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Diversification, backing up words with actions are keys to longevity

Dean & Dean achieves 55-year milestone

Occasionally, people will ask Richard Dean of Dean and Dean/Associates Architects (DD/A): “Are you the first Dean or the second Dean?”

“I tell them it doesn’t matter one bit, just as long as they call me,” said Dean, with a laugh.

Dean, AIA, retains both names in the company title in deference to his father, Charles H. Dean Jr., who founded the firm in 1949. Richard Dean joined the practice in 1968, fresh out of architectural school. In 1977, he acquired controlling interest from his dad, who wanted to retire, and has been president and managing principal since then. His brother, David Dean, who joined the firm in 1981, handles marketing and business development.

“From the time I was in the seventh grade and took mechanical drawing, I realized that’s all I really wanted to do,” said Dean. “My father never pushed me in any way, but I was exposed to it early on and, in my case, it was in the genes.”

In the late 1960s, the office consisted of three architects and a part-time secretary. Today, DD/A has a staff of 40, including nine registered architects and six architects-in-training. Its service area has expanded from Central Mississippi to 24 states.

“It’s been a planned growth process,” said Dean. “Early on, we sought large-scale projects because the trend seemed to be smaller firms scrapping for small projects. I felt like if I could grow the firm and get it larger to pursue bigger work, there’d be thinner air and less competition. That’s proven to be true. We’ve occupied a position of being one of the top firms in the state for 24 years, and we’ve enjoyed the opportunities that has afforded us.”

For a number of years, 90% of the firm’s workload has been derived from repeat business.

“We’re thankful for that,” said Dean. “That takes a lot of pressure off us from a marketing perspective and is a testament to the fact that we’re truly committed to putting our client’s best interest first and providing a high level of professional service. That’s a cliché, and everybody says it, I know, but I think we back up our words with action.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t have to beat the bushes for more work because in our profession, we have a responsibility to our staff and families to always seek new business. If one of our large-scale projects gets put on hold for funding issues or something of that nature, we could suddenly be in trouble. We have to protect ourselves from that kind of occurrence. To be healthy, we have to have all the work we can handle so we can absorb those times when work gets put on hold unexpectedly. We can never totally relax and focus on architecture, and to me, that’s the toughest part of the profession.”

Committed to diversification

Maintaining a commitment to diversification has been a key to longevity, said Dean.

“I realized a long time ago that in this state, you can’t focus on just one niché,” he said. “If market conditions cause a particular building type to dry up, you can be in trouble in a hurry.”

Even though the firm has various portfolios, the healthcare sector is the firm’s primary mainstay. Major work for University Medical Center, Baptist Health Systems and other hospitals around the state, plus four medical office buildings in the design phase, account for about $100 million in projects.

DD/A’s retail portfolio includes more than 100 department stores for Saks Inc., including Saks Fifth Avenue stores that recently opened in Plano, Texas, and Raleigh, N.C., along with a Younkers store in Des Moines, Iowa. Construction recently began on a Parisian store in Collierville, Tenn., and several other stores — the chain also includes McRae’s, Herbert’s, and Carson Pirie Scott & Co. — are in the design phase, each typically representing $15 million to $20 million projects.

Dean is working on lifestyle centers in Ridgeland and Madison, both potentially large-scale with upscale retail stores and restaurants. Four projects — three in Texas; one in Alabama — are underway for a new client: Lane Furniture Stores.

An impressive portfolio

The education portfolio includes Eagle Ridge Conference Center at Hinds Community College and the Entergy Services Executive Conference Center in Jackson. The firm is handling all design services for Rankin County’s $69-million school bond issue, which includes several new schools and multiple expansion/renovation projects.

“We just opened many of the schools that were part of that bond issue, and some will open next year,” said Dean. “Rankin High is under construction.”

The commercial division’s two million square feet of office space includes the building the firm occupies, Highland Bluff, plus Mirror Lake Plaza and Meadowbrook office complexes. Of the seven office buildings currently being designed, four are medical complexes. Also in the works: a $30 million, 22-story condominium building in Panama City, Fla.
DD/A has also handled institutional/civic work, including the award-winning Mississippi Department of Transportation building. The firm participated in a joint venture on the $86 million Woolfolk and Sillers renovation/expansion projects in downtown Jackson’s Capitol Complex, and also designed the Rankin County Justice Center and the Madison County Detention Center and Sheriff’s complex.

The firm has also handled design projects for more than 100 churches statewide, including First Baptist Church of Jackson and the renowned Chapel of Memories at Mississippi State University, for which they received the prestigious 25-Year Honor Award for Design from the Mississippi chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“We’re blessed to be in a strong position in this marketplace, and we believe our future is extremely bright,” said Dean. “Our workload is strong. We have good prospects. The fact that we have this degree of diversification will help us ride out any low spots in the economy.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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