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June 13, 2016 Q&A

JCJ aims to help revitalize Coltsville

Contributed A rendering of JCJ's new Hartford home at the Coltsville building.

Q&A talks about JCJ Architecture's recent downtown Hartford move and U.S. expansion with firm President Peter Stevens.

Q: JCJ recently relocated to the Colt Building. Why was that an important move for you? Does an architectural firm need to be in a dynamic space to impress its clients? Or were there other factors behind it?

A: Looking back on JCJ's history, our firm has been attracted and committed to locating in areas that were part of a larger redevelopment initiative. This occurred in the 1970s when we moved to 450 Church St., as part of the Union Station redevelopment initiative, continued with our move in 2006 to the Front Street neighborhood, and now with our move to Coltsville.

In each case, JCJ was not “the first one in,” but the firm has realized the impact our moves could make in acting as a catalyst for the area's further development.

In contemplating our most recent move, we had an opportunity to reflect upon the fact that we were going to be celebrating our 80th year in business — a milestone that made for ideal timing to renew our commitment to the city of Hartford as well as make a profound impact on our work environment for our employees. To create a more open and collaborative office, JCJ made it a priority to find a space that would house the firm on a single floor.

In the end, we felt that locating in Coltsville allowed us to create a very dynamic workspace — one that is both sustainable (LEED Silver) and healthy (WELL Building Certified). While Coltsville is still considered to be “on the fringe” of the downtown area, this is not new for us; JCJ has a passion for reinventing and reimagining historic structures, and our new headquarters truly celebrates the rich history of the East Armory Building and surrounding neighborhood.

Q: JCJ recently purchased Los Angeles-based Randall/Baylon Architect Inc. Does your LA expansion indicate a need to diversify among various parts of the country for more stable revenue?

A: For the past 15 years, JCJ has strategically committed itself to diversify both geographically and in terms of market sectors. Currently, this manifests in locations from east to west including Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and San Diego — with project work spanning a broad range of building types from institutional (i.e. K-12, college and university, civic) to hospitality (i.e. hotels, gaming, entertainment).

We strive to create a high level of synergy between our offices within each region, with the majority of our large projects involving a cross-office team of experts. Our Los Angeles expansion aligns with our approach to open offices in key urban areas where we already have established a presence working on significant and highly visible projects near these cities.

This bi-coastal format also proves to be a very efficient business model for JCJ, allowing us to extend our business day to the equivalent of “two shifts.”

Q: How's the pipeline for up-and-coming architects? Is it still a field drawing sufficient numbers to replace retiring architects?

A: According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), 2015 saw the number of aspiring architects continue to grow. In the last reporting year of 2014, an all-time high of 37,174 people were actively engaged in the activities leading to professional licensure. During the last recession many architects left their firms to pursue other career paths — and while the pipeline of young professionals is strong, there are fewer mid-career architects in the profession.

JCJ remains very engaged in activities to both increase the pipeline of new graduates and offer young professionals career-development opportunities. Through our decades-long involvement in the ACE Mentor Program and Hartford Scholars, we have introduced high school students in Hartford to careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

From an internal perspective, we provide regular continuing education and leadership opportunities for our younger professionals as well as support them as they study for and take the licensing exam.

Q: Overall, what's the biggest challenge facing your industry from your perspective? How are you overcoming those challenges?

A: With more advanced computer models, one of the most pressing challenges facing our industry is the ability to manage growing client expectations. The industry's most cutting-edge architects must keep pace with this more sophisticated design technology and integrate multiple disciplines to stay ahead, but building project budgets aren't matching this increase in investment.

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