Tuesday, March 23, 2010

OHM and Bird Houk: Advancing Communities Meets The Placemakers

Urban, Suburban Renewal Work Brings Firms Together

Here's real big news in the OHM world: we've merged with Bird Houk Collaborative, a 22-person architectural, planning and urban design firm headquartered outside Columbus, Ohio. We're now an AEP firm; architects, engineers and planners.

So how did this merger happen? For OHM, it was almost love at first sight. Our mission is Advancing Communities. When we saw the great work that Bird Houk Collaborative produced, we were impressed. But then, when we learned about their collaborative approach with clients and community, we were infatuated. And finally, when we learned about their mission to make places better for people (their tagline is "The Placemakers") we were ready for a permanent union.

Take 5 minutes to watch this video about Bird Houk. You'll see why we're so excited to join forces!

Here are some of the details:

The merger integrates OHM’s public-sector focused architectural design, civil, environmental and transportation engineering, surveying and GIS services to municipalities and agencies with Bird Houk’s award-winning architectural design, urban planning, and economic analysis serving both private and public sectors.

OHM President John Hiltz said Bird Houk will retain its name becoming a “Division of OHM”. Founding partners Jim Houk and Gerry Bird, along with Gary Sebach and Anthony Slanec will become partners in OHM and will manage the Columbus Bird Houk/OHM Division office and team of 22 staff members, which will include engineers from OHM’s Columbus branch, at their Creekside Gahanna headquarters. Bird Houk is known throughout the mid-Ohio region for many signature projects, including Creekside Gahanna a large public/private partnership development, Cardinal Health, and smartgrowth developments, Jerome Village, and Saxony in the Town of Fishers, Indiana.

According to Hiltz and Houk, the impetus for the merger was growth.

“Our mission is to advance communities,” said OHM’s Hiltz. “And that mission is in sync with Bird Houk’s ‘place making’. Our goal was to step out of our geographic area and add services and disciplines that continue to add value for our clients – especially as we recognize there is a ‘new normal’ which has not yet been defined.” Hiltz was referring to cities, towns and villages needing to redevelop old infrastructure for the communities of tomorrow.

“What really gets me excited is the opportunity to help those cities that need to redevelop because of shifting economic bases,” says Hiltz. “Merging our public sector focus with Bird Houk’s urban planning and public/private partnership experience means that we can really make a difference to communities in the Midwest.

Jim Houk says his firm’s goal has always been regional growth, “The merger will accelerate regional growth and open doors to new markets and opportunities. We have always felt our multidisciplinary make-up is a benefit to our clients, and an integral part of what makes our thinking holistic, our processes streamlined and our solutions sustainable. The merger with OHM adds more disciplines to our practice and the ability to continue our success in creating community revitalization/redevelopment public-private partnerships.”

Hiltz said OHM began courting potential partners in 2009. He said it was not about the where – but the who. People, core values and vision were the key criteria they were seeking for collaboration.

“When we met the Bird Houk partners we felt the energy - the shared values of integrity, focus on people, approach to market and value-based asset creation. It was not a matter of convincing us to do this – it was a matter of finding the ‘no’ – why shouldn’t we do this,” stated Hiltz.

“We hope eventually to grow jobs both in Michigan, and in the Columbus office,” said Hiltz. “There’s very little overlap in the companies. These are complementary firms with complementary disciplines.”

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