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February 17, 2017
David Hewitt has sold his ownership interest in Hewitt, the Seattle architecture firm he cofounded in 1975.
Paul Shema has taken over the president's role from Hewitt, who is stepping away from design leadership to become principal emeritus, assisting the firm as an adviser and mentor.
Terms of the deal were not released.
Hewitt, 80, has led design for some of Seattle's most visible projects: Harbor Steps Apartments, Bell Street Pier, the Port of Seattle headquarters at Pier 69, and a number of transit projects. He is a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and received the AIA Seattle Medal in 2005 for lifetime achievement.
“He has really by the force of his talent and personality been the face of this firm for 40 years — for 40-plus years,” said Shema. “So there's a little bit of reinvention as new leadership takes over.”
Before the change, David Hewitt was majority shareholder and Shema, Snider and Kevin Ryden were minority shareholders.
Now, Shema and Snider own a majority interest in the firm and Julia Nagele, Sean Ludviksen, Matthew Porteous and Leah Ephrem are minority shareholders. Ryden retired in 2016 and sold his shares.
The minority shareholders were announced as principals in 2015, but with the ownership change they also got added titles: Nagele, director of design-architecture; Ludviksen, director of practice-architecture; Porteous, director of practice-landscape architecture; and Ephrem, director of transportation.
Snider is vice president and director of design-landscape architecture.
The 55-person firm's work is split between public and private. The architectural studio focuses on mixed-use, high density housing and transit projects. The landscape and urban design studios work on Hewitt's projects as well as for other architects and public agencies.
When the firm turned 40 in 2015, David Hewitt said the plan was to become less Seattle-centric and look for work in cities outside of Washington, such as Portland and San Francisco.
Yesterday, Shema said the firm is still pursuing that work, but has not yet landed a job.
He said Hewitt will design an office building for Snohomish County Public Utility District, and is pursuing senior housing and hospitality work elsewhere in the state.
Part of this is “opportunity driven,” he said. “People are coming to us and asking us to look at projects a little farther away.”
Shema said diversity should help the firm weather economic cycles, such as when Seattle's hot apartment market eventually cools off.
“We feel well positioned with our public sector work right now, but we want to increase that diversity,” he said.
Hewitt is working on the Capitol Hill station TOD project and a new condo high-rise at Second and Stewart in Seattle called The Emerald. It also is the architect for light rail stations at Roosevelt, Northgate, Judkins Park, Mercer Island and Redmond Technology Center. The firm's landscape architecture work includes civic, mixed-use and commercial projects, including University Village and Arbor Blocks.
Local voters recently approved the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 transportation package and Shema said Hewitt is working with a number of teams to pursue that work.
“It has helped I think that we have been able to impress Sound Transit by our ability to stay focused on what they need,” he said.
David Hewitt is on leave and was unavailable for comment yesterday. In a press release, he said, “I am extremely excited and delighted with the talent and energy of the new firm leadership. This group brings passion and determination to continue Hewitt's city-building legacy.”
Shema said this marks a real change in direction for the firm.
“With the new leadership we think we're well positioned to be part of the future of Seattle,” he said. “We're trying to move along with the city.”
Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.