Firm News

Two Locations, One Firm

This February, we celebrated our 34th anniversary as a firm. 2015 also marks the 29th anniversary of our Chicago office.

In 1981, our founders Kirk Gastinger and Wade Walker established the firm based on the philosophy of "listening to clients."

If we listen to and take care of our clients, we will build outstanding long-term relationships. In result, our clients will take care of us.

After five years of growth, relationship building and design with insight, we listened very carefully when one of our clients told us something that would significantly change our firm. AT&T had revised its regional control of real estate. Offices that were in several states, previously controlled by a Kansas City office, were now going to be controlled out of Chicago.

“Our firm had established a reputation as a client, budget, and schedule-oriented firm that provided great service at a reasonable cost,” saidRogers Malone, AIA, principal. “However, the Chicago AT&T Real Estate group could not hire Kansas City architects to do work throughout their region. We needed an office in Chicago in order to continue the relationship."

So Rogers packed up moved his family, and on December 28, 1986 opened the doors of our Chicago office.

In 1986, the Sears Tower was only 13 years old, Ronald Reagan was president, and email and cell phones were a distant speck on the horizon. In April, Rogers will celebrate his 32nd anniversary with the firm, and his 29th year in Chicago.

“Our Chicago office has been able to succeed and excel at relationships for so long because of the culture orginially established by Kirk and Wade in Kansas City,” said Rogers. The team now consists of interior designer Lisa Kincaid, principal; architect John Price, AIA & principal; project designer Heather Lichtfuss; project assistant Marlene Wolz and KC/Chicago liaison Kevin Harden, AIA and partner.

“As the partner linking KC and Chicago, I frequently travel between both offices to keep everyone current. I am the cheerleader pushing the team to do better, and make sure top talent is hired when needed. Representing Chicago’s interests in partner’s meetings has gone a long way to make us ONE office in two locations,” said Kevin.

Kansas City and Chicago have successfully worked in tandem, guided by the firm’s original philosophy. There is great strength in two offices working as one and opportunities are frequently realized. In addition to work for AT&T, the Chicago office has built several new relationships over the years throughout the nation. The firm has completed work in nearly every state.

“We are not an ‘island’ in Chicago. Our office is a part of a bigger whole, and combined we are a team of more than 50 architects, interior designers, marketing and administrative staff,” said Lisa.

After 29 years and three expansions later, the Chicago office has grown to specialize in large corporate offices and healthcare spaces.

“The Chicago office was always intended to be an extension of Kansas City’s office and to grow with additional Chicago clients. The goal from the first day was to expand our client base and continue to provide the same great service that the Kansas City office does,” said Lisa. “It’s incredible to say that we have major corporate experience in two significant Midwestern cities. We have won more business because of this asset. We have the ability to cover a large area that makes clients more confident in our capabilities. We have regional (not just local) flexibility and knowledge.”

Our capabilities have attracted real estate developers in Chicago and, from that, partnerships formed. “We expanded our client base not only locally but with companies doing business in both Kansas City, Chicago and throughout the Midwest. Regionally, besides AT&T, we have worked with Lucent Technologies, Avaya, The John Buck Company, CB Richard Ellis, the GSA, Kemper Financial, Sprint, Morgan Stanley, Van Kampen (now Invesco), BKD, and several others. We also work with Donna Buck and the KC office on several regional Brown Mackie College and Allstate projects, and Jana BeeTriplett on healthcare related projects (including SurgCenter Development). Many of these relationships started in Kansas City and were strengthened by a Chicago presence,” John said. “After we gained regional momentum, we started gaining business from within the Chicagoland urban area (The Tom Terry Group, Civic Opera Building, The Rookery, 104 S. Michigan Ave., 111 S Wacker, Triangle Plaza, 208 S. LaSalle and many others) with additional projects in the suburbs (including Banco Popular, Stonecreek Properties, Barrington Broadcasting and others).”

This map shows all of the states where our team has completed projects; including the Cayman Islands and Jamaica:

Most of the projects for the Chicago office have revolved around corporate interior design. When an opportunity for Kansas City-based client, UMB, came about in Milwaukee, Kevin Harden reached out to Lisa Kincaid and the Chicago team. UMB relocated their Fund Services division in Milwaukee to historic Schlitz Park and this involved interior design and interior architecture as part of a historic renovation. Our proximity to Milwaukee, knowledge of the landscape, and ability to handle details with local vendors and subcontractors demonstrated our ability to have two offices working and collaborating as one.

“We were very excited to work with the Kansas City-based banking company,” Lisa said. “Kevin, who has a relationship with UMB, was able to pass along the work and we just jumped at the opportunity.”

A recent win for the Chicago team was becoming the preferred interior architect for the building at 200 S. Michigan Avenue. Future plans are in progress to create a large public fitness center, as well as other marketing and design projects. Further down the road, our team will be asked to do tenant improvements, construction documents, permits and construction administration as a part of the contract.

Our Chicago office has sustained and grown business over the past 29 years and is strengthened by the dual office structure and goals of our firm. GastingerWalker& regional offerings have taken our firm from a local team to an established national presence.

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