Specialty: Planning, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design for multifamily and student housing, office, educational, cultural, civic and tribal clients
Mithun Chairman and CEO Bert Gregory said his planning and design firm is pretty busy. “Many of our clients are moving forward with projects that might have been in the drawer and also new clients are moving forward,” he said. Mithun had layoffs in the recession, but has added 15 staff so far this year.
It focuses on being nimble and creating value for clients with constrained budgets and who need to move fast in these uncertain times.
There were lots of acquisitions and mergers among architecture, engineering and construction firms in the downturn, and some went out of business, Gregory said. “The whole real estate industry isn’t out of the woods yet.”
Mithun hasn’t seen a slowdown in public projects, but Gregory said that sector likely will take a hit as government has less tax money. That provides opportunity for developers to construct buildings and lease them to governments, he said.
Locally, some developers are dusting off shelved office projects and talking about new ones given optimism about job growth in the region and its core assets, such as the University of Washington, Gregory said.
Sustainability is a central focus of Mithun’s practice. To that end, it has worked with Portland Sustainability Institute on establishing metrics around eco-districts, he said.
Its clients include universities that not only want campus buildings to be sustainable, but the space between them, too. That can involve looking holistically at green approaches to energy, water, habitat, food, transportation, health and even emotional well-being, setting up a framework for physical design, energy systems, landscape and regional habitat strategy, he said.
As part of its sustainability focus, the firm also is working on two projects targeting the Living Building Challenge: Chatham University Eden Hall Campus classroom building in Richland Township, Pa.; and South Quarter, a multifamily project in Minneapolis.
Gregory said Mithun has a number of conservation area and rural lands projects. They include the restorative master plan for Yosemite National Park, Tenaya Lake; planning and design to restore the giant sequoias habitat and enhance the visitor experience at Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove; and design lead for the recently opened LEED platinum Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon, Colo. (in coordination with Zehren and Associates).
The CEO said more universities want to link their campuses to urban life through design. In the UW’s Lander Hall project, for instance, Mithun introduced new pedestrian pathways through the three city blocks of the site to better connect it to the city. In the project, Mithun is trying to create an urban village feel with indoor-outdoor connections at the ground level. For instance, along the 12th Avenue Plaza, it plans oversized, glazed doors that roll up to bring the outdoors into the dining hall.
The firm is focusing on urban development as more people are moving to cities, looking for healthy environments, Gregory said. For instance, it has done a master plan for Denver Housing Authority’s South Lincoln transit-oriented redevelopment. The plan includes a health-impact assessment to ensure the design responds to community health issues, such as improved mobility, access to healthy food and social cohesion.
Also in Denver, Mithun did the a master plan for developer Urban Ventures’ Auraria Campus Village, a public-private partnership TOD that includes student housing, a student center, classrooms, retail, parking and a transfer station for light rail.
Gregory said even some suburban areas want more of an urban bent. “Retrofitting suburbia is certainly a trend.”
Things are picking up on the apartment front, Gregory said. Locally, an apartment complex called Aviara that Mithun designed and was dormant in the recession is under construction on Mercer Island. The 166-unit project is being developed by BRE Properties.
Gregory said Mithun is seeing some movement in construction of corporate buildings locally. In particular, it is designing a 50,000-square-foot job training and education center for Seattle Goodwill, with building to begin in 2012. It also designed the Harley Marine Services corporate headquarters and new marine services space for Duwamish Properties on Harbor Island.
The project, under construction, is a finalist for NAIOP’s Night of the Stars award contest in the industrial development of the year category, Mithun said.
The firm is also doing urban design for the First Hill street car project in Seattle, collaborating with URS.
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