Release Date: 
03/31/19

The namesake founder and owner will be retired, but the Richard L. Bowen + Associates architecture and engineering firm will keep the name as employees conclude their purchase through an employee stock ownership plan.

"There's a brand there. Why would we want to change it?" said Allan Renzi, the prominent firm's new president.

The transfer of the last 60% of the Cleveland firm's ownership is scheduled to close on Monday, April 1.

The ESOP has been long in the works as staffers started it in 2007, when employees were allocated their first share of the firm. Bowen founded the company in 1959 and retired March 20.

Selling to all the firm's employees with more than five years of service goes against the trend in the industry, which is typically an acquisition by a larger firm or a handful of principals buying a firm over time.

"We're happy, to be honest, we did not go that route," Renzi said, adding he was thankful Bowen pursued the ESOP.

Renzi, who was president last year of the Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architects trade group, has been with Bowen for 25 years and served most recently as vice president of operations at Bowen to prepare for the transition. The firm has five staffers who are named principals — essentially its executive board — and who select the president.

"We have a very good and strong core of people who have been working here more than 20 years," Renzi said.

The firm provides both architecture and engineering services because many clients like having them paired together, he added.

Through a separate subsidiary, Richard L. Bowen Management LLC, the company also provides general contracting and construction management services. David Bowen, Richard Bowen's son and a longtime staff member, has become president of the construction concern.

Renzi said the focus of the new owners is to continue the work the firm has provided in the past but also to build a "creative, inspiring environment that employees really want" and continue efforts to build a diverse, inclusive staff.

As part of that process, Bowen will seek a new office, perhaps closer to downtown than its current Shaker Square office, that will allow it to create an open environment to foster creativity, Renzi said. The firm hopes to be in its new office by the end of the year.

That move will be coordinated with putting the firm's home at Shaker Square, which Bowen owns through an affiliated company, up for sale. The 26,000-square-foot building at 13000 Shaker Blvd. is for sale with CBRE Group, with an asking price of $1.125 million, according to the online commercial real estate listing site LoopNet.

"We worked together on this," Renzi said. "We did not force our way out and were not forced to go."

The firm intends to continue to pursue the mix of public and private work it has built over the years. It performs work for the state, cities, counties and institutions of higher education, as well as corporate interiors, shopping center and apartment designs, and designs for retailers.

Among its best-known projects are serving as one of the architects for the School of Architecture building at Kent State University and for the Cuyahoga County Justice Center. It recently completed a new kennel for the city of Cleveland in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood and the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park in Northfield. Its portfolio also includes a long list of police stations, city halls and facilities for public transit systems.

The firm takes a client-centric approach to design.

"Our focus," Renzi said, "is first and foremost on listening and understanding the user group's needs. We always tell them that, regardless of the budget, it should not prevent good design. We are quite proud of our projects because of the success they have had."

Bowen has a total staff 55, including 13 registered architects and 13 registered engineers. The firm ranked as the region's 11th-largest architecture firm by registered architects in the 2019 list of architecture firms by Crain's Cleveland Business.

As seen in Crