Stevens & Wilkinson
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Joe Atwood
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Stevens & Wilkinson (S&W) has been offering design services to owners, developers and builders across the Southeast for 94 years. The team operates out of two locations: Atlanta, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.
“We are one of the oldest practices in Georgia,” says Bill Clark, a principal at S&W, who has been in the industry since 1979. “We have been around for quite a few years. This firm is an architectural and engineering group and one of the earliest to combine the two disciplines in-house. We also have an interior design practice, idea|span. That area of the business has been very successful with a primary focus in designing corporate workspace.”
S&W works primarily in the Southeast region, with an emphasis in Georgia and South Carolina. “We are registered in probably 30 states,” Clark adds. “We have worked in Texas and other states where we have traveled to work with national clients; we will go where they go. Before the downturn, we were working heavily in the telecommunications industry with companies like T-Mobile. We did projects with them in Oregon, Maine and Kansas. We will travel outside of our general area with a company like that.”
Between both locations, S&W employs a staff of roughly 100 experienced professionals in the design business. “Before college, I was very interested in art and was always great at math and science,” he explains. “I somehow figured that might be a good combination for becoming an architect. I went to Georgia Tech to study architecture. I think in college most people have no clue what they really want when they start out, but it stuck with me. It actually worked.”
According to Clark, S&W’s largest investments are in staff and technology. “We are our people,” he explains. “That’s where we want to put our money. We are certainly right on the cutting edge of building information modeling and sustainability, just to be competitive. We perform planning and architecture in-house, as well as fire protection, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineering. We do have a small civil component in Columbia; however, in Atlanta, we utilize local civil, landscape and specialty consultants.”
Clark knows what it takes to steer S&W through to success. “We have six to eight core markets,” he continues. “The last four years, in challenging times, we have done a lot of state and local governmental work, which has been common with a lot of people in this industry. Right now higher education is important and we are doing several nice projects there. K-12 education projects are also very active right now, because a year-and-a-half ago or so, a one-percent special tax generally passed statewide, something unique to Georgia. Now, the tax money is starting to come through the doors and we are starting to see a lot of requests for bids for that market.”
According to Clark, the company has shifted in a positive light. “Education is definitely a strong market segment for us,” he continues. “We also really have a strong practice of repurposing existing buildings, historic or not, which crosses overall markets; adaptive reuse is a good term. I think higher education seems to be the one getting a lot of attention now with larger projects. As we move forward, I think our focus will shift to mixed-use housing. We have a lot of experience in that, as well as hospitality. We tend to work more in the urban core. We are not doing hotels at interstate intersections in the suburbs. Campuses are very much like that, as well, regardless of location. That meshes really well with our experience in urban areas.”
Something Old, Something New
Both S&W offices have been involved in a number of unique projects in several markets over the last year. “On our side, we have a wonderful project going right now on a new law school for Georgia State University,” Clark elaborates. “We have quite a few nice higher education projects in design and, which is good to have in these tough times. The Columbia office just won a really nice project at Clemson for a mixed-use core campus project. There are still a lot of higher education projects, even though the universities are feeling the economic pinch, too.”
Clark is confident in the future of S&W. “In Georgia, the future is going to be repurposing existing buildings, with the exception of very unique projects,” he says. “At Georgia Tech, where I went to school, they designed a nanotechnology building from the ground up. With mainstream academia there are plenty of opportunities statewide to repurpose buildings and make them more efficient, as there are in the private sector. This country has so much inventory of space, so renovation and historic restoration is the future 10 years for everybody.”
One such renewal project is a former Sears’ regional headquarters in Atlanta. “The building is called Ponce City Market after the street it is on, Ponce De Leon Ave,” Clark explains. “This will be a mixed-use project with developer, Jamestown Properties. This is a really unique project and the building has such a big story with regards to repurposing. This is located along the Atlanta BeltLine, a new urban development corridor that essentially makes a loop around downtown.”
Of course, a little recognition never hurt anyone. “This renewal initiative has gained a lot of national press, which is very cool,” he adds. “The old railroad lines that were abandoned created almost a circle. A few years back, the city rediscovered those abandoned lines and now they are redeveloping it for sustainability. Eventually the corridor may have a transit line from neighborhood to neighborhood. For now the focus is on making green spaces and pedestrian walkways. Atlanta is notorious for being a city where you have to get in a car to go somewhere. This will be a great improvement over time, making the city more livable and more walk-able.”
With several unique projects in the works and on the horizon, Clark and his team are optimistic for the future of the market. “I think our biggest challenge right now is finding the right talent to take us forward,” he explains. “With an older practice like ours, we are continuing to reinvent ourselves to be on the cutting edge of our practice and profession. We do that by hiring talented people and taking on new technology. The silver lining with the recession and slow recovery is that now is the time to really reinvent ourselves as we move forward. We are excited to hire young talented people, of course with strategic hires thrown in, to reinvent the firm as we go.” Approaching 100 years in business, Stevens & Wilkinson continues to stay ahead of the curve with future-focused design and current, leading technology.
For more information about Stevens & Wilkinson, please visit: www.stevens-wilkinson.com.
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