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Chicago design firm OWP/P merging with Cannon Design of New York

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Chicago design firm OWP/P merging with Cannon Design of New York

| architecture | May 14, 2009

The deal would make it the nation’s 11th largest architectural firm

By Blair Kamin | Tribune critic

One of Chicago’s largest architectural and engineering firms, OWP/P, is merging with Cannon Design, an even larger design firm based in upstate New York, the firms will announce Thursday. Terms of the deal, a complex cash and stock transaction, were not disclosed.

The new firm, which largely will operate under the Cannon brand, will be one of the nation’s largest. Its combined 2007 revenues of $158.3 million would make it the nation’s 11th biggest architectural firm, according to a survey that the trade journal Architectural Record published last year.

John Syvertsen, OWP/P’s president, acknowledged that the recent construction downturn has forced his firm, like many in Chicago, to lay off architects. But he denied that the merger is recession-related and said it would not lead to a fresh round of layoffs in the Chicago office.

“We started our conversations when the stock market was at 13,000,” he said in a telephone interview. “For us, it means we will be part of a national and international network of offices. Basically, our platform will expand.”

Meanwhile, the deal gives Cannon, which has a small office in Chicago, a much larger presence in one of the nation’s top markets.

Headed by co-chairman and CEO Gary Miller, Cannon Design, with 800 architects and staff, has offices in several U.S. and Canadian cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Toronto. Like OWP/P, it has a health-care specialty.

OWP/P has offices in Chicago and Phoenix.

OWP/P, which specializes in elementary schools, colleges and universities, health-care and commercial work, ranked 52nd in the Architectural Record survey, with $52.9 million in revenue. Cannon, based in Grand Island, N.Y., near Buffalo, ranked 19th, with $95.4 million.

Cross posted from Chicago Tribune

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About the author

After working at various design practices on a full-time and freelance basis, and starting his own design firm, David McFadden saw that there was a gap to be filled in the industry. In 1984, he created an expansive hub for architects and hiring firms to sync up, complete projects, and mutually benefit. That hub was Consulting For Architects Inc., which enabled architects to find meaningful design work, while freeing hiring firms from tedious hiring-firing cycles. This departure from the traditional, more rigid style of employer-employee relations was just what the industry needed - flexibility and adaption to modern work circumstances. David has successfully advised his clients through the trials and tribulations of four recessions – the early 80’s, the early 90’s, the early 2000’s, and the Great Recession of 2007.

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