Central Oregon’s GGL Architecture has announced a merger with Tacoma, Washington-based group BLRB as a catalyst to expand its breadth of expertise throughout the Northwest.
The Bend-based office will now be known as BLRB/GGL Architects, uniting regionally recognized, award-winning project design and strong ties to the local community, and combining the two firms’ portfolios under one roof by expanding services and in-house talent.
Branch Director Mike Gorman, AIA, said: “We had been looking at potential merger options for a while as part of a strategy of widening our regional scope.
“A few years ago I reconnected with an old architectural school friend, Tom Bates, who is managing principal with BLRB, and our two firms ended up teaming up on several projects, including a recent Bend High School remodel and the new East Bend Library.
“We found that there was an alignment regarding synergy and philosophy in terms of service and common goals, and enjoyed the process so much we decided to formalize the relationship.
“Our firms have a shared commitment to sustainable design, superior client service and creating visually distinctive spaces, and we look forward to developing new business relationships and expanding the range of services and project types with which we can serve our clients.”
BLRB/GGL will remain in the Bend office space on Century Drive occupied by GGL Architecture and will retain the current staff, so clients will continue to work with the same team of local architects and designers with which they have established relationships.
Supported by the expanded resources and experience BLRB has provided its Northwest clients for nearly 60 years, Bend office co-director Jim Landin, AIA, said BLRB/GGL is poised to be among the most diversified firms in Oregon.
“BLRB has a long history of service to clients in Oregon,” added Bates. “This new formation brings us even closer to our existing clients and improves our accessibility to new clients in the state.”
BLRB was founded in 1953 and has provided architectural and engineering services for more than 600 public projects throughout the Northwest. The company has been involved with more than $2 billion worth of construction in Washington and Oregon for clients in the educational, commercial, civic and historic building preservation industries.
Gorman said: “This move really optimizes our range, and BLRB has also been known as one of the largest K-12 educational exponents in the Northwest.
“They wanted to expand their presence in Oregon and the merger also opens up what we can do to take expertise to a wider client base, including the Tacoma-Seattle area and its large captive population.
“We wanted to be more regional and BLRB has been in business almost three decades, with a large network and contacts we can tie into.
“Another big plus is the wealth of additional resources at our disposal through access to people with a varied range of specific skills.”
Landin said the Central Oregon market tends towards “generalists” who do everything, but the merger brings increased access to expertise in highly specific areas, such as people who just write specifications, or CAD (Computer-Aided Design) specialists pushing the leading edge of building information modeling software, including via the ‘Revit’ program.
Gorman added: “BLRB is really specialized in education and very adept in that niche. They do a lot of other products types but are particularly known for education-related projects.
“They are also noted for sustainability – their office building is one of the first LEED Platinum certified buildings in the Northwest – and also have one of nation’s foremost historic preservation experts
Landin said: “Though we are offering wider access to the State of Oregon, we will still deliver the same level of service to local clients while building on the progress of the last six and a half years of GGL with additional capacity and stability.
“A lot of firms with branch offices just basically have a conference room, but we will very much remain hands-on locally in terms of continued quality of service and excellence in delivery.”
New technology makes it easier to communicate effectively despite geographic separation, and the firms are employing numerous innovations, including cutting edge teleconferencing capabilities.
Gorman added: “We are also going to be looking at more affordable sector opportunities as we have already done projects such as the well-received Discovery Park Lodge senior housing complex.
“We are taking that experience to Washington as well as other parts of our repertoire such as tenant improvements and medical building expertise.”
He said adaptability in the current climate was key as well as keeping up with latest trends in a rapidly changing profession to assess “the next piece to take you to the next level”, adding” “You are either growing or dying – and you need to change with the times to be competitive and viable.”
Landin said tougher economic conditions had seen a lot of Portland area firms come to the Central Oregon area to bid on projects while conversely it could be challenging for local firms to compete on jobs in other areas.
He observed: “Now we can go and compete with any other firm. This move opens doors on the other side of valley and we will be able to compete on a more regional basis, as well as having an elevated profile to help compete better with firms coming down from Portland.”
Gorman concurred: “It’s a non-ego thing – if you are part of something bigger you can achieve more.
“BLRB also shares our philosophy of giving back, as exemplified at a recent retreat when the ownership voluntarily went out and repainted a rural classroom for the local community.”
Established in 1994, GGL has completed projects for clients in the commercial, multi-unit housing, education and retail sectors throughout Oregon, including the communities of Bend, Redmond, Tumalo, Sisters, Madras, Prineville, Hood River and The Dalles, among others.