Construction rebound brings more business to area architects

When construction work rebounded in northern Nevada last year, so did jobs for area architects.

“In the last three months, work has really picked up. It’s interesting because we’re getting some new projects from the ground up and you wouldn’t expect to see that with a lot of empty space still in town,” says Jeff Frame, president, Frame Architecture Inc. in Reno. “A lot of people are thinking it’s the ripple effect from Tesla.”

Frame is working on several projects, including an Anytime Fitness center on Red Rock Road in north Reno and a 30,000-squarefoot distribution center for a door hardware supplier in Carson City.

“I just got awarded this weekend a 10,000-square-foot medical office building in Carson City, near the hospital there,” says Frame. “The last few months work has really exploded.”

Frame says in 2008 his firm started the year with five employees and ended it with just himself. He’s now hired back one architect.

“We definitely see a change for the better and we’re hoping that continues,” says Fred Graham, senior project architect with Worth Group in Reno. “About the middle of last year it started to pick up.”

Worth is designing the 148,000-square-foot fitness center at the University of Nevada, Reno, a $38-million project the architectural firm is collaborating on with Q&D Construction.

Worth is also doing the renovations on UNR’s Mackay Stadium, a project long-delayed by spending constraints.

“We’ve been working with them for a few years on ideas and concepts, and they were struggling to get the dollars,” says Graham. “Now that that has come through it’s been a huge benefit.”

In December, the Nevada Board of Regents approved funding for the $11.5-million project.

Before the recession, Worth chased work on American Indian resorts, says Graham, but has since diversified its portfolio and in the last year or so hired two employees, a project manager and an intern.

According to the American Institute of Architects, which tracks work in its Architecture Billing Index, billings in western states dipped in March and April last year, but have been growing since. The western states are outperforming the Midwest and East Coast with a 12-month billing index of 52.7. (Anything above 50 is positive.) Only architects in the south, with a 57.9 index, are doing better.

MBA Architecture + Interior Design, one of Reno’s biggest firms, saw business start to pick up a few years ago, says Erik Fong, an MBA architect.

MBA once employed 16 people, cut the staff in half during the downturn and is now back up to 14 people, some working part time.

The firm designed the soon-to-open Hard Rock Café at Lake Tahoe, a $55-million renovation of the former Horizon hotel. MBA is also working on refurbishing newly acquired properties in Ohio and Pennsylvania for Eldorado Resorts.

MBA last year designed new facilities for CustomInk, the online custom printer, the Damonte Fire Station and the new Dolan Group Lexus car dealership.

“We’ve been pretty busy,” says Fong. “At times, in the last three years, we’ve been really slammed.”


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