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February 22, 2018
Freiheit & Ho Architects is moving from Kirkland to Bellevue, and changing its name and leadership team.
Freiheit Architecture is now led by David Hills, president; Arthur Chang, principal, executive vice president and director of design; Rick Grimes and Sherri Miller, principals; and Jen Caudle and Chris Amonson, senior project architects.
Lawrence Ho retired in 2013 and Dick Freiheit retired in 2016 from the firm they founded. Chang said that set up a shift away from one person making top-level decisions to more of a team approach. The team brings a diversity of experience, talent and new blood, he said.
On Monday, the 45-person firm will move into the 929 Office Tower at 929 108th Avenue N.E. It designed the space to be efficient and open so employees can collaborate and clients can see how the firm works, much like in an artist's studio.
The longtime Eastside firm decided to not renew its Kirkland lease. It selected Bellevue for transit (including the future light rail) and amenities, which should help attract talent, Chang said.
Moreover, the location reflects the firm's shift to more high- and mid-rise projects in urban areas, said Hills. “We see that as where a lot of the future growth and development is going to come from.”
The firm was founded in 1985. Initially it did work for The Boeing Co. and McDonald's restaurants in the Northwest. In more recent years, the firm designed prototypes for parts distribution centers for Paccar.
Projects now also include mixed-use and redevelopment, assisted living, civic and cultural, hospitality, restaurants, corporate, health care, retail, industrial, office, tenant improvements and master planning.
Having that range, Chang said, helps the firm to design better mixed-use projects. “It keeps things interesting and makes each one of the projects stronger because it allows us to think out of the box.”
One example is a project that is about to open in Pioneer Square: Avalara Hawk Tower. Freiheit designed the two towers, which are connected by an atrium. They have office space, an Embassy Suites Hotel, and retail and restaurant space, including a new 13 Coins that the firm designed.
The complex is one of a number of projects Freiheit has designed for Seattle-based American Life, which locally pioneered using the EB-5 program to attract foreign investment in real estate. Among the others is Home Plate Center near Safeco Field.
Freiheit Architecture hopes to attract new clients with its pragmatic approach to the architectural process. Chang said the firm will bring ideas to the table, but its designers won't force a preconceived direction or aesthetic on a client. “It's not that we don't value high design, it's that we don't come with a set agenda,” he said.
Chang said some elements that drive good, functional architecture can get lost with a set agenda that, for instance, focuses too much on sustainability. Sustainability is important, he said, but sometimes “the enduring value of the building gets compromised” if that is not balanced against other important elements.
In Seattle, the firm is working on renovation of the historic Lowman & Hanford building at 616 First Ave. for Manchester, Vermont-based Manchester Capital Management.
It also is working with design architect Shigeru Ban Architects on a major mixed-use project at 500 S. Jackson St. The complex, by PortLiving of Vancouver, B.C., will have apartments and possibly a hotel, as well as retail and commercial space.
Hills said the firm is optimistic about the Seattle area market, but is seeing a slight slowdown in high- and mid-rise apartments right now.
The firm is working on more two- and three-story infill apartment buildings in secondary markets such as Kent, Auburn and Bothell. Hill said that's because renters are seeking more affordability, and rents are rising enough in those markets to justify building.
In the next upswing, he said, the firm would like to design more large apartment complexes.
Freiheit Architecture also is working on townhouses, including Spring Peak at Talus Townhomes and Kelkari Townhomes, both in Issaquah, and Avid Townhomes in Bellevue. Hills said townhouses are more affordable and let people live near jobs.
His firm is also doing master planning for Lynnwood Convention Center and for a development with housing, civic buildings and commercial space for the Tulalip Tribes on Tulalip Bay.
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Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.