syndicated “A Moment in Time,” which the University of Richmond helps sponsor, prepared a video based on the history of Harrison & Bates and Richmond. Some of the interesting tidbits? In 1910, there were 34 movie theatres in Richmond, making it one of the entertainment centers of the South. Tobacco served as the major industry, employing 10,000 people, and an office in one of Richmond’s priciest high-rise buildings could be had for $15 a month.

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