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Dale Partners forges ahead amid tragedy, recession

Architecture firms have taken a hit with the building decline that followed the recent recession. One way some architectural firms have responded is with mergers and acquisitions that create economies of scale and bring in specialties that are in demand.

One such merger was between Barranco Architecture and Dale and Associates Architects, P.A. in January 2011. The founder of Barranco Architecture, Michael Barranco, was a past president of the Mississippi State Board of Architecture, and organized the Mississippi Renewal Forum, a week-long planning charrette following Hurricane Katrina that focused on a vision for rebuilding the Gulf Coast to be stronger and more resilient.

Barranco died in an automobile accident only a month after the merger, leaving sadness at the loss of one of the state’s foremost architects and a void that was very difficult to fill. Dale and Associates Architects, now known as Dale Partners Architects, stepped in to help finish Barranco’s projects in progress, most of which have now been completed. The final Barranco project, the Metropolitan Bank corporate headquarters at the Township at Colony Park, celebrated its grand opening in May.

“Dale Partners Architects, P.A. has walked an arduous and exciting path since its inception, a path marked with promising mergers, tragic loss and continued specialized partnerships,” said Doug Dale, AIA, principal in charge of Dale Partners. “It’s been a bumpy road for all of us over the past few years, but we are optimistic about what’s to come for us ‘There are some very exciting things going on in our state and there is no better time to do what we do.”

Currently Dale Partners is involved heavily with a wide variety of different projects. The company has several sport-related facilities in various stages of design.

“We are involved with feasibility studies for baseball stadiums in Ocala, Fla. and Brevard County, Fla., as well as a new stadium in Gulfport, Miss., and the new sports arena in downtown Jackson,” Dale said. “We have always been a part of the revitalization of downtown Jackson and are still working on the up-and-coming Jackson convention hotel to compliment the LEED-certified Jackson Convention Complex we completed in 2008.”

Other projects include a new performing arts theater for the Jackson Preparatory School, the Farish Street Entertainment District, renovations at the Jackson-Evers International Airport, two different projects at Point Cadet in Biloxi and the Pascagoula Riverfront Development. Dale said the Pascagoula development will change the dynamics of the downtown core by adding mixed-use activity including office, retail and housing to the existing public infrastructure that accommodates city and county offices.

While work forges ahead on many public projects, Dale said one lingering impact of the recent recession is that financing is still very difficult for private development projects.

Right now he considers one of the biggest challenges as maintaining staff until the economy can rebound with some certainties.

One of the most recent developments regarding staff was in June when Dale Partners established a sister firm, Dale/McCarty, that doubled the size of the staff to nearly 60, and gave the firm geographic coverage of the entire state with offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Biloxi. The primary markets of common interest include healthcare, physician offices, clinics and senior living facilities.

The partnership makes sense with current economic conditions forcing many industries to explore alternative business strategies.

“Fewer projects are being pursued by more firms and many of them are larger national firms,” said Richard McCarty, AIA, a principal for Dale/McCarty. “Our objective here is to constantly increase our skills and overall capabilities in order to maintain a position in the Mississippi marketplace.”

In addition to sports, entertainment complexes and healthcare, another area where the firm has developed a specialty is in education facility design.

“Dale/Bailey are leaders in educational facility design in Mississippi,” said Gary Bailey, AIA, a principal for Dale/Bailey, An Association, a sister firm to Dale Partners. “We are completing construction this year on three major new schools in Moss Point, Clinton and Canton. While many districts have been slow in appropriating money for other major new work, they are using this downturn in the economy as a time to plan. We have been involved in several major comprehensive studies of districts to help them plan for the future of their districts. This data and plan will give them the tools to make decisions for capital improvements.”

Bailey said the primary funding tool for major school projects is bond issues, and most districts have been hesitant to ask for new taxes.

“As the economy improves and public confidence increases we believe the pent up demand for facility improvements will cause a mini boom in school construction,” Bailey said. “One constant we know is that over 90 percent of Mississippi’s children are in public schools. Creating a quality environment for them to learn is essential in their educational success. Our philosophy of designing schools that work for learning has been effective. Our business at Dale/Bailey is education, not architecture.”

The firm originally founded as Dale and Associates Architects, P.A. in 1995 has provided design services for every major higher educational campus in Mississippi and recently was responsible for C Spire’s new corporate headquarters at Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland, the LEED Gold-certified Pinnacle Office Building at Jackson Place, Trustmark Park in Pearl and the LEED-certified Jackson Convention Complex.

 

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