When Real Estate Partners first opened its downtown real estate agency in the Loveman's building in 2007, few residential condos had been developed in the central city, and converting the former department store into downtown housing was regarded by many as a risky venture.
But the firm's brokers helped quickly fill the upper floors of the former Loveman's store with new residents, and the success of the downtown development helped spur the development of thousands of other condos, apartments and single-family homes that have helped to double the downtown population over the past decade.
Commercial and residential interest in the Loveman's building was so great that Real Estate Partners agreed last year to sell its space there and move into the trendy Southside of downtown.
"It was a tough decision because I'd been at Lovemans from the start, we had done the condos there, and it was where I met my husband (developer Buck Schimpf), so it had a special closeness to my heart," says Darlene Brown, the managing partner for Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC. "But the time was right, and I had an opportunity to sell the property (to Lamp Post Properties)."
In April, Real Estate Partners moved into its new digs at 535 W. Main Street in a former truck loading warehouse. The 5,600-square-foot office is a bit smaller than the Loveman's space it replaces, but the new office has more open, interactive space to accommodate a variety of uses. It includes some as-yet undeveloped space for future expansion or — as the agency has done so far — space for social gathering and parties.
"It's a redeveloping part of town, but we like to be on the forefront of change in an area, and the Southside is definitely changing," Brown says. "This is close to the Highway 27 for access, it has parking, and it is still part of downtown."
Within a block of the new office, a 210-unit apartment complex and new commercial office building are being built. It's also within a half mile of the biggest downtown housing development at Cameron Harbor on the Tennessee River, which includes a variety of homes offered through Real Estate Partners.
The new office houses about 50 of the company's 70 agents. The other 20 work out of an office on Shallowford Road.
The Main Street facility sports an open atmosphere with a variety of work spaces, conference rooms, lounging areas and sit-or-stand desks and work stations for agents to handle their sales and meet with clients.
"It's a much more open, appealing environment that gives our agents more options and different types of work spaces that are healthier and more conducive to interacting with one another and their clients," Brown says. "It's been a journey that has not always been easy, but we're very excited about our new facilities."
Darlene's son, Ryan, helped develop the new space "to give us more openness and an ability to have more stand-up work areas.
"We're trying to create an environment where agents can come and enjoy being in the office and enjoy bringing their clients to the office as well," Ryan Brown said.
The new office recently obtained its green|light certification from greenspaces — the only real estate office locally to have done so so far. The office features energy-efficient appliances and lights and low-flow toilets, and paper towels and plastic cups have been replaced with blow dryers and glasses. The company also recycles paper and other materials, and many of the furniture fixtures are recycled or are historic items that reflect Chattanooga's past in an environment designed to be more inviting for millennials and younger agents and customers.
"One of the goals of the move was to create a work space that supported our current group of real estate professional but also provided an environment to attract new professionals to our company," says Adelia Mosely, co-owner of Real Estate Partners with Brown. "The work space is designed with some private offices and large amounts of casual work space."
The office features a standing height work bar and open work spaces with balance stools and a large table for collaborative work sessions. All the private offices are equipped with motorized desks, which go from sitting to standing with the touch of a button.
If agents don't get enough exercise standing at their desk or walking around the open spaces, the new office is located adjacent to Kyle House Fitness.
Real Estate Partners is Chattanooga's biggest locally-owned real estate agency not affiliated with a national or regional brand. The boutique company's services consist of residential and commercial real estate, development services, leasing, property management and insurance. The company also is the only women owned and the only locally owned, independent real estate company among Chattanooga's top real estate companies.
The agency also has been the biggest seller of downtown residential properties with exclusive representation of such major downtown housing projects at Loveman's, Museum Bluffs, Bridgeview and Cameron Harbor, among others.
"I think we saw the potential re-emergence of downtown years ago before a lot of others, and the success of our central city has shown the appeal of our city and its downtown waterfront," Brown says. "Now I think we're seeing the Southside really come alive, so we're glad to once again be in the middle of it."