Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine

Specialty: Commercial, institutional and mixed-use architecture

Principals: Ev Ruffcorn, Erik Mott, Brad Hinthorne, Todd Stine

Founded: 2004

Headquarters: Seattle

2006 revenues: $3 million

Projected 2007 revenues: $3.5 million

Current projects: Burien Town Square City Hall/King County regional library; 40-story Beacon Capital Partners high-rise in Bellevue; two office buildings for Martin Selig Real Estate at 635 Elliott Ave. W. in Seattle

Image courtesy of Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine
Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine is planning a 13-story mixed-use building near Pike Place Market for Urban Visions. The building, called 114 Pike, would combine retail, office and luxury apartments.

Sometimes less is more.

When Ev Ruffcorn, Erik Mott, Brad Hinthorne and Todd Stine left Zimmer Gunsul Frasca in 2004 to form their own firm, part of the allure was a chance to work with their clients more directly.

Opening a smaller firm was a big change. Portland-based ZGF had 370 employees in four offices in 2004. Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne Stine currently has around 20 employees.

“One of the big rewards is that clients are excited and very interested in working with the owners of the firm,” Ruffcorn said. “We could work very closely with our clients and still deliver large-scale projects.”

Large projects on tap

Ruffcorn Mott, which officially celebrates its third birthday on Nov. 8, will see the first of those large-scale projects, the 5th and Madison condominium tower, welcome its first residents on Oct. 26. The project includes a courtyard and update of the neighboring 900 Fourth Avenue office building. The owner, Beacon Capital Partners, will seek a LEED gold certification for the entire block.

Ruffcorn Mott has a number of other large projects on tap, including the $40 million Information Library and Learning Center at University of Wyoming’s Coe Library in Laramie, a 360,000-square-foot office project for Martin Selig Real Estate at 635 Elliott Ave. W. in Seattle, and a 15-story office and retail building in midtown Anchorage, Alaska.

Despite some of the challenges of running a business, Hinthorne said, the experience, on the whole, has been positive.

“Clients in the past have shown faith in our new venture,” he said. “We’ve been pleased with our relative success.”

The firm would like to grow to around 30 to 35 employees, Hinthorne said, a staff level at which “we can do what we want to do without adding managers.”

Seeking good workers

One difficulty the firm faces is attracting and keeping good employees.

“Really good talent is a challenge to find,” Ruffcorn said. But people who do seek out the firm “come to us with a particular interest in what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Do the principals share any concerns about the current building boom coming to an end?

“Anybody who’s lived in this state very long has seen these cycles,” Ruffcorn said. “We’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Still, he said, “clients have been surprised that the Seattle metro area has stayed strong for so long ... there doesn’t seem to be at the moment any visible downturn.”

The firm has a “select group of really good projects” that will sustain it for quite a while, Hinthorne said, including public education projects, which are planned and funded differently from private projects.

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