Stricker Cato Murphy

Specialty: Theaters, assisted-living facilities, telecommunications, multifamily

Principals: Peter Stricker, Brett Cato, Robin Murphy

Founded: 1967

Headquarters: Seattle

2007 revenues: $6.5 million

Projected 2008 revenues: $4 million

Current projects: Willows Pond, a 125-unit assisted-living facility in Puyallup; Rainier Brewery work lofts, a nine-story building with about 60 units; Lake Powell Discovery Center in Page, Ariz., which includes a pioneer museum and movie theater

Rendering courtesy of Stricker Cato Murphy
Stricker Cato Murphy is working on the designs for Willows Pond, a 125-unit assisted-living facility in Puyallup.

The lousy economy has taken its toll on Stricker Cato Murphy. While last year was the firm’s busiest year ever, the firm has since laid off about one-third of its staff, according to principal Robin Murphy.

Assisted-living and multifamily projects are keeping the firm busy. It has more than a dozen multifamily projects for one client in California.

“Most private developers’ access to capital has dried up, and that has greatly affected a lot of projects,” Murphy said. “Those that already had a construction loan are going ahead, but anything prior to that is going to get stopped.”

New headquarters

The firm has had trouble collecting bills and is weary of constantly having to re-size its staff.

“It makes us want to go into development,” Murphy said. “Being at the whim of developers and them being controlled by the economic environment makes it kind of feast or famine in the architecture world.”

Stricker Cato Murphy is testing the water. Last year the firm bought the Maud Building, an 1890-era building in Pioneer Square which needs a seismic upgrade.

“If we can take care of that we can turn our sights to other properties,” Murphy said.

The firm plans to move into the Maud Building as soon as it can, which will help it save money over its current headquarters in Leschi.

Besides the move, “our strategy is to keep our head down and market like crazy,” to weather the economic downturn, Murphy said.

Retraining staff

Stricker Cato Murphy is in the middle of retraining its staff. Employees are learning to use building information modeling software: three-dimensional, real-time software to manage building data.

“I think within a year we’ll be using it on every project,” Murphy said.

The software allows all of the project consultants to work on the same model at the same time and resolve issues before the project is built.

“Architecture is heavily affected by technology,” said Murphy. “This is just a better tool. Anything we can use that can help us compete, and helps our clients, is a win-win thing.”

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