Accounting firm preps for move into Citi building

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — By the time Washington County officially tapped part of the Citi building in Gray last week for a relocated library, crews were already at work renovating a separate section for the region’s largest accounting firm.

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Blackburn, Childers & Steagall bought about 55,000 square feet of the 128,000-square-foot building that once housed around 2,000 Citi employees. The growing firm, which includes wealth management and trust branches as well, will consolidate its Johnson City and Kingsport staff at the new location in a move that could come as soon as late 2024.

“We feel like being under one roof is going to help us give better client service and be more efficient with our work and gives us plenty of room to grow into the future,” Managing Partner Andy Hatfield told News Channel 11.

As renovation crews worked busily in the background in what Hatfield said is an extremely well-constructed building, he explained some of the reasoning behind the move.

For one thing, he said, BCS has staff scattered around Kingsport and Bristol (the firm also has Greeneville and Boone, N.C. offices). For another, the company has been growing and adding staff over the past decade.

“A lot of client growth as people come into our area, moving in from other states, other locations, we’ve seen a lot of growth in our business from that,” Hatfield said. “We’re continuing to look to the future and add more services to help clients and folks in our region.”

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That’s making the current 39,000 square feet of scattered space a little tight, and in Johnson City, BCS doesn’t even have sufficient parking.

“That was kind of the driver,” Hatfield said. “We’ve been having strategic planning sessions over what we do with facilities going forward and it made sense once we saw this was on the market for our Kingsport and Johnson City locations to come together and really just provide more of a regional presence in this area.”

That presence will be in arguably the Tri-Cities’ most central location — close to Tri-Cities Regional Airport and in a once-sleepy area that’s seeing significant residential and commercial growth.

Citicorp sold the entire property to RBM properties in January for $6 million, but the portion BCS is using was then separated in a “quitclaim deed.” The amount (if any) BCS paid for its portion, which also includes some parking, is not disclosed.

Regardless, Hatfield said the 52-year-old building and its 29-year-old addition are in great shape and represented the most cost-effective opportunity for the company.

“The cost of a building right now is pretty high with materials and labor and just the time constraints of doing that,” he said. “The size building that we would need to put everybody into one spot, there’s just not many options in this area, so when this building came open, it was very appealing.”

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