GRAND RAPIDS — Lott3Metz Architecture LLC and Detroit-based Crutcher Studio Inc. have formed a partnership to propose larger developments in Southeast Michigan.
The two firms announced the partnership this month and plan to “positively contribute to Detroit’s urban revolution.” The newly combined firms will be known as Lott3Metz Crutcher Architecture.
Both Ted Lott and Greg Metz, founding principals of Lott3Metz, have ties to Detroit, and had been friends with Ken Crutcher, the founding principal at Crutcher Studio. About a year ago, they met to discuss a collaboration that would allow Lott3Metz to pitch projects in Detroit, and help Crutcher Studio to grow and pursue larger projects.
“We’ve been focused on community, and that’s where we live. We live in Grand Rapids,” Lott said. “We want to be focused on our community and live with our work. Ken looks at Detroit the same way.”
The partnership, which is not a formal merger or acquisition, will offer design and planning services for new construction, renovations and historic preservation of commercial and residential projects.
Crutcher Studio was founded in 1998 with expertise in interior design, landscape design, mechanical, plumbing, electrical, structural and civil engineering. Founder Crutcher, a Detroit native, is a former professor at Lawrence Technological University and Eastern Michigan University, and previously served as vice president of the Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
Since its founding, Crutcher Studio has completed various residential and commercial projects in Southeast Michigan.
“This is going to give us the opportunity to be more selective in our clientele and the projects we go after, and get us to the next level,” Crutcher said. “This is a collaboration of equals. It’s not an acquisition, it’s a collaboration. We’re building something from the ground up.”
The details of the partnership are still being fleshed out, Lott said. Working in both areas will require flexibility by Lott3Metz, and the firm will support Crutcher with “back-of-house” work, Lott said.
“We are learning what this new business is going to be,” Lott said. “We committed, all of us, to be very open-minded about how we’re going to work together.”
Gaining access to new projects in the Southeast Michigan market comes as the broader architecture and construction industry continues to move in positive territory. The latest Architectural Billings Index from the American Institute of Architects registered 51.3 for the Midwest in January, signaling growth in a “strengthening” market. Nationwide, billings increased for the fifth consecutive month to a reading of 52.2.
“Business conditions continue to recover from the soft patch they experienced in the spring and summer of 2019, and firms are becoming more optimistic about future work. In addition, the value of new design contracts was particularly strong in January, as clients began to kick off new projects for the year,” the AIA wrote in its report.
As well, construction spending nationwide increased 1.8 percent in January from the prior month, and was up 6.8 percent from a year earlier, according to an analysis of federal data released this month by the Associated General Contractors of America. Public construction projects were up 12.6 percent on the year, while educational construction spending rose 4.1 percent. Among private nonresidential projects, commercial construction for retail, warehouse and farm structures declined 5.5 percent year-over-year, while construction for manufacturing facilities was up 5 percent.
However, AGC’s outlook was tempered by “growing uncertainties related to the coronavirus and its impact on the supply chain for construction components.”
The principals at Lott3Metz Crutcher Architecture have yet to identify specific project proposals, but their aim is for Crutcher to help Lott3Metz with Detroit connections and to propose bigger developments in the state’s largest city.
Technology has helped make the distance between the two firms “irrelevant,” Crutcher said.
The partnership also amplifies the work of a minority-owned architectural firm, Metz said, as the African American presence in the architectural community is not large. Fewer than 1 in 5 architects identifies as a person of color, according to national data from Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
For the three partners, the collaboration is very personal, said Metz, who earned his architectural degree from the University of Detroit. The collaboration provides him the opportunity to return to the city.
The friendship among the three is what makes the collaboration unique, Lott said.
“We’re coming together because we want to, and because we see the possibilities and benefits of it as equals,” Lott said.