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November 17, 2011 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-11-17

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Back To His


Attorney Ven Johnson is moving his practice
from Southfield to Downtown Detroit.

Jackie Headapohl

ack in 1984, attorney Ven
Johnson was studying law at
the University of Detroit and
working as a law clerk at the
Buhl Building on Griswold Street.
"Back in the day, it's where all the
law firms and lawyers were," Johnson
Come January, it will also be where
his firm, Johnson Law, currently
based in Southfield, calls home.
"I've always loved Detroit and feel
like I'm getting back to my roots,"
Johnson said. "I could have put my of-
fice anywhere — and I looked every-
where — and I'm really happy to be
going back to the D, and to the Buhl
Building in particular. It's a mainstay
of Detroit legal history."
Detroit's historic Buhl Building is
visually stunning. Built in 1925, the
Buhl was designed by legendary
Detroit architect Wirt Rowland of the
firm Smith Hynchman & Grylls and
built by financier Christian Buhl.
The building combines gothic and
Romanesque features. Entering from
Griswold Street, visitors pass majestic
granite Corinthian columns, though a
mosaic-lined gothic archway and into
a lobby adorned with richly textured
white marble.


Good Business

The decision to move to the Buhl
wasn't based solely on nostalgia or
aesthetics, said Johnson, who also
looked at the decision from a purely
economic and financial standpoint.
"Even when one takes into consid-
eration the parking for employees
and clients and the city tax, it is still
less than half of what you'd pay for
the same square footage in the sub-
urbs," he said.
Johnson, who left the Fieger Law
firm in May to open his own practice
in plaintiff and personal injury litiga-
tion, has looked at 50 different places
since May.
"One misnomer about commercial
real estate is that there have got to



Managing Editor

be a bunch of great deals. Let me tell
you what, there aren't that many, but
the Buhl was for me," said Johnson,
who was looking for an A+ address
where he could have nice visibility
and take care of his clients. "It was
slim pickings."
Johnson, who lives in Birmingham,
considered moving his office there,
but property managers wanted a
seven- to 10-year personal guarantee
on the lease.
"The owners of the Buhl Building
pursued my firm," he said. "They
wanted us there."

Employees Like The Idea

Johnson and his current staff of eight
will be making the move to their
5,000-square-foot suite with eight
lawyer offices on the 26th floor in
January. After the move, Johnson said
he plans to add another attorney and
more administrative staff, doubling
his headcount by the end of next
Most of the employees love the
idea of moving Downtown, although
some will have a longer trek to work.
Associate attorney Lauren Tuckey,
a Novi native and Michigan State Uni-
versity grad who headed south to the
University of Miami School of Law,
moved back home four months ago
to join Johnson Law and is looking
forward to the move, despite the fact
she'll have to drive from her home in
"I love Detroit and want more than
anything to see it come back. I view
this move as our vote of confidence
in the city," she said. "I'm also looking
forward to trying all of the restau-
rants Downtown. I'm a big foodie. I
love discovering places in new neigh-

Private Dollars Needed

Johnson said it's an exciting time for
Detroit as more and more people are
returning to the city, thanks in part to

Engineered to Amaze'

The lobby of the historic Buhl Building

programs like the "Live Downtown"
program, started by Quicken Loans
and four other Downtown Detroit
companies, that provides financial
incentives for employees to move
into the city.
"I really see people taking great
pride in Detroit again. Residential
units are almost maxed out in Down-
town. Hopefully, that will spur new
residential real estate development."
The resurgence of interest from
those wanting to live Downtown
could help reverse the trend of young
people who move out of state after
college, Johnson added.
"My daughter moved to San Fran-
cisco, but now she works for me,
taking part in the law firm through
voice-over Internet phones," John-
son said. "She is considering coming
back to the D, and she wants to live
Johnson suggests that other profes-
sionals consider moving their base of

Lauren Tuckey

operations to Detroit.
"There are a lot of other Jewish
people in my profession, and they are
smart business people," Johnson said.
"I also know that the Jewish commu-
nity has always been leaders in social
areas. Detroit needs our help, and it
needs our dollars. When you can ac-
tually get a bang for your dollar when
you move downtown, then heck
yeah, everybody should consider it."
Johnson added that there is no
doubt that the city still has its prob-
"The areas of blight in the city are
not going to go away until the good
comes back in. It's going to take
private dollars to make surrounding
areas nicer.
"I have been so blessed. I have
made a significant amount of money
in my career. I'm very, very fortunate,"
Johnson said. "Detroit is what sup-
ports me, and it's time for me to put
my money where my mouth is." [

November 17 a 2011


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