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May 21, 2015

Time for growth and change at Ankrom Moisan Architects

Journal Staff Reporter

Photo courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architects [enlarge]
The firm was founded in 1983 by Tom Moisan (left) and Stewart Ankrom (right), who is now retired. Dave Heater (center) is the new president.

Ankrom Moisan Architects is on a roll. It expects to grow from 300 to 350 employees by the end of next year, is moving its offices in Seattle and Portland, and will set up shop in San Francisco in 2016.

The Portland-based firm has named Dave Heater as president. He will take over for co-founder Tom Moisan, who will become board chairman, all effective July 1.

Heater joined the firm in 1990 as an intern, and is now managing principal of the Seattle office.

He said he is thrilled with the promotion.

“I was totally terrified moving up here to Seattle to start the office,” he said. “I have to admit this seems less terrifying and more exciting.”

Heater has presided over the firm's expansive growth in the Seattle area.

The office went from a staff of two when Heater opened it in 2006 to 85 employees now. They will move in December to 24,000 square feet at 1505 Fifth Ave., leaving 13,000 square feet in two Pioneer Square buildings.

Heater will continue to be based here, and also work in Portland. Moisan plans to retire in 2017, and until then will continue to build the leadership team of the employee-owned company.

The firm is moving its Portland headquarters in spring 2016 to 42,000 square feet in a new six-story building it is designing in the Old Town district at Northwest First Avenue and Northwest Davis Street. The firm is an investor in the building and will be the main tenant. Gerding Edlen is the developer. The Portland office is now at 6720 S.W. Macadam Ave.

Ankrom Moisan Architects was founded in 1983 by Stewart Ankrom, who is now retired, and Tom Moisan. It works mainly with private developers and mostly in cities in the U.S.

Heater said revenues were $35 million in 2014 and this year could go as high as $50 million.

The firm provides architectural, interior design, urban design and branding services. It works on mixed-use apartment and condo, hospitality, workplace, health care, affordable housing and housing for students and seniors.

Heater said growth in San Francisco plays into the decision to open an office there. The firm works in a number of California cities, and is designing a mid-rise and high-rise project in downtown LA, and the MacArthur Station Affordable Housing in San Francisco.

Moisan said building is picking up in LA and Ankrom Moisan would like to open an office there in the near future.

Moisan said the firm is seeing work across the board in Portland — from hotels to office and housing. Among its projects are the 600-room Convention Center Hotel and Sky3 Apartments.

In the Seattle area, the firm is working for local and out-of-town developers.

Among the projects are a 24-story apartment tower for MacFarlane Partners at 901 Harrison St., which Heater said will start construction this fall.

The others include a 16-story apartment building for Mack Urban; a 20-story tower with student housing, office space and classrooms for Cornish College of the Arts; a 17-story hotel for Columbia West Properties; and two seven-story apartment buildings for Holland Partner Group.

Also, it and ZGF Architects are designing a full-block office, residential and retail complex for Vulcan Real Estate at Westlake Avenue North and Denny Way.

Heather said Seattle has drawn national attention, and anyone developing projects in San Francisco wants to do projects here.

In Redmond, Ankrom Moisan is the architect on two hotels with a total of 275 rooms for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and a 487-unit apartment project for AvalonBay Communities. In Bellevue, it is working on a large apartment project for Carmel Partners, and in Tacoma it is working on the 300-room convention center hotel.

Moisan said the firm started in not so great economic times. It hit its stride developing lots of condos in Portland's Pearl District in the early 1990s. Some of the condos built there had defects, and Moisan said his firm worked “more than any other architect” to get them fixed.

In the mid 2000s, it was getting work in Seattle, and developers wanted it to open an office here. It started working on the Metro 112 project in Bellevue, and Rollin Street Apartments and Mirabella Seattle.

Still, developers were concerned the firm didn't understand the Seattle process, Heater said, so it hired people who did. But developers were impressed with the firm's reputation, he said.

Heater said, “A lot of our people really respected our work in the Pearl District. They respected our work in affordable housing.”

The Seattle office ramped up to about 30 people, but got hit in the recession as projects stalled. In one day alone five projects went on hold, Heater said. The Portland office also went through hard times, and had to lay off people.

But when worked picked up in Seattle it picked up quickly. “Seattle really helped lift a lot of our office — Portland — out of the recession,” Heater said.

The recession also caused the firm to diversify geographically, with work in Bellingham, and its first student housing project, which was for the University of Washington. The firm even got a project in China. It is now working on a large senior housing project in Beijing.

Heater said there's still a lot of interest in developing apartments in Seattle, and the firm hopes the next big thing here is condos “because we love urban condos.”

Ankrom Moisan has designed 2,000 affordable apartments, and would like to get more of that work here, he said, but it's hard to break into that market. It also wants more office work.

The firm plans to expand it branding services, he said, and get the interior design staff involved in projects early-on.

Moisan said Ankrom Moisan staff work on different types of projects. That cross pollination leads to innovation and makes for happier employees who stay long term, he said.

The economy has been good, but the firm's success is based on more than just that, Moisan said.

“We're on a roll. We've got energetic ideas we bring to the table on every project.”


Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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