Veteran Richmond architect sells his firm, becomes buyer’s in-house designer

JoeYates1

Joe Yates has sold his namesake firm after 27 years in business and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

A longtime fixture in Richmond’s architecture scene is giving up his business, but not his drafting table just yet.

Joe Yates recently sold his namesake firm, Joseph F. Yates Architects, to Process Design and Service, an engineering design firm based in Mechanicsville.

The cash transaction, which closed Oct. 1, brings an end to Yates’ ownership of his 27-year-old business, but not to the practice, which is continuing as a division of PDS.

The arrangement makes Yates the in-house architect for PDS, which focuses on industrial buildings and equipment, while allowing him and his team of one full-timer and one part-timer to continue the work his firm has become known for: residential adaptive reuse and rehabs.

“They needed an architect for certain projects, so it just seemed to make a good fit,” said Yates, whose office is in the Tudor-style Branch House that’s also home to the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design.

branch museum 1

Yates’s office is in the century-old Branch House, home to the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design. (BizSense file)

“I can keep the office in the Branch House, and they’re fine with me keeping my current projects and clients. I’ll just help them out on an as-needed basis,” he said.

After nearly three decades running his own firm and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect, Yates said he was ready to hand over the business but wanted to continue with his design work. He worked with Dan Scherotter of Filament Business Advisors, who connected Yates with PDS.

“I had been thinking what I was going to do with the business for a while, and I had two choices: either sell the business, or just close the doors and walk away,” Yates said. “I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for quite a while, it’d be nice to carry it on.’”

Carrying it on is PDS President Greg Barlage, who said his firm was in the market for an in-house architect who could remove the need to hire designers per-project, and help the company diversify and expand its client reach.

Greg Barlage

Greg Barlage

“We do a lot of industrial and heavy commercial work, and we were looking to diversify more to get into some of the work he does and broaden our client base,” Barlage said. “We don’t use architects a lot, but we do hire out for architects, and we wanted a way for us to bring on a licensed architect.”

He said the search came down to Yates and a Virginia Beach firm, and that Yates’s proximity factored into the selection. While PDS’s clients include manufacturer Alfa Laval’s facility in Sandston, Barlage said most of the 3-year-old company’s work is outside Richmond – something he said they wanted to change.

“Because we don’t work a lot right in the Richmond market – we’re based here and a large majority of our employees are right here in this area – this was a way for us to diversify right in the Richmond area,” he said.

Barlage said the arrangement will also provide Yates with company resources to assist him with his projects. He and Yates declined to disclose the transaction’s terms.

Barton9

Yates designed the Queen Anne-style Barton Mansion’s conversion to apartments for developer Clark Glavé. (BizSense file)

Yates, whose design work in Richmond has included the apartments conversion of the 19th-century Barton Mansion in Southern Barton Heights, said he is looking forward to tackling new challenges with PDS while continuing the residential work he’s accustomed to.

“It is something new for me,” he said of PDS’s projects. “Sometimes they’re working with existing buildings, and sometimes they’re asked to design and create a new building. That’s where I’ll be coming in, to design the shell for the new buildings that they’re putting up.”

An Arlington native, Yates studied architecture at Virginia Tech and has been practicing since he graduated in 1974. A job with the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, now the Department of Historic Resources, brought him to Richmond, where he said he worked for several architects before launching his own firm in 1996.

“I was working for an architect who was driving me crazy,” he said of his motivation to start his own business. “For the most part it’s been good. Like every small business owner, it has its ups and downs. You have to do everything.”

At its largest, the firm totaled five people, Yates said, including business partner Ed Mulreany, who retired three years ago.

JoeYates2

Yates in front of the new-construction apartment building he designed at Monument and Colonial avenues.

In addition to Barton Mansion, local work has included a new-construction apartment building at Monument and Colonial avenues, an apartments conversion with developer David Gammino at 1322 W. Broad St., and a restoration of his former residence at 1812 Monument Ave., which he and wife Jackie Jackson sold five years ago before moving to a townhouse in Manchester.

Beyond Richmond, Yates is currently working on a restoration of the 1820s-era Hampstead house in New Kent County for John Poindexter’s Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation. The project is part of Poindexter’s efforts in recent years to conserve land in the vicinity of his family’s generational homestead.

