ADD Inc. (ADD) – named for architecture, design and development – is a Boston- and Miami-based planning, architecture, interior design and branding firm constantly diversifying and evolving its design practice due to the pace of change in the real estate business. Founded in 1971, ADD’s core business was the design of speculative suburban office buildings for Boston regional developers.
While the company’s name remains focused on three core principles, ADD offers much more. Fred Kramer, president of ADD, joined the company in 1981 as an intern architect as the company was already beginning to diversify its focus and broaden its geographic reach.
Kramer describes himself as the coach of a fantastic and hard charging team at ADD, confirming he is proud of how far the company has come. “We pursued a couple of different strategies,” he explains. “Due to the natural synergy between the work we did for developers in our office building practice and the work we did for end-user tenants in their buildings, we formed a workplace practice to offer all of the firm’s services to a range of corporate clients on small projects, as well as large corporate campuses.”
According to Kramer, the initiative enabled ADD to create design value based on the natural synergies between two client types. “Both are invested in office space, but with different short- and long-term goals for their real estate,” he explains. “Our client types expanded successfully, which helped us to establish a multi-location strategy for our business.”
From then to now
Since creating the workplace practice, ADD added two primary practices, as well as a robust branding group that helps owners sell and differentiate commercial and residential property offerings in high barrier to entry markets, such as Boston, San Francisco, Miami, New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
“Today we have four practice areas, because we’ve continued to grow and diversify our expertise as a necessity for sustainability and growth,” says Kramer. “In addition to our office building practice and our workplace practice, we’ve added two more: the first being our residential practice, primarily focused on large urban for sale or for rent multifamily communities; and the second academic practice focused on both public and private college and university clients, with projects ranging from residence halls and student life facilities to classroom and office space. These four practice areas are our dominant practices today.”
Kramer goes on to note that the company also performs hospitality work for a range of hotel clients, as well as retail as part of ADD’s mixed-use projects and urban place making expertise.
A recent example of ADD’s college and university work is the Tree House Student Residence building at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The project was delivered for The Massachusetts State College Building Authority, which was recognized as a finalist by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat as one of the four best tall buildings in the Americas. The competition recognizes exceptional high-rise design worldwide. Moreover, the building was also selected as a finalist for the 2013 Harleston Parker Medal competition, which recognizes the single most beautiful building built in Boston in the past 10 years.
That’s just one of the many projects within ADD’s academic practice, which also includes work for the Rhode Island School of Design, Tufts University, MIT, Dartmouth College, The University of Miami, as well as many more.
“A current project in our office building practice is a 500,000-ground-squre-foot building for State Street Bank, right here in the Seaport area of Boston,” Kramer explains. “We designed and delivered the shell and core of a great building for one of our best developer clients as next generation work space; 4,500 people will occupy it over the next several months. The project will fundamentally change the live, work and play environment evolving and maturing in the Seaport.”
Kramer points to ADD’s work with client Gerding Edlen as a prime example of the product coming out of the firm’s residential practice. ADD created 315 on A, a 202-unit multifamily rental tower. 315 on A’s panoramic views of Boston’s Seaport and financial districts, along with a distinctive package of amenities, has made the project the most sought after address in city’s emerging innovation district.
“Managed diversity in both product and geographic reach is critical to the stability and longevity of commercial design firms inextricably linked to the rise and fall of the nation’s real estate economy,” Kramer says. Through all of the recessions experienced in ADD’s 43 years in business, the ability to be nimble, client-focused and adaptive has enabled the firm to better navigate the highs and the lows in the design business.
“We always change to some degree in every downturn by evolving and diversifying our practices and geographic reach, and embarking on new initiatives to try to increase the firm’s value and relevance to its clients,” he continues. “Change is vital and by remaining focused on strategic investments at the same time we remain opportunistic, we’re going to have another good year in 2014. We’ve focused intensely on thinking about 2014 and 2015 as investment years. We want to be broader in our practice and in our geographic reach so we can bring greater value to clients.”
With a positive outlook, a passion for growth and a promising future, the company’s value and relevance will continue to evolve as it seeks to be a dominant design services firm in its core practices and geographies. ADD Inc. seems to be well on its way down the path of sustained success.
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