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Growing Its U.S. footprint, Stantec adds VOA

Growing its U.S. footprint, Stantec ddds VOA

"Stantec eats VOA" - Artwork by Chicago Architecture.  (In reality, Stantec is more than 50 times larger than VOA!)

"Stantec eats VOA" - Artwork by Chicago Architecture.  (In reality, Stantec is more than 50 times larger than VOA!)

by JOHN GREGERSON | Feb 16, 2016

One of Chicago's marquee architectural firms soon may vanish, at least in name. In a bid to bolster its U.S. building practice, Stantec, the Edmonton, Alberta-based global design giant, announced last week that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire VOA Associates Inc., a 280-employee firm.

CEO Gomes

CEO Gomes

“VOA strengthens our collective ability to grow our presence in U.S. markets,” said Bob Gomes, P.Eng., president and CEO of Stantec, which boasts more than 15,000 employees in 250 offices worldwide. 

The deal will more than triple the size of Stantec's 60-person staff in Chicago, adding 140 VOA employees to create one of the city's largest design firms. VOA's expertise in commercial work also will expand Stantec's 3,800-employee building design practice, further diversifying an enterprise originally rooted in civil engineering.

CEO Toolis

CEO Toolis

Meantime, VOA not only will extend its geographic scope, but further consolidate its presence in market segments the two firms serve, including educational, government and health care facilities. VOA also specializes in office and cultural projects while Stantec designs industrial buildings, airports and every variety of infrastructure.

“Both firms share a commitment to design, a global growth strategy and market diversity,” said VOA Chairman and CEO Michael Toolis, AIA, LEED AP. “We're thrilled to...become part of this top-tier company.”

Google's new Chicago HQ was designed by VOA. Built by Skender Construction, it opened last June in the West Loop. 

Google's new Chicago HQ was designed by VOA. Built by Skender Construction, it opened last June in the West Loop. 

Started in 1954, Stantec has grown aggressively via acquisition. On its website, the firm even explains its growth strategy as hinging on four criteria: cultural fit; integrated team philosophyleadership engagement; and its focus on people and projects. VOA apparently passed all four of those tests.  

Roosevelt U. made a statement on Chicago's skyline.

Roosevelt U. made a statement on Chicago's skyline.

With offices in Chicago, NYC, Washington DC, and Orlando, the 47-year-old VOA has successfully collaborated on some of Chicago's most iconic buildings and spaces. In the mid 1990s, for instance, VOA participated in converting one of the city's most underutilized assets, Navy Pier, into a mixed-use attraction featuring offices, shopping, concert venues, exhibition space, a ferris wheel, children's museum, and more. In recent years, the firm further enhanced its profile with projects that included a 32-story “vertical campus” for Roosevelt University, a glazed, zig-zagging structure that now dominates portions of the city's skyline. VOA also designed Google's new Chicago HQ in the West Loop and is busy with Wrigley Field's ongoing renovation.

Even more high-profile, the firm also is working with Chinese architect Ma Yanson in designing the proposed but controversial (George) Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on Chicago's lakefront.

In a joint letter posted last week, the two CEOs wrote: "The combined creativity we will be able to apply to projects, based on VOA’s great planning and design, and Stantec’s global strength and expertise, will allow us to go anywhere, and meet our clients’ needs in ever more creative and personalized ways."

New creative sparks should start flying soon. The acquisition is expected to close in late March.   

Stantec's historical strengths have been in infrastructure, including projects like this dramatic bridge in Louisville KY.

Stantec's historical strengths have been in infrastructure, including projects like this dramatic bridge in Louisville KY.

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