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February 5, 2007

Weber + Thompson names 9 principals to manage growth

Journal Staff Reporter

As Weber + Thompson tackles some of its biggest design projects, the Seattle architecture firm is advancing a new generation of firm leaders.

Weber + Thompson recently named nine staff members as principals, bringing its total number of principals to 12.

Scott Thompson, a founding principal, called it “a natural transition that we need to do, to expand the leadership in the firm.” He and fellow founding principal Blaine Weber and principal Kristen Scott began planning for the promotions 18 months ago.

“We've taken on more complex projects in the last couple years,” said Scott. “As we started to win those projects, we knew we had to expand the upper echelon.”

The new principals are Catherine Benotto, Donna Bergeron, Dan Foltz, Peter David Greaves, Elizabeth Holland, Rick Nishino, Steven Price, Wolf Saar and Jim Westcott.

The firm, which has 95 employees, also promoted 13 designers to associate.

In a year, Weber + Thompson will move into a building it designed in South Lake Union. That space, which is designed to be LEED gold certified, will give Weber + Thompson enough room to grow to 140 staff members.

Those being promoted to principal have been with the firm between one and 11 years.

“All these people have already performed the function of principals, in terms of client care relationship,” said Scott. “Each has, for the most part, a strength or expertise in a particular project type and has developed strong client relations in that area.”

Greaves and Saar, for example, have extensive experience in office building design. Foltz, who designed the Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue building, specializes in high-rise buildings. Benotto leads the master planning team, working on mixed-use community designs. Bergeron leads the interior design team. Wescott has experience in mid- and high-rise residential projects, as well as mixed-use urban in-fill. Nishino oversees construction administration on mid-rise and high-rise projects. Price has experience in retail, office and financial projects. Holland is director of operations and marketing.

“We look to the principals as being point people and team leaders,” said Scott.

Scott, who was promoted to principal 10 years ago and joined the firm soon after it opened in 1988, said the firm had just 20 employees in the mid-1990s.

She said every time the principals set their goals for staff levels in the last 10 years, their estimates “were blown out of the water in half the time.”

The firm's growth has come from the boom in mixed-use and office markets since about 2003. Community master planning has been a strong sector, with projects such as Crofton Springs, a 6.3-acre, 121-home village in Issaquah Highlands. Weber + Thompson also designed Sweetwater, a 421-home master-planned community now under construction. In Woodinville, Weber + Thompson is doing architecture and interior design for condos and retail at Woodinville Village.

Thompson said he prefers to stick to the Northwest, California or Colorado, rather that chase work on the East Coast or in the South, but he wants to work here for out-of-town developers.

“We're broadening our client base to include those from all over the country who are doing projects in the Northwest area,” said Scott. “When this market cools down, we will have a portfolio of nationally known clients doing work all over the country.”

Thompson and Scott said they have no plans to open satellite offices because they prefer to have work centralized here.

For her part, Scott said she has seen a lot of change in her nearly 20 years with the firm. Scott was the first person Weber + Thompson hired. In the early years, she and the two principals focused on designing projects. Now, she spends more time doing strategic planning, as the firm accelerates its growth.

“I spend time planning and managing the mix of people who work on projects and getting the strongest teams possible,” she said.

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