JoeYates3

Yates at the Hampstead project site in New Kent. (Photo courtesy Joe Yates)

Having had a hand in designing parts of Richmond over nearly a half century, Yates has his favorites when it comes to building designs in the city – the Commodore apartment building at Hull and Seventh streets in Manchester; the new CoStar building that’s under construction – as well as his lesser-favorites, some of his own work among them.

“Most of the buildings that have gone up could’ve been anywhere,” Yates said, referring to the city’s newer construction. “They could’ve been Charlotte, Northern Virginia, San Diego; there’s nothing about them that says, ‘This is Richmond.’”

With the Commodore, designed by Odell Associates, he added, “I think they made a conscious effort to look at older industrial buildings in the city. Granted, this one is five stories and most of the old industrial buildings, particularly in Manchester, are only two, maybe three. But I think they made a nod to that.

“I think we’ve lost a little bit of the character of the city, because of the rapid growth,” he said. “It’s probably the same in every metropolitan area that’s experiencing a lot of growth.”

As for what lies ahead in his own career, Yates said he hopes to keep designing for a few more years, and has no desire for a traditional retirement.

“I don’t play golf, have no desire to, and Jackie has pretty much retired,” he said.

“I enjoy architecture. I enjoy designing,” he added. “As long as we can start taking more trips, I’d probably like to work for another three or four years. I’m not going to sit around the house and do nothing.”

JoeYates1

Joe Yates has sold his namesake firm after 27 years in business and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

A longtime fixture in Richmond’s architecture scene is giving up his business, but not his drafting table just yet.

Joe Yates recently sold his namesake firm, Joseph F. Yates Architects, to Process Design and Service, an engineering design firm based in Mechanicsville.

The cash transaction, which closed Oct. 1, brings an end to Yates’ ownership of his 27-year-old business, but not to the practice, which is continuing as a division of PDS.

The arrangement makes Yates the in-house architect for PDS, which focuses on industrial buildings and equipment, while allowing him and his team of one full-timer and one part-timer to continue the work his firm has become known for: residential adaptive reuse and rehabs.

“They needed an architect for certain projects, so it just seemed to make a good fit,” said Yates, whose office is in the Tudor-style Branch House that’s also home to the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design.

branch museum 1

Yates’s office is in the century-old Branch House, home to the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design. (BizSense file)

“I can keep the office in the Branch House, and they’re fine with me keeping my current projects and clients. I’ll just help them out on an as-needed basis,” he said.

After nearly three decades running his own firm and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect, Yates said he was ready to hand over the business but wanted to continue with his design work. He worked with Dan Scherotter of Filament Business Advisors, who connected Yates with PDS.

“I had been thinking what I was going to do with the business for a while, and I had two choices: either sell the business, or just close the doors and walk away,” Yates said. “I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for quite a while, it’d be nice to carry it on.’”

Carrying it on is PDS President Greg Barlage, who said his firm was in the market for an in-house architect who could remove the need to hire designers per-project, and help the company diversify and expand its client reach.

Greg Barlage

Greg Barlage

“We do a lot of industrial and heavy commercial work, and we were looking to diversify more to get into some of the work he does and broaden our client base,” Barlage said. “We don’t use architects a lot, but we do hire out for architects, and we wanted a way for us to bring on a licensed architect.”

He said the search came down to Yates and a Virginia Beach firm, and that Yates’s proximity factored into the selection. While PDS’s clients include manufacturer Alfa Laval’s facility in Sandston, Barlage said most of the 3-year-old company’s work is outside Richmond – something he said they wanted to change.

“Because we don’t work a lot right in the Richmond market – we’re based here and a large majority of our employees are right here in this area – this was a way for us to diversify right in the Richmond area,” he said.

Barlage said the arrangement will also provide Yates with company resources to assist him with his projects. He and Yates declined to disclose the transaction’s terms.

Barton9

Yates designed the Queen Anne-style Barton Mansion’s conversion to apartments for developer Clark Glavé. (BizSense file)

Yates, whose design work in Richmond has included the apartments conversion of the 19th-century Barton Mansion in Southern Barton Heights, said he is looking forward to tackling new challenges with PDS while continuing the residential work he’s accustomed to.

“It is something new for me,” he said of PDS’s projects. “Sometimes they’re working with existing buildings, and sometimes they’re asked to design and create a new building. That’s where I’ll be coming in, to design the shell for the new buildings that they’re putting up.”

An Arlington native, Yates studied architecture at Virginia Tech and has been practicing since he graduated in 1974. A job with the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, now the Department of Historic Resources, brought him to Richmond, where he said he worked for several architects before launching his own firm in 1996.

