Cover story explores studio’s success in winning marquee new projects, expanding portfolio and increasing its staff of design professionals.
Since 2010, HOK has grown its local billings and the St. Louis office has steadily turned into more of a leading role among HOK’s 23 global offices. At the same time, HOK’s St. Louis studio has grown from 112 full-time staffers to nearly 150 over the last 24 months.
“Financially, (the St. Louis office) continues to claim its place as one of the most important HOK offices, and that stems from the design excellence Eli and his team have put forth, which continues to win new projects and clients,” said HOK Chairman and CEO Bill Hellmuth. “The dynamism of the current leadership is infectious. You see it throughout the office.”
Local billings are expected to grow, too, as HOK is the lead designer on Centene’s $770 million Clayton campus expansion (above), which broke ground in April. HOK is part of a joint venture that is one of three finalists to win one of the largest construction projects in St. Louis history—the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s planned $1.7 billion north St. Louis headquarters. And HOK is one of six local firms that helped put together St. Louis’ bid for the $5 billion second headquarters of Amazon.
In mid-2012, BJC HealthCare selected HOK to serve as executive architect for its $1 billion, 10-year renewal project for its Kingshighway campus, including expansions and renovations at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine.
At the same time—and just a few blocks away—the Cortex innovation district was just picking up steam.
Cortex officials in 2012 had announced a $186 million second phase that would include a $60 million rehabilitation of the Cortex 1 building on Forest Park Avenue and Wexford Science & Technology’s $73 million historic renovation of the Heritage warehouse building (4240 Duncan Ave.), which is now called the @4240 building.
HOK won design work on both, which has parlayed into work on the district’s third phase — a project anchored by a $21 million tech building being developed by Wexford that HOK is designing.
“They’ve really evolved with Cortex,” said Cortex President and CEO Dennis Lower. “Design is absolutely critical and it plays a much higher role in the recruiting of tech companies.”
Early designs alone, said Wexford Director of Development Mark Gorski, helped lure lead tenants such as Microsoft, which will establish a new regional headquarters in the 4220 building (below), to Cortex.
“Let’s put it this way, renderings and narrative was all Microsoft had to go on when they made their decision to move here,” Gorski said. “And the HOK team was an active participant in many of those early-stage and late-stage discussions with tenants. They’re really part of the team.”
Earlier this year, the firm was awarded design work on the Mayo Clinic’s first phase of Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square in Rochester, Minnesota. The $6 billion project, which has been billed as a “Silicon Valley for Medicine,” includes future phases and broke ground Nov. 2. “The Mayo folks came down to visit and asked me what I thought of those guys,” Lower said.