By Maria Saporta
Two well-known Atlanta-based design firms are merging as of today.
The architectural firm of Lord, Aeck & Sargent and the urban, planning and design firm — Urban Collage, are now one company, according to LAS Chairman Tony Aeck. The combination of the planning and architecture expertise into one firm will provide an added benefit to their clients, he said.
Urban Collage, which has an expertise in campus planning and has offices in Lexington, Ky. in addition to its headquarters in Atlanta, also will broaden the footprint of LAS, which has offices in Ann Arbor, Mi.; Austin, Texas; and Chapel Hill, N.C. Urban Collage plans to continue operating under its name, at least for now.
“We welcome the opportunity to enhance our design and planning services for our clients, such as the University of Cincinnati and the University of Louisville, from a closer location,” said Joe Greco, president of LAS, in a release announcing the merger. “Urban Collage’s urban design and campus planning expertise will be infused across all of LAS’ practice areas, which include multifamily housing and mixed-use, higher education, science and technology, and historic preservation.”
The two firms already have been collaborating on projects for more than a decade. “The merger is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing with UC for quite some time,” Greco said. “We know and trust one another.”
Aeck said the merger was part of LAS’ growth strategy. “Many clients desire to focus on their core missions and are seeking out design firms with broader capabilities to help them plan strategically and then design their buildings,” Aeck said.
Bob Begle and Stan Harvey, co-founders of Urban Collage, will retain their titles of principal after merging with LAS. UC’s Atlanta office, headed by Begle, will keep its downtown location just minutes from LAS’ Midtown office. Harvey heads the Lexington office.
“We’ve long admired the design reputation and culture of LAS,” Harvey said. “Urban Collage does only master planning. So being part of the full-service, merged firm is an opportunity for us to see our projects through from conception to completion.”
UC’s original roots grew from managing the City of Atlanta’s Olympics Public Improvements Program, for which the firm handled the master planning for Atlanta’s 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. UC also collaborated with another firm on the original redevelopment plan for the Atlanta BeltLine, the multi-faceted redevelopment project with parks, trails and eventually transit along a 22-mile corridor encircling downtown Atlanta.
In Kentucky, UC is currently serving as master planner for downtown Lexington’s Rupp Arena, Arts & Entertainment District, billed as “the future of downtown Lexington.”
Some additional Kentucky projects include: a plan for a new 65-acre campus for Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington; a plan for the Red Mile mixed-use development near Lexington’s Red Mile horse racing track; a Lexington Distillery District plan that calls for revitalization of many of the District’s interesting and historic buildings as well as residential, commercial and mixed-use infill development; a master plan for Gateway Community and Tech College’s new Urban Campus in downtown Covington; a plan for continued improvement of the Westport Road Corridor in eastern Louisville; and design guidelines for the South Fourth Street Corridor, one of Louisville’s most intact historic places.
“The mergers in our industry are usually ones in which one very large firm buys a smaller one that does the same kind of work in order to gain more operational efficiencies,” UC’s Begle said. “Our merger with LAS is not that at all. Because our firms do related yet different things, the merged whole will be significantly greater than the sum of its parts. It’s about adding value, design and planning synergies and creating a truly one-stop operation from which our clients will benefit.”