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A Landmark Decision

The historic Alexander House

The historic Alexander House

Amy Royal first started taking notice of the Alexander House in Springfield when she was a high-school student at nearby MacDuffie, and soon became taken in by its beauty, 200 years of history, and place in the city. Later, she started viewing the property in a different light — as a potential home for her growing law firm. Earlier this year, that dream came true.

Amy Royal says she’s long had an affection for the historic Alexander House in Springfield.

She first took hard notice of it when she was in high school at MacDuffie, located a mile or so away from the home’s former location on State Street. Back then, she recalled, it was a beautiful home with a lot of history, and she’s always had a fondness for structures that fit that description and now lives in a home that is nearly 250 years old.

Later, after beginning her career as an employment-law attorney and eventually starting her own firm, she started looking at the 6,000-square-foot home, built in 1811, in a much different light — as a place to locate her business.

Amy Royal, seen at the grand staircase of the historic Alexander House, has long had her eye on the landmark as a home for her business.

“I’ve always really, really loved the building,” she told BusinessWest. “Everything about it — the design, its place in the city’s history … it’s magnificent.”

These thoughts only intensified after the Alexander House was moved from its long-time location around the corner to Eliot Street to make way for the new federal courthouse in Springfield that eventually opened its doors in late 2008. Royal had business in the courthouse, and eventually found parking a few hundred yards down Eliot Street, necessitating a walk past the Alexander House.

“At that point in time, it was beautiful, but you could tell that it needed a lot of help — even though it had been moved by the federal government, it needed a lot of love,” she recalled. “I remember thinking ‘I wish I could buy that building; I wonder if that building is for sale?’”

Today, Royal is living the dream, literally — the one about moving her growing business, the Royal Law Firm, into the Alexander House’s 14 rooms, and the basement as well.

She’s needed a new home almost from the day she moved into her now-former home, leased space in the large office building at 819 Worcester St. in Indian Orchard. She looked at both options, leasing and owning, and decided that the latter made far more sense.

But owning the Alexander House? Like she said, this was a long-held dream come true.

“I’ve always really, really loved the building. Everything about it — the design, its place in the city’s history … it’s magnificent.”

For this issue and its focus on commercial real estate, BusinessWest talked with Royal about how her affection for this historic home became a quest — and eventually a dream realized. We also got a tour, one that quickly revealed why this landmark has been a career-long pursuit for Royal.

 

At Home with the Idea

Royal said she’s looking forward to being able to walk to the federal courthouse when she has business there, especially when she considers the large amounts of paperwork she traditionally brings with her when she’s in court.

Which … isn’t very often at all, she told BusinessWest.

One of the 14 rooms at the Alexander House

One of the 14 rooms at the Alexander House has become home to the Royal Law Firm’s main conference room.

“We’re civil litigators … if I don’t see the inside of a courthouse in a year, that’s not unusual,” she said, adding that location, location, location, the driving force in many decisions concerning real estate, was only a minor factor in this case. It was the property that drove this decision.

Since launching her own law firm, Royal has had lengthy drives to that federal courthouse. After starting in a small office on Center Street in Northampton, she relocated to larger quarters on Pleasant Street, and remained there until moving her headquarters office — she has satellite locations in several other cities — to a suite of offices in the building on Worcester Street in March 2020, just after the pandemic found its way to Western Mass.

She wasn’t expecting to be looking for a new home so quickly, but rapid growth — traditionally put in the ‘good problem to have’ category, although it does present challenges — made a change necessary.

“I knew we were outgrowing our space where we were — I just didn’t expect to outgrow it as quickly as we did,” she explained. “I just casually started looking for something.”

In a nice twist of fate, this casual search coincided with the Alexander House being put on the market in June 2021, signaling the start of a new chapter for a home that had seen plenty of history and had become historic in its own right.

Designed by the prominent architect Asher Benjamin and built by noted builder Simon Sanborn, the Greek revival home draws its name from its fourth owner, Henry Alexander Jr., a mayor of Springfield who acquired the property in 1958. But it has another, less-known known name, the Miss Amy House, derived from Alexander’s daughter, Amy, who lived in the house for many years and was quite active in the community on a number of philanthropic fronts.

