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Mississippi architects involved in full-range of designs

Metro firms active with projects around the state

With so much renovation and new construction work ongoing, architects in Mississippi are booked well into the next century.

Last week, the Mississippi Business Journal talked to a number of firms in the metro area to find out what they have on the drawing board.


Building expenses are high not only in Mississippi, but around the nation, said Richard McNeel of Johnson Bailey Henderson McNeel in Jackson.

“Masonry and labor costs are extremely high,” he said. “Precast concrete is extremely high and slow in delivery. My general observation is that most contractors continue to be busy because architects have been busy. Contractors are now working on projects we’ve been designing the last several years.”

“Pricing is still running at a fairly high clip per square foot. It’s difficult to do anything about it because it’s supply and demand. But it’s not just in Mississippi. It’s happening all over the U.S. Design professionals from all over are busy,” he said.

Mississippi’s skilled craftsmen are among the best in the nation, but there aren’t enough to keep up with the demand, McNeel said.

“Mississippi has a number of skilled craftsmen, labor pools and supervisors, but not enough,” he said.

Current projects include the DeSoto County Civic Center, the Swalm Chemical Engineering Building at Mississippi State University, and several schools on the Gulf Coast.

“In Jackson, we have several office complexes under construction, including a third building for Mark Jordan,” McNeel said. “We did all the master planning for Trendline’s Canebrake on the Refuge and Dogwood Bluff in Flowood.”


“There’s always a labor shortage and prices are continuing to rise on construction costs,” said Steve Davis, a principal with Canizaro Trigiani Architects in Jackson. “It’s a continuing problem. We’ve been saying the same thing for three years.”

Established in 1938 by James T. Canizaro, the award-winning firm is currently working on a unique five-story apartment complex on Capitol Street in Jackson for fifth year students from Mississippi State University’s school of architecture. One of the first developments of its kind, the complex will have 16 apartments for 25 students with internal courtyards and other architectural features.

“Obviously, there’s lot of pressure for us to make it an exemplary building, something that students can learn a little something from,” said Davis, with a chuckle.

Canizaro Trigiani Architects was recently selected, along with associate architect firm, New York-based Kliment & Halsband, for a $35-million federal courthouse project in Biloxi.

“We will be incorporating artwork, primarily by Mississippi artists, into the design of the building,” Davis said.


Since Kathy P. Mangialardi opened her own shop on April Fool’s Day in 1997, she has been busy with renovation and contract work. Currently under construction is the Merchants and Farmers Bank and executive office building in Madison, for which she drafted design and construction documents. Primarily booked for new construction on office and medical buildings, she recently contracted with Jackson Public Schools on auditoriums, libraries and offices at four elementary schools.

“It’s very important to make it a priority to improve educational facilities and the atmosphere in which our children learn,” she said.

Mangialardi has noticed a trend of office construction clients paying more attention to customer areas of office and medical buildings to “reach the higher end atmosphere,” she said.

“Atriums are being more fully developed, and richer materials like marble and wood are being used,” she said. “Most of the nicer furnishings are going to the waiting areas, reception areas and atriums to create a warm, welcome atmosphere to make people comfortable.”

Office landscaping systems — the use of partitions and stations — are being utilized “so space is easier to convert in the future,” Mangialardi said.


Bill Cooke with Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons of Jackson said the 500,000-square-foot MCI WorldCom complex on 85 acres in Clinton would soon be ready. Three of the four buildings linked with a central atrium and ancillar facilities will be complete.

Even though MCI WorldCom may be the architectural firm’s most visible current project, Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons has carved out a niche in designing baseball stadiums. In addition to designing Auburn University’s baseball stadium, the firm is now working on its addition.

“We’ve designed a number of baseball stadiums, including Baylor, Indiana State and Ole Miss,” said Cooke, an Auburn alum who once played basketball there. “We found a niche. They like what we’ve done and we’ve been fortunate to export our services to other states and bring some of their money back to ours.”

Cooke said the trend of putting more emphasis on customer areas in office and medical buildings is reflective of competitive times.

“Customer service is a big issue with our clients,” he said. “Most businesses are aiming toward making customers happy. We certainly do.”


David Dillard, AIA, of Ridgeland said working via the Internet has turned any desk into a virtual office.

“With the Internet, there is no geographical restraint working with associates,” said Dillard, who turned solo in 1995. “It has allowed us to transfer drawings, trade information and has provided a way to get in touch with design professionals who are remotely located or just down the street. Before, we had to send diskettes by FedEx or mail. It has been wonderful for our industry.”

Even though Dillard has new commercial construction projects, such as the Coker & Palmer building on Lelia Drive in Jackson that was finished last winter, or renovation work, like the Thompson Building built in 1907 and located in downtown Jackson, his specialty is restoring churches. He’s traveled a four-state area, working with historic churches of all denominations.

“Older churches need different approaches,” Dillard said. “Sometimes, churches want to add on and that takes special consideration. For example, the Thompson Building was renovated and turned into the home of the Episcopal Diocese, the bishop’s home office. Sometimes, churches want new finishes, lighting, furnishings, millwork or trim.”

Dillard said he’s noticed a trend in commercial developments toward businesses building their own buildings rather than continuing to lease space.

“Companies are looking to buy property in high-growth areas, such as the Madison-Ridgeland sector, Lakeland Drive in Rankin County and in Clinton,” Dillard said. “Those areas are becoming filled with businesses may have moved out of high-rise buildings and are building their own, like Coker & Palmer did.”


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About Lynne W. Jeter

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