El Dorado Inc.
Founded in 1996 and run by principals David Dowell, Doug Stockman and Josh Shelton, el dorado inc. has grown into a leading architecture and design firm in the Midwest. Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, with an office in Wichita, Kansas, el dorado works in both the public and private sectors, specializing in hospitality, institutional, mixed-use, residential and urban design.
At its inception, el dorado’s practice began as a departure from traditional architecture. “We were exploring more of a design and fabrication route,” says founding principal Doug Stockman. “We wanted to be more ‘hands on’ with our work, so we launched the company and started taking on custom fabrication projects.” An early job that el dorado took on involved the design of a studio and studio components for the Kansas City Art Institute.
Through the growing process, el dorado has maintained the perception of itself as a design and fabrication service. “We were never going to become builders of someone else’s work,” says Stockman. “We’ve never lost the notion to always find ways to incorporate some fabricated components. In every single one of our projects there is always something that we’re a part of.”
Having built the practice on strong design roots, el dorado has maintained a superior understanding of the methods used in the construction of its projects. This has earned the company a unique position within the local contracting community. “Because we understand how to put something together, it makes us appreciate all scopes and disciplines,” says Stockman.
Standing out from the pack
There is an unparalleled level of commitment that el dorado devotes to each of its projects. Throughout every aspect of the design and construction phases of each job, the thought of continually refining never ceases. “Our process doesn’t stop after the submittal of construction documents,” Stockman explains. “We are constantly negotiating that design all the way up until the completion of the project. We’re always searching for ways to make things better, and a lot of our clients appreciate the fact that we’re there when it comes to making tough decisions.”
While remaining cautious to avoid being pigeon-holed into one aspect of the industry, el dorado has discovered a niche in the multifamily residential market. “We do everything from affordable housing, to tax-credit projects and urban revitalization,” says Stockman. “We also do a lot of public-space planning and bridges in the urban design and redevelopment category.”
el dorado has been involved in several groundbreaking projects over the years. One notable job is the TWA Headquarters Building in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City. Designed to be the home of a large advertising firm, this facility features state of the art office space served by an under floor HVAC and data distribution system, energy efficient traction elevators and window systems, abundant natural light and improved vertical circulation. The building also features a rooftop patio, the first of its kind in Kansas City and one of the largest planted roofs in the region, in and of itself an engineering feat.
The rooftop gardens feature native prairie grass and wildflowers as well as an outdoor deck area with shade pavilion. All of these elements help control water runoff, reduce impermeable surface area and provide a unique amenity to the building’s tenants, welcome space for office workers. A recrafted “Moonliner” rocket was fabricated and installed on the roof as well. “It was a historic tax credit project and one of the first of its kind,” says Stockman. “In fact the advertising agency ended up rebranding their identity based around the Moonliner rocket.”
Back in 2005, el dorado worked closely with a group of enthusiastic developers to develop a new mixed-used structure called 5 Delaware Lofts. Located in the River Market District of Kansas City, this project involved the construction of a concrete, corrugated metal and Mangaris wood structure which houses 12 residential condominium units and one retail space.
Currently el dorado is involved in several urban in-fill multifamily projects. “Right now we’re working on an $80 million mixed-use development which includes a big box store, hotel and an apartment complex with a parking garage,” Stockman explains. el dorado is performing full design-development services for the project. “We’ve also got several projects in the $3 to $15 million range, all within the urban core, that are a combination of historic building renovations and additions, as well as parking garages to supplement the new developments.”
On a mission
From an early age, Stockman had a strong sense that architecture and design was a field that he wanted to work in. While growing up, Stockman became exposed to a variety of places and cultures due to his father being employed by the U.S. State Department. “Every two years we would move to a different country,” Stockman recounts. “That exposure certainly lent itself to shaping my thoughts about my own influence on culture.”
Starting with a company built from scratch and witnessing its growth and success is what has given Stockman the biggest sense of pride about el dorado. “It’s rewarding to know that you have the capability to survive the tougher times such as the recent recession,” says Stockman. “What we enjoy the most here is the collaborative culture that we feel we have created and continue to insist on amongst the people that work here.”
Stockman and the other partners plan to continue to grow el dorado at a thoughtful and methodical rate. “We’re not looking to necessarily pick up projects that are a on a bigger scale, but become involved with some more complex, high profile jobs,” says Stockman. “Projects that have a big impact on the community we’re working in.”
As el dorado progresses into the future, the company will continue to rely on its philosophy of design excellence which has, up to this point, been a major contributor to it’s success.
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