Tough Times for Architects

By Hannah Wallace September 30, 2009

›› We all know commercial real estate is in deep trouble right now. There’s a bottomless pit of vacant office, retail and warehouse space, and construction is at a standstill as business continues to hunker down and banks refuse to loan. Just take a look at our story on page 18 about the region’s top 20 commercial sales in the last 12 months. The low dollar volume tells the whole story.

That’s why it shouldn’t have been so shocking when I received a letter from The ADP Group, formerly our area’s largest architectural, land planning and design firm, stating that the recession had done them in and they were closing their doors. Couldn’t be, I thought. ADP has literally shaped Sarasota County for the last 25 years. Its partners—Bruce Franklin, Javier Suarez, Peter Houk and Robert Town—had been prominent and influential figures for decades but were nowhere near retirement age, and their firm—which had grown to more than 40 employees during the boom—had been a barometer of our growth—and our optimism.

ADP designed Southgate mall’s renovation, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Morton’s Market, Rivo at Ringling, Plaza at Five Points, North Port High School and the new buildings of Sarasota High School. In this issue, in our Commercial Design of Distinction feature, we are showcasing one of ADP’s last landmark creations, the new Planned Parenthood of Southwest Florida headquarters, for its modern lines and eco-friendly design (page 14).

ADP’s Javi Suarez Jr. was the design architect for that project, and now he and his father, Javier Suarez, have opened their own firm, Apex-Studio Suarez. Javi’s sister, Anna Santa Maria, an interior designer, has also joined the new firm under the name, Apex-Studio Santa Maria. And because they believe it will be a while before architects are busy again, they plan to do more than architectural design. Javi has expanded into graphic design for print media, general Web design, and even furniture design. And he’s looking for work all over the nation and even internationally where he and his father have contacts. “I don’t know what the future holds,” he says, “but architects everywhere are slashing jobs. Everybody’s trying to figure out whatever they can…teaching on the side, diversifying what they do.”

We wish the family good luck. They have the talent and credentials to make it, especially if they can hold on until our economy begins to grow again—as it will, promise many demographers.

People will return and these new arrivals will need houses and places to shop and do business. And buildings do get old. One expert at the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah estimates that Sarasota will need 245 million more square feet of nonresidential construction—billions of dollars worth—in the next 30 years. Javi hopes to stick it out and, just like his father, be part of shaping the next incarnation of our community. 

Filed under
Show Comments