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Diverse expertise keeps Smith Consulting Architects on top of evolving market demands

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San Diego's recent growth and evolution has dictated a need for architectural firms to keep up with the times. That ability to respond quickly to changing market demands has proven to be the key strength for Smith Consulting Architects since its inception 16 years ago.

Cheryl "Dennie" Smith

After founding Smith Consulting Architects in 1988 as a one-person operation, President Cheryl "Dennie" Smith spearheaded the company's growth into an award-winning architectural design firm providing full-service planning, architecture and interior design.

Today, Smith Consulting Architects employs a staff of 30 from its headquarters at Executive Center Del Mar in Carmel Valley.

The firm ranks among the top 10 largest architectural firms and is one of the largest woman-owned companies in San Diego.

Over the years, Smith Consulting Architects has significantly expanded and diversified its expertise.

In addition to corporate office, manufacturing, biotech/R&D and golf facilities, which were areas of specialization in the firm's earlier years, the company's repertoire has grown to encompass retail centers, banks, medical offices, and various mixed-used developments.

Projects span throughout San Diego County -- from Chula Vista to Poway, Escondido, La Jolla, and Carlsbad -- into Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties.

According to Smith, the retail sector in particular has been very fruitful for Smith Consulting Architects.

"We've been responding to the growing demand for community-oriented retail centers, particularly in booming areas such as South and East County, as well as the thriving desert communities," she said.

The firm currently has 2.1 million square feet of retail space either in design or under construction throughout Southern California.

Retail projects include the Pavilion at La Quinta, a 17.4-acre, 175,000-square-foot complex; La Costa Town Square, a 460,000-square-foot retail/mixed-use campus in Carlsbad; EastLake Terraces, a 401,000-square-foot retail center in Chula Vista anchored by a Wal-mart store and a Home Depot; Village Center East, a $13 million, 115,297-square-foot center in Chula Vista; Creekside Market Place, a new 270,000-square-foot center in San Marcos; and Lake Elsinore Marketplace, a new 459,085-square-foot regional center being designed for a site in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

"Strong demand for retail centers has given us the opportunity to utilize our expertise in decorative tilt-up, which has grown in popularity within the retail sector in recent years," said Bill Sharon, director of retail design for Smith Consulting Architects. "The main advantage is that tilt-up construction takes less time to build than traditional block buildings, so it works well with a fast-track project schedule. Also, especially on smaller buildings, tilt-up construction in conjunction with a steel truss roof system has the advantage over traditional wood-framed buildings by allowing clear spans without intermediate columns, thereby allowing maximum leasing flexibility. Lake Elsinsore Marketplace and Creekside Market Place are both decorative tilt-ups."

Over the last 16 years, Smith Consulting Architects has played an integral role in the growth and development within the city of Carlsbad, which has been flourishing with office, retail, manufacturing and mixed-use construction activity.

A case in point is the company's longstanding relationship with Callaway Golf. The firm has designed numerous facilities for Callaway Golf in and around Carlsbad over the years.

Recent Carlsbad commissions also include the design of manufacturing and office space for Zimmer Dental, the corporate headquarters for Atlas Distribution, tenant improvement design for Genesis Corporate Center, and the renovation of Carlsbad Courtyard.

"We've enjoyed a very good working relationship with the city of Carlsbad, and are well versed on the city's specific building codes and permitting protocol," said Scott Cairns, vice president of Smith Consulting Architect. "Our familiarity with Carlsbad has, in turn, helped our clients move through the building and permitting process successfully and with minimal delays."

Smith attributes the ability of Smith Consulting Architects to stay on top of the latest market shifts to her core management team.

In addition to Cairns and Sharon, the firm's strong executive team includes Mark Langan, vice president of technical services; Pete Bussett, vice president of operations; and Gary Baker, vice president of design.

"It takes a collaborative effort to meet such a multitude of industry needs," Smith said. "Each member of the management team contributes a wealth of talent and expertise in different areas, allowing our firm to evolve right alongside the latest trends."

Smith also points to the firm's strong relationships with members of the brokerage community, as well as a strong commitment to working as a team with the contractor, developer and owner to come up with a feasible, cost-effective design for even the most technically challenging project.

"We welcome, rather than shy away from, technically complex projects," she said. "Collaborating with developers and owners to address unique challenges through creative and strategic design is what we do best."


Kutch is principal of Kutch & Co.

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