“I was working for an architect who was driving me crazy,” he said of his motivation to start his own business. “For the most part it’s been good. Like every small business owner, it has its ups and downs. You have to do everything.”

At its largest, the firm totaled five people, Yates said, including business partner Ed Mulreany, who retired three years ago.

JoeYates2

Yates in front of the new-construction apartment building he designed at Monument and Colonial avenues.

In addition to Barton Mansion, local work has included a new-construction apartment building at Monument and Colonial avenues, an apartments conversion with developer David Gammino at 1322 W. Broad St., and a restoration of his former residence at 1812 Monument Ave., which he and wife Jackie Jackson sold five years ago before moving to a townhouse in Manchester.

Beyond Richmond, Yates is currently working on a restoration of the 1820s-era Hampstead house in New Kent County for John Poindexter’s Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation. The project is part of Poindexter’s efforts in recent years to conserve land in the vicinity of his family’s generational homestead.

JoeYates3

Yates at the Hampstead project site in New Kent. (Photo courtesy Joe Yates)

Having had a hand in designing parts of Richmond over nearly a half century, Yates has his favorites when it comes to building designs in the city – the Commodore apartment building at Hull and Seventh streets in Manchester; the new CoStar building that’s under construction – as well as his lesser-favorites, some of his own work among them.

“Most of the buildings that have gone up could’ve been anywhere,” Yates said, referring to the city’s newer construction. “They could’ve been Charlotte, Northern Virginia, San Diego; there’s nothing about them that says, ‘This is Richmond.’”

With the Commodore, designed by Odell Associates, he added, “I think they made a conscious effort to look at older industrial buildings in the city. Granted, this one is five stories and most of the old industrial buildings, particularly in Manchester, are only two, maybe three. But I think they made a nod to that.

“I think we’ve lost a little bit of the character of the city, because of the rapid growth,” he said. “It’s probably the same in every metropolitan area that’s experiencing a lot of growth.”

As for what lies ahead in his own career, Yates said he hopes to keep designing for a few more years, and has no desire for a traditional retirement.

“I don’t play golf, have no desire to, and Jackie has pretty much retired,” he said.

“I enjoy architecture. I enjoy designing,” he added. “As long as we can start taking more trips, I’d probably like to work for another three or four years. I’m not going to sit around the house and do nothing.”

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Patrick Sullivan
Patrick Sullivan
7 months ago

Congratulations Joe! Richmond is a better place because of you and we all look forward to your future work 🙂

Coleen Butler Rodriguez
Coleen Butler Rodriguez
7 months ago

Congrats Joe (and Jackie too!) Thanks for your creativity and guidance in the city.

Shari Perago
Shari Perago
7 months ago

Congratulations, Joe!

Tom Rosman
Tom Rosman
7 months ago

Congrats Joe! You have done some great things for Richmond.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
7 months ago

Glad to see Joes contribution to the built environment will continue! Congratulations!

jennie Dotts
jennie Dotts
7 months ago

Joe has done so much to strengthen the character of the city with historically sensitive design. Thank you.

Robert A. Steele, FAIA
Robert A. Steele, FAIA
7 months ago

Kudos is in order! Joe, I am grateful for your sensitive and sensible skill as architect. Our Commonwealth is enhanced through your passion for history, design, and architecture. Thank you!

Joel Mieses,NOMA
Joel Mieses,NOMA
7 months ago

Congratulations!

Deborah R Reading
Deborah R Reading
7 months ago

Congratulations Joe!

Julian Utley
Julian Utley
7 months ago

Congratulations Joe! Best of luck!

Josh McCullar
Josh McCullar
7 months ago

Congratulations Joe and best wishes!

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
7 months ago

Joe is a great architect, I’ve always enjoyed working with him

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
7 months ago

Congrats Joe! I am an Arlington born and bred W-L HS Class of 1970 grad, so we probably have common friends from that era. I didn’t know that if you.

JB Burtch
JB Burtch
7 months ago

Congratulations, Joe. I’m very grateful for how you have preserved Richmond’s unique character in all you do. So glad you’ll be keeping that up!

Brian King
Brian King
7 months ago

On to another adventure Joe. Congratulations.

Ray Olson
Ray Olson
7 months ago

Great to hear and congratulations neighbor!

Lee Canossa
Lee Canossa
7 months ago

Congrats! I enjoyed working with you on the design of my house!