DLR Group has acquired Cleveland-based Westlake Reed Leskosky. The combined integrated design firm’s 1,000-plus employees will operate from 26 locations, including consolidated offices in several cities where each already has a presence. Both firms have topped the ARCHITECT 50: DLR Group in 2012, and Westlake Reed Leskosky in 2014. In fact, the 2012 ranking helped bring DLR’s work to the smaller, 160-person firm’s attention. “We approached them about combining on some proposals,” Westlake Reed Leskosky managing principal Paul Westlake Jr., FAIA, says. This led to joint work between the firms' Phoenix offices on a K-12 project.
“There’s very little competition on practice areas or clients,” explains Westlake. “Design is extraordinarily important to both firms,” DLR Group CEO Griff Davenport, AIA, adds. So, too, is an integrated approach to design that includes multiple disciplines within each office. The new firm will offer services in the following 13 sectors: Civic, Courts, Cultural and Performing Arts, Energy Services, Healthcare, Higher Education, Historic Preservation, Hospitality, Justice, K-12 Education, Retail and Mixed-Use, Sports, and Workplace. Notable clients of the firms include Boeing, the Cleveland Clinic, the General Services Administration, Google, Hyatt, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Mall of America, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian Institution, the University of Southern California, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
While DLR Group is, by far, the bigger entity, Davenport notes that his firm has always been made up of multiple offices with “lots of smaller operational units.” In that way, the new firm won’t be that much different. “We maintain a ‘close to the client’ mentality,” he says. And Westlake notes that his firm, which through predecessors has operated for more than a century, has made major changes over the past two decades. In 1997, Westlake Reed Leskosky focused its portfolio on select practice areas while diversifying its geographic reach outside of northern Ohio by opening an office in Phoenix and by expanding its services with engineering. DLR Group has also been expanding, through several acquisitions in the past few years, including California-based WWCOT and Minneapolis-based KKE Architects in 2010, and Washington, D.C.-based Sorg Architects in 2015.
The two firms began discussing the acquisition about a year ago, with a Letter of Intent signed in January 2016. About eight to 10 people from each firm have been involved in the months-long discussions leading up to the formal announcement. “Do we have the ability to like each other?” has been the question. “The reason it takes so long is the cultural blending,” Davenport says. “The transaction is relatively easy.”
Offices of the combined firms are now located in Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago; Cleveland; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Denver; Des Moines, Iowa; Dubai; Honolulu; Houston; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas; Lincoln, Nebraska; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Nairobi, Kenya; New York; Omaha, Nebraska; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; Riverside, California; Sacramento, California; Seattle; Shanghai; Tucson, Arizona; and Washington, D.C.
The most recent ARCHITECT 50 ranking places Westlake Reed Leskosky at Number Two, with DLR Group at Number 23. Referring to both firm’s previous top rankings, Westlake describes the merger as “1+1=1.” Now we have to wait and see if the new combined DLR Group|Westlake Reed Leskosky can achieve that lofty rank.