Architecture firm diversifies to get ready for the next downturn

San Francisco architect Cory Creath, Founding Principal Architect of AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design, is featured in the San Francisco Business Times.

San Francisco Business Times – November 29, 2018 – https://www.bdcnetwork.com/four-story-hotel-and-adjacent-affordable-housing-community-opens-california’s-sonoma-county?eid=216315955&bid=2260858mpire.us/development-approved-for-downtown-riverside-hilton-hotel/

Photo credit: Todd Johnson, San Francisco Business Times

HQ: San Francisco

What it does: Architectural firm specializing in hotel architecture, hospitality facility renovations and multifamily residential design

Founders: Cory Creath, Shawn Alexander, Gene Fong

Founded: 2001

Employees: 30

Clients: Host Hotels and Resorts, OTO Hospitality Development Company, and Marriott International Hotel Development, among others.

Web site: axisonline.net

For Cory Creath, co-founder and principal at AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design, the ability to ride the wave of a construction boom and still stay afloat during economic downturns stems from the firm’s diversity of services.

The company is an architectural firm that specializes in the hospitality industry and multifamily residential projects. AXIS/GFA also works on both new-build projects from the ground up as well as renovations. “Most firms do one or the other,” Creath explained.

Creath added that some firms are concerned that the number of new hotel projects will start to slow.

“But our experience is (that) the renovations side continues when there is a downturn,” he said.

The firm was founded by Creath and Shawn Alexander in 2001 as AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design. In 2017, the company merged with Los Angeles-based Gene Fong Associates to become AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design.

“With the merger, GFA brought us a deeper amount of experience on the new build side of hotel architecture,” said Creath.

While hoteliers tend to look for more upscale designs, multifamily residential developers are also looking to AXIS/GFA because of its experience in hospitality and to incorporate similar design amenities.

That’s where the firm’s expertise in both sectors can potentially help developers move more quickly through the approval process. Creath cites his work with Hotel Trio at 110 Dry Creek Road and Citrine Apartments next door at 1260 Grove St. in Healdsburg as an example.

“(The client) knew from talking to the city that by approaching them with just a hotel, it was going to be difficult to get approval,” he said. “However, if we were able to find a way to include some affordable housing on the same site, our client’s path to approval could be streamlined.”

Creath noted that the project was given the green light in under 11 months, “which is about twice as fast as our average project.” Both opened in July with 122 hotel guest rooms and 37 apartments that will remain affordable for 50 years.

“AXIS/GFA led the design of Hotel Trio and Citrine Apartments … successfully intertwining an upscale hospitality property with a multifamily residential development,” said Solomon Alter, director of development at Seaview Investors. “[They] were key stakeholders in helping navigate the unique entitlement process, which delivered an element of affordable housing … a win for the city and an approach we anticipate seeing replicated elsewhere as developers look for ways to make their projects more valuable to the communities they’re servicing.”

AXIS/GFA has been busy this year, with 10 hotel and two multifamily residential projects coming online within the next six to eight months. “And behind the ten that are under construction, we have 12 or so more that are in the pipeline in various stages of design,” said Creath.

Lesson learned

Find ways to benefit the community: “As architects, we are responsible for assisting our clients (to) achieve their goals, but also finding ways to tangibly benefit the communities where our projects are located,” said Creath. “This dual role requires a keen awareness of where the opportunities lie for finding common ground and engaging with community leaders to make sure that the benefits of a project are understood and that they outweigh any perceived negative impacts.”