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Architecture & Engineering

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October 30, 2014

Survey: Callison

Specialty: Retail and mixed-use as well as corporate, hospitality, healthcare, multifamily residential, mission critical and high-rise markets worldwide

Management: John Jastrem, chairman and CEO

Founded: 1975, acquired by Arcadis 2014

Headquarters: 11 offices on three continents; Beijing, Dallas, Dubai, Guangzhou, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, Scottsdale, Seattle, Shanghai

2014 revenues: N/A

Projected 2015 revenues: N/A

Projects: Lotte Center Hanoi; Sea World, Shenzhen, China; JW Marriott Mexico City; Watches of Switzerland, London; Westlake Center, Seattle; University Village, Seattle

Image from Callison [enlarge]
Callison designed the 65-story Lotte Center Hanoi, one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam. The office and residential tower was finished last month.

Callison opened the doors for many potential future projects when it agreed to be acquired by Amsterdam-based Arcadis earlier this year. Already one of the biggest architecture firms in the country, with regular clients that include Nordstrom, AT&T, Cole Haan and Zara, Callison will now be able to work in a lot of places it couldn’t before.

John Jastrem, Callison’s chairman and CEO, sat down to talk about the future of the company following its acquisition and trends in retail.

Q: How does the acquisition by Arcadis affect the company?

A: It increases opportunities for us at all levels. Being part of Arcadis greatly expands our geographic reach globally, which is a huge benefit for the type of work we do. In the past, we managed our projects throughout the world by utilizing our 11 offices. Now with Arcadis, we are part of a company that has over 300 offices. This will have a big impact.

We have also gone from a company with 1,000 employees to over 28,000; all service-based firms working at some level as a consultancy. The culture encourages employee and client collaboration to build the best future outcomes for both. I think our current clients will see opportunities that come from expanded talent, reach, service and stability. It’s a very exciting time for us.

Q: What challenges are you seeing in the field?

A: The industry continues to recover since the financial crisis. The top real estate owners, most of whom are our clients, continue to redefine and improve their environments. They understand that their properties need to be the destination for entertainment and shopping to attract the best brands and the best customers. In addition, they are maximizing the use of their land and are looking at ways to successfully implement sustainability, making their properties more profitable to operate.

The refresh cycles in retail are shortening a bit. What once was a six- to eight-year window, before refresh/remodel work was required, is now closer to four or five years. This requires substantial additional capital, thus the adoption of more temporary structures, as a way of gaining confidence in design decisions before a larger investment is made.

We are experiencing more and more developers looking for a one-stop architecture design firm. As a result, it’s likely that more architecture firms will need to merge to compete with the range of services, quality, innovation and geographic reach Callison now enjoys.

Q: What are the biggest trends in retail design right now?

A: Trends that are driving our top clients today are: a focus on making the customer shopping experience unique, entertaining and joyful; integration of the online/offline experience to support the transaction, no matter how and when the customer chooses to buy; temporary structures that can be changed quickly to test new trends and ideas in a more dynamic environment; and right-sizing and business model reinvention of the retail center.

Q: Which of your services are seeing the most demand and why?

A: Our commercial architecture and design practices have seen an increase in high-profile opportunities in the past four months. Many of these projects are programs our partners have had on hold.

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