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October 25, 2012

Survey: Weber Thompson

Specialty: Architecture, community/urban design, interior design, landscape architecture

Management: Blaine Weber, Scott Thompson, Kristen Scott

Year founded: 1988

Headquarters: Seattle

2011 revenues: $4.3 million

Projected 2012 revenues: $8.5 million

Projects: South Kirkland Park and Ride TOD, Sunset Electric, The Post (888 Western Ave.), Viktoria (1915 Second Ave.), 815 Pine, 2030 Eighth Ave., 714 E. Pike (BMW Site), 400 Boren

Photo by Vicaso [enlarge]
The Post mixed-use project is under construction at Western Avenue and Marion Street.

Principals at Weber Thompson answered questions posed by the DJC about the firm and its activities:

Q. Do you see an end in sight to the apartment boom?

Blaine Weber: We believe that — at least for urban center apartments — the current cycle has only just begun. There are mega-trends currently in play that we believe will take many by surprise. Many will prefer to rent in the urban center rather than to buy, and we will not be surprised to see this cycle last for over a decade, with peaks and valleys along the way. With the exception of transit-oriented development like our new Kirkland project, it may well be a different story in the suburbs.

Q. In what other market segments is Weber Thompson seeing activity?

Weber: We are currently seeing a resurgence of hotel projects, and the commercial office market is clearly waking up from a deep slumber.

Q. Any major personnel changes over the past year?

Kristen Scott: Recruiting new staff members has been a focus this past year. We’ve added 18 in 2012 and we’ve been very fortunate to hire some terrific new people! We’re adding to our management team with promotions this month to principal, senior associate and associate of staff, who bring additional expertise in sustainability and project delivery to our leadership team.

Q. You’ve had a few years now to get used to your new LEED platinum headquarters. What have you learned about sustainable design from this experience?

Scott Thompson: First of all, it works! Our office continues to inspire many of our design concepts and is a great sales tool for showing our clients how a naturally ventilated and daylit space can enliven the typical office setting. It visibly demonstrates how the application of a few simple strategies will have a significant impact on their own projects and has convinced more than a couple clients to dramatically increase the amount of window area in their projects.

Q. What are your biggest concerns looking ahead to 2013?

Weber: 2012 is shaping up to be one of our best years ever. The forecast for 2013 — coincidentally, our 25th anniversary — is very strong, though certainly the volume of units coming online is something we are watching closely.

The stock market is clearly predicting a strong rental housing market, and we think that in itself is a good prognostication. We are optimistic about the future, and we continue our diversification into hospitality and affordable housing markets.

Q. What are clients asking for now versus five or 10 years ago? Does budget play a role?

Thompson: Probably the biggest difference is the acceptance of sustainable design as the new normal. It’s the baseline for new projects now, but sustainable systems have to pencil in a fairly short-term time frame.

That said, budgets are tighter, everything must be more efficient and our clients require higher yields. Also, there is a bigger focus than ever on psychographics and their influence on our design to reflect the desires of the target market.


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