Rooms at the Alexander House have been converted into a small conference room and lawyers’ offices.

The home has had a relatively small number of owners over the years, said Royal, who has come to know the history of the property — she learned in high school that one of the dorms there was designed to reflect the Alexander House — and is always seeking to learn more about it.

When a search was commenced for a home for a new federal courthouse at the start of this century, those involved, and especially U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, became determined to find a location on State Street, long the cultural and historic thoroughfare in the city and home to several schools, churches, and government buildings.

The property on which the Alexander House stood became the preferred location, and to make it happen, a short but complicated — because of the size, age, and condition of the home — move had to undertaken, one that was well-chronicled and captured the attention of the city.

After the move, the home became to several small businesses, including an architect and an attorney, but much of it was unoccupied. As noted, it came on the market in the summer of 2021, and soon after, Royal commenced her pursuit of the home.

Because of that aforementioned move, the home now has a new foundation, one of many features that caught her eye when she toured the property after it went on the market.

“The foundation they put in is incredible — there must be 10-foot ceilings there,” she told BusinessWest, adding that her firm will use that space as a filing center but may eventually build it out.

“I’ve always really, really loved the building. Everything about it — the design, its place in the city’s history … it’s magnificent.”

But there was so much more, obviously.

“I thought it was magnificent — the spiral staircase alone just stood out to me,” she recalled. “But every facet of the architecture — the crown molding, the ornate craftsmanship in all of the trim work, the grand ceilings, the chandeliers, the fireplaces … to me, it just spoke of having a law-firm practice inside; it’s a magnificent place to have a law firm.”

Royal said she heard anecdotally that there were a number of other suitors for the Alexander House when it came on the market. She believes she prevailed because her passion for the property quickly became evident, and she convinced then-owner Thomas Schoeper that she would be a good custodian of the landmark.

“He really wanted someone who would be a good steward of the property and really cared about its history and character and the integrity of the building itself,” she noted. “I spent a lot of time talking with him about all that.”

Royal closed in February of this year and has spent the past several months giving the property that ‘love’ she said it needed. Improvements have included a new HVAC system, an alarm system, remodeling the kitchen, installing IT wiring throughout, and painting many of the rooms, she said, noting that the property is subject to historic covenants and monitored by Historic New England, and also subject to an annual inspection and historic preservation.

The firm moved in a few weeks ago and is still settling in, Royal said, adding that, with a property of this vintage, there will always be work to do.

“That’s going to be a never-ending project,” she said. “That’s the way it is with historic buildings.”

Meanwhile, her new mailing address is everything she hoped it could be and would be when she first started thinking about it as a future home all those years ago.

“Everyone here just loves it — it’s a great place to work,” she said.

 

Right Place, Right Time

Noting the continued growth of her law firm, Royal was asked if the Alexander House provides the requisite space for additional team members.

She said it did, but in a more emphatic voice, she noted that she would not be moving again — soon or probably ever.

“We may grow in other regions — that’s the plan — but this will be our headquarters building,” she said. “This is home.”

 

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Alumni Achievement Award Cover Story

2022 Finalists Are Inspirational Leaders within the Community

 

In 2015, BusinessWest introduced a new award, an extension of its 40 Under Forty program. It’s called the Alumni Achievement Award, and as that name suggests, it recognizes previous honorees who continue to build on their resumes of outstanding achievement in their chosen field and in service to the community. Recently, a panel of three judges identified the three finalists for the 2022 award — Amanda Garcia, Anthony Gleason II, and Amy Royal. The winner for this year will be unveiled by Alumni Achievement Award presenting sponsor Health New England at the 40 Under Forty Gala on June 16 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. As the profiles that begin on page 7 reveal, these three finalists embody the spirit of this award. Their stories convey true leadership and are, in a word, inspiring.

Amanda Garcia

Associate Professor of Accounting and Finances, Director of the MBA Program, Elms College

 

Anthony Gleason II

President and Co-founder of the Gleason Johndrow

 

Amy Royal

Founder/CEO, the Royal Law Firm

 

 

Alumni Achievement Award

Founder/CEO, the Royal Law Firm

Amy Royal

Amy Royal

Amy Royal is a big believer in that old adage — the one about how if you want something done, give that task to a busy person.

