Local acquisition brings Baltimore architecture firm to Richmond market

KOP principals Ed Gillikin, left, and Don Guthrie will join Marshall Craft Associates’ leadership as principals and stockholders. (Images courtesy of MCA)

Note: This story has been updated with input from MCA President Stephen Bates received after publication.

A local architecture firm has joined up with a larger peer, bringing a new name to Richmond’s design scene.

Chesterfield-based KOP Architects was acquired this month by Marshall Craft Associates, a 35-year-old firm headquartered in Baltimore.

The deal was signed Feb. 17 and took effect Feb. 28. Terms were not disclosed.

The combination brings MCA’s staff count to about 40, with KOP principals Ed Gillikin and Don Guthrie joining MCA’s leadership as principals and stockholders. KOP founder Hal Downing, who started the firm in 1992, continues to work part-time as part of the local office’s four-person team.

That office — at 211 Ruthers Road, Suite 203, off Midlothian Turnpike — is replacing an MCA office in Reston as the company’s sole Virginia outpost. The company also has an office in Pennsylvania.

Guthrie, who joined KOP in 2007 after an eight-year stint at Moseley Architects, said conversations with MCA started about 18 months ago through Gillikin, who had a connection with someone at the firm.

“We’re a very small firm, not unlike a lot of architecture firms, and it gave us an opportunity to have more resources to draw from and expand the types of projects that we can work on,” Guthrie said of the deal.

“It gave them an opportunity to have more reach into Virginia. They’ve done a little bit of work in Northern Virginia, but this was a way for them to get with an established firm that had a lot of contacts within Virginia to expand their business.”

Marshall Craft Associates’ headquarters in Baltimore.

MCA President Stephen Bates said discussions between the firms started when a mutual acquaintance recommended KOP while MCA was vying for a behavioral health project in Henrico County.

“Unfortunately we did not get that project, but what was more important for us is it started a nice relationship with the guys at KOP,” Bates said. “They both are Virginia Tech grads; they met the first day of band camp at Virginia Tech. I’m a Hokie, our vice president is a Hokie.

“What really struck me about the firm beyond just the two individuals running it was their corporate culture is very similar to ours, and their types of clients were very similar to ours,” he said. “We just struck it off.”

The companies have since collaborated on COVID response projects for the Virginia Emergency Management Association. Bates said the pandemic also factored into the timing of their business deal.

“We started putting together a letter of intent, and then COVID struck,” he said. “We decided to put the whole conversation on pause. We weren’t really sure – I don’t think anyone was at the time – what was happening with the economy, what was going to happen with our clients.”

Bates said they’re interviewing for new positions for the Richmond office, which Guthrie said will continue with KOP’s four-person staff and grow over time.

“Our long-term goals are definitely to expand the office,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said KOP had developed a niche in state contract work and also took on private design projects. The firm designed the Social 52 Kitchen & Craft Bar in the Fan, as well as renovations to VCU’s Ackell Residence Center.

VCU is among clients that it brings to MCA, as well as VCU Health, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Founded in 1986, MCA focuses on architecture, interior design and other services in areas including higher education, healthcare and federal government. Examples of its work include a chapel restoration and several building renovations at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, and various facilities at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University.

MCA’s arrival in Richmond follows other firms that have set up outposts here, including New York-based ENV and D.C.-based Hickok Cole. D.C.’s Quinn Evans Architects acquired Richmond firm BCWH in 2018. Wisconsin-based Kahler Slater arrived a year earlier.

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Jay Wells
Jay Wells
2 months ago

Don and Ed with KOP Architects are one of the finest Architects in Richmond not to mention, just great guys to work with.