CONNECTIVITY: Two law firms set up shop under on roof in Royal Oak

On the surface, a newly renovated building that houses two law firms makes a great impression with its coveted location and modern aesthetics that are both attractive and practical. But, if you dig a little deeper, youll find the beauty of the project goes far beyond what the eye can see. The site joins two longtime friends together, who changed the fate of the building by becoming its owners and occupants.

Louis G. Corey, president of the Corey Law Firm which specializes in personal injury cases, and Todd Flood, managing partner, Flood Lanctot Connor Stablein, specializing in civil and criminal litigation, have known each other for years. Their fathers, who were both teachers, were close friends.

The building came with its own share of history. Jim Schneider, architect and owner of Royal Oak-based Schneider + Smith, a firm he runs with his wife and fellow architect Shirley Smith, says the structure started out as a small one-story built in the early 1920s. More recently, it went through a variety of owners and plans for retail/office space and more.

But the previous projects never panned out.

Eventually, the building was condemned by the city and slated for teardown because it had been empty for so long.

It stood vacant for six years, says Schneider, who worked on the renovation. It was a terrible eyesore.

But like the proverbial white knights, Corey and Flood came to the rescue, and in 2008, everything fell into place.

A New Outlook
Today, the sleek exterior is a breath of fresh air that is particularly well suited to its urban setting.

Its modern, clean and crisp, Schneider says of the architecture. Its on a corner and its a significant landmark. A lot of new development has gone on here. We wanted to make a difference and we wanted to make sure it lived up to its location.

And it does, with a mix of glass and stainless steel shingles that change with the light.

They are slate but they have a real blue tinge with different colors at different times of the day, says Schneider, who covered the bottom portion of the building with frosted glass.

When it comes to making design decisions, the aesthetics are obviously significant, but function comes first. The space can look good but if it doesnt work, it defeats the purpose, Schneider says.

The challenge was getting it to function as an office space for two different firms comingling in a building, he says. We had to figure out how to insert common areas and give each their own space.

The second floor, which can be reached via a spiral staircase or the elevator, has a loft like feel. Distinctive details include big timber-like columns and beams. One of the more unique features is the covered outdoor porch that overlooks Main Street. It was inspired by the one seen in the TV show Boston Legal.

They were enamored with the idea of the Denny Crane porch, Schneider says.

Bells and Whistles
Lisa Corey, Louiss wife and office manager, handled all of the interior design decisions and was given carte blanche to work her magic.

They trusted me and gave me free reign, she says.

The interiors do not disappoint with their cutting edge dcor that includes black-and-white photos of notable Detroit buildings sourced from the TRA Art Group at the Michigan Design Center in Troy.

Tables and barstools from Italmoda in Royal Oak make a statement in the first floor kitchen area, creating the perfect contrast to the richly stained wood cabinetry. Floods firm occupies the main level (with the exception of his office) where even the file cabinets are stylish and common areas are there for everyone to share.

Todd Floods office sits on the second floor right next to his friend Louis and the infamous covered porch is just within reach for both attorneys. Louis and Lisa even added a little window between their offices that provides an endearing touch.

Its been a wonderful merger, Lisa says of the two attorneys who can finally come together to work under one roof. They bounce ideas off each other and work together on personal injury cases.

The building is fittingly dedicated to their fathers, Joseph Corey and Thure Flood.

Theyre here. Theyre in the guts of the building, Lisa says.

For Louis Corey, the biggest reward has been developing his relationship with Todd Flood, his partners and his staff, both professionally and personally. He is grateful to his wife Lisa for convincing him that the stainless steel tiles would look awesome in the end and for all of her hard work. He also offered a great deal of credit to Jim Schneider for the architectural work.

It has been a pure joy and getting better every day, Louis says. Work is fun all the time. There is never a dull moment.

Moving Forward
Flood is grateful that they managed to land in the perfect spot.

Besides the central location with the major highways and Woodward nearby, we are in the heart of Royal Oak which provides a great surrounding for both clients and employees, he says.

He also appreciates the way the design fits with the city, while making its own unique statement. Flood says the interior design came together better than he could have imagined.

It has an openness, yet it still provides privacy, he says. It means more access to the team concept. Our firm consists of 19 lawyers and we pride ourselves on being a team.

In the end, the building affects the bottom line.

Every detail was contemplated when we started our business and we continually try to improve. Having a proper infrastructure to house our staff is a key element to our success, Flood says. As we branch out to new locations, we will use this model as our focal point to learn and improve upon. We will keep our identity as it relates to branding, but we will also build the structure to fit the surroundings.

The success of the project can be measured on many levels. Perhaps the biggest praise comes from the city itself. The building went from being condemned to receiving a Beautification Award from the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce. Now thats a happy ending.

By Jeannine Matlow

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