“I’ve seen that happen so much over the course of my career,” she told BusinessWest. “Those busy people — they just make it happen. They’ll return things very quickly; they get things done, and done right.”

For quite some time now, Royal, founder and CEO of the Springfield-based Royal Law Firm, has been the very definition of that proverbial busy person — and that’s probably why people keep asking her to do things, with ‘people’ meaning everything from legal clients to area nonprofits to those running the Springfield Ballers (more on them later).

Indeed, Royal is busy with all kinds of things these days, and the sum of this work inside and outside the office (and on her new office) certainly helps to explain why she is a finalist for the Alumni Achievement Award in 2022.

Let’s start with the office. Back in 2009, when Royal was honored as a member of the third 40 Under Forty class, she was busy putting the law firm she established on a path to consistent, diverse growth. To say that she has succeeded with that assignment would be an understatement.

Indeed, the firm has grown in size — it now boasts a team of 11 — while also greatly expanding its book of business, its geographic footprint, and its service areas.

When the firm was launched, it was focused exclusively on representing employers in labor and employment law matters. It still does a lot of that, but it has pushed into other areas of the law, as Royal explained.

“It was a long time coming before I decided to expand beyond that; we still only represent organizations, but now we do it in other practice areas beyond where we started,” she explained. “I’m representing Merck Corp. in federal court here in a products-liability claim; my litigation has expanded beyond labor and employment law to commercial litigation generally.”

Merck is just one of many national and international clients in the firm’s portfolio. Others include Google, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Macy’s, Panasonic Corp. of North America, and KeyBank.

As for geographic expansion, the firm now has satellite offices in Hartford, Providence, and Bennington, Vt. (the latest facility to open), and Royal has ambitious plans to soon be in all six New England states.

And her entrepreneurial exploits extend beyond her law firm. Indeed, she has been involved in many other business ventures, including the purchase and subsequent expansion of West Side Metal Door Corp., a distributor and fabricator of metal doors and frames. There have been several real estate development projects, the latest being her purchase of the historic Alexander House, just down the street from the federal courthouse.

Royal is in the process of restoring the 6,000-square-foot home, built in 1811, and relocating the law firm’s headquarters there.

Meanwhile, Royal has long been busy outside the office, donating her time and talents to several nonprofits, especially the Center for Human Development. She has served on its board for more than 14 years, and is currently its president. She has also served on other boards, including serving as president of United Way of Hampshire County.

She has also coached many youth sports, from basketball to baseball, and created the 501c3 corporation for the Springfield Ballers, a nonprofit providing opportunities to young people in athletic programs. She serves as clerk of the Ballers board, and has been involved in writing grants to attain the funds to create more opportunities for more young people.

“We serve more than 400 kids in the Greater Springfield area in sports like basketball, both boys and girls, lacrosse, golf, and others,” Royal explained, adding that the initiative started as a girls’ basketball league and has expanded and evolved “massively from there.”

This is a volunteer operation, she went on, where those involved often wear many hats, as she does. She was asked to coach this year, as she has many times in the past, but had to decline — for a good reason.

“This is probably my older son’s last season in AAU, so I really want to watch him play basketball,” she said, adding that this is one example of how she works to balance the many priorities in her life.

When asked where she finds the time for all that she does and is asked to do, Royal said she makes it, because each aspect of her life is important to her — her family, her law career, and her many commitments to this region, which is her life-long home.

“I grew up here, and I care about the community and see that as something that is really important,” she said. “It’s something that both my parents were involved in; they made it a priority, and I’m simply following their example.”

In doing so, she has certainly become one of those busy people from that old adage that others entrust with important tasks — and a finalist for the Alumni Achievement Award.

 

George O’Brien

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 46: Jan. 4, 2021

George O’Brien talks with Amy Royal, a principal with The Royal Law Firm and an employment law specialist

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Amy Royal, a principal with The Royal Law Firm and an employment law specialist. The two discuss the pandemic, vaccines, what employers can mandate, and what they can’t. They also discuss changes in employment law and new measures that take effect in 2021, and what employers should know as they turn the calendar. They also dive into in the matter of employee handbooks and how and why these important documents need to be on point and completely up to date. It’s must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk, a podcast presented by BusinessWest in partnership with Living Local.

 

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