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Hartford Architectural Firm Celebrates 25th Year In Style

By Kathryn M. Roy

December 27, 2010

The economy has shown few signs of recovery, but don’t tell that to the principals at Amenta/Emma Architects P.C., of Hartford. The full-service architect/interior designer is celebrating its best year ever, with $5.2 million in revenues projected for 2010.

The small regional firm, which does work in architectural services, interior design, planning services, programming and code compliance reviews, is marking 25 years in business by expanding its operations into Fairfield County and New York.

Amenta/Emma has opened an office in Stamford to seize upon new opportunities, while continuing to focus on its core business in the capital city.

Started in 1985 by University of Notre Dame classmates Anthony Amenta and Bob Emma, Amenta/Emma did designs for the Connecticut Bank and Trust Co. The partners brought in new hires as bank work expanded, but then the recession of the 1980s hit.

“Bank work dried up as a lot of banks failed, and we found ourselves in that old ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ (predicament),” Amenta said. “We shrunk back and made some decisions at the end of that recession that we really wanted to diversify our client base and become better business people.”

Over the past two decades, Amenta/Emma has branched out into several other industries, both private and public, including the corporate, retail, residential, clinical and academic areas. Last year, the company saw revenues of $3.2 million.

Some of Amenta/Emma’s notable projects include work on 18 retail and restaurant spaces at West Hartford’s Blue Back Square and the $70 million Western Connecticut State University Visual and Performing Arts Center. The firm is also designing the $25 million Quinnebaug Valley Middle College High School.

“We have a good diverse base going, and that has helped us negotiate some of the strengths and weaknesses in those market sectors,” Amenta said.

After capping off 2007 with $4.8 million in revenues — a record at the time — Amenta and Emma began thinking the firm was ready to grow geographically, into Fairfield County.

“It seemed to us the logical extension to doing the corporate and law firm interior work,” Amenta said. “We’re pretty strong in that field and we thought, the Stamford marketplace is much stronger. The rents are higher so they have more money to spend on their environment or an architectural feature.”

Amenta said when the economy slowed, many Hartford area companies weren’t looking for architectural or design firms.

“They didn’t need an architect if they were moving into a new space,” he said. “They would maybe shampoo the carpets and paint the walls.”

When the economy bottomed out in 2008, the firm put off expansion. From a peak staff of 25 before fall 2008, the company now has 22 employees.

The expansion plans were renewed early in 2010, and Amenta/Emma opened a Stamford office with two employees — a principal and a senior designer, with plans to add a third — earlier this fall.

The firm has already secured a project for New Jersey’s second largest law firm, Sills Cummis & Gross, P.C., which is opening an office on the 29th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

Amenta said his firm’s success can be attributed to their attention to detail and truly paying attention to the client’s needs.

When major Hartford law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP moved from the Phoenix building across the street to One Constitution Plaza in 2004, Amenta/Emma designed the law firm’s new space, which was spread over several floors of the building.

Joe Williams, a partner at Shipman & Goodwin, said Amenta/Emma created a space that addressed the changing law firm environment, with a smaller library, improved audio/visual capabilities and functional space for socializing, while keeping the space aesthetically pleasing.

“We needed Amenta/Emma to come up with a design that we could carry consistently through 10 floors and could be integrated through the public and social areas,” Williams said.

Emma said the future looks bright, as the Northeast region has seen increased activity in the architecture and design industry, particularly in the retail and mixed-use commercial sector over the last few months.

“There’s no magic bullet,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard and we put a lot of man-hours in on every project. That’s what it takes to make a project really successful.”

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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