Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Will Design Firms Be There When You Want Them?

I remember talking to a client over a year ago about the condition of many of the consulting firms that he uses in his master plan communities, "Jim, we won't be here when you want us," I said. "Every architecture, engineering, and planning firm is half the size they were in 2007." He smiled and said he wasn't worried. I wonder how he is feeling now.

Firms are now from O% (zero) to 20% of the size they were in 2007. Yes, many of the older firms do not exist now (the principals have had enough and retired - they ain't gonna do this again) - no associates left to take over, they were let go during the collapse. To the point, now, that one of the trade and management groups that work with the design and engineering field (PMSJ - Resources,Inc. see, states that the middle size firm (15 to 30 professionals) may not even exist by 2020.

Frank Stasiowski's new book Impact 2020; 10 Giant Forces Now Colliding to Shake How We practice Design in 2020, the mid-sized firm can not afford the technology, the insurance, health care costs, local employee's minimum requirements (see San Francisco), and the continuing problems that HR demands - all overhead. Sure rent may be cheaper - but not if you still have 2 years on that lease you made in 2007.

What does this mean to the development industry two years from now? It will get less service on a one-on-one basis, the experience level of the professional consultant will be gone, and the cost will be higher. All at a time when the ability to react to radically changing markets is critical.

We all won't be gone, but the few that remain may not hold the strengths that they had at one time. Partnerships are dissolving and the partner's call to fund the company have probably drained their personal coffers to the point that they have to break up the company or risk bankruptcy. None of this bodes well for the future. I wish I could hold hope for a better outcome but as the "Great Recession," proceeds and every aspect of the development industry, commercial, retail, housing and office languishes; the ongoing survival of most firms not doing gov'ment work or TI improvements for census takers is sadly in doubt.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

GI Town - New Edition

It has been ten years since my first edition of the book: America's Original GI Town, Park Forest, Illinois was published, and, after reacquiring the rights to the book from Johns Hopkins University Press, I am bringing it back. Bonnie and I have resurrected our publishing company - Windsor Hill Publishing - and will use this platform as the primary distributor of the book. (It will also handle two more books in the pipe-line that are fiction - more on those later).

New Cover, new epilogue, new marketing program - just plain new. It will retail for $24.95 (softcover paperback) and will also be available for all of you converts to ebooks from Amazon and other online publishers shortly thereafter. When? - soon - and definitely before September.

I am finishing the final edits and cover design (look left), rebuilding the book in Adobe InDesign (great tool), and will send it on to my printer, Catawba Publishing (in Charlotte) in the next few weeks. This fall will be marketing - online and in Chicago - look for posts and dates later - but I will keep you informed as things unfold. My goal is to sell 10,000 copies in both paper (pbooks - how annoying the new term) and ebooks. I will try to keep a running tally of the sales as this moves along.

But first, why the title for this blog Cogito Urbanus. Well simply translated it means: To Think Urban and this is where I want this musing to go. An opportunity to keep you, the patient reader, up to date on GI Town doings as well as reflect on my almost 40 years of landscape architecture and urban design experience. I am not sure where this will lead but after serious debates about blogs or web pages - Bonnie (wife and CFO) won out (for now). So let's just see where is goes.

I look forward to hearing from you and please feel free to pass on the blog to others - contributions welcome.

Let's build something,
Greg Randall