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SD County Bar moving its headquarters

The San Diego County Bar Association is in the process of moving its headquarters to a new spot downtown, closer to the city's cluster of courthouses.

The organization hopes to open its doors at the Columbia Center (401 W. A St.) by next week, having already sold and vacated its previous home at the corner of Seventh Avenue and A Street.

The move has been years in the making, according to SDCBA President Marcella McLaughlin, and enables the local bar to be more accessible to its members.

"We really wanted to be closer to the activity that happens in the central courthouses," she said. "What we're doing is consistent with what we're being told the needs are by the membership. It'll be a nice shot in the arm for the legal community."

The SDCBA was at its previous home for 22 years, but the amount of deferred maintenance and the lack of certain information technology services became significant drawbacks to staying for the long term.

The organization's leadership also wanted the bar center to become more of a workspace for its members and not just a place for social gatherings and educational trainings.

"We had a laundry list of issues that needed to be addressed (at the bar center building), from the roof to continuing to make sure the handicap accessibility was up-to-date," McLaughlin said. "The wireless infrastructure was not up to par. Long term, we felt it may not be the best investment for our membership."

The SDCBA will occupy space on two floors of the Columbia Center, including the ground floor, and call its new home the Bar Center at 401.

It will feature a large conference and event center, shared work spaces, several meeting rooms and conference spaces for members and a member lounge, complete with Wi-Fi access.

The Columbia Center. Courtesy of Google

"We wanted to give membership value," McLaughlin said. "We can provide space for people just starting out who don't have a true office. It's a place you can meet clients.

"Our wireless infrastructure means we can stream MCLEs to other locations throughout the county. I think it's going to create a meeting place as well as continuing to provide the services that people expect from us."

McLaughlin said the SDCBA entered into a "tenant's market," making the decision to switch from being a property owner to a renter relatively easy. Additionally, without the responsibilities of being a landlord, the organization will be able to focus more of its energies on its membership.

"It's just an unbelievably exciting thing," McLaughlin said. "It gives us a fresh start. We're very excited about our brand that we've built over the years and being that anchor and hub for the community. This (move) really helps us be very contemporary."

The building already is home to several law firms, including Higgs Fletcher & Mack and Duckor Spradling Metzger Wynne.

The San Diego County Bar Foundation, which shared space with the SDCBA at the old bar center building, also is relocating to Columbia Center.

The group has scheduled an open house for the Bar Center at 401 for Jan. 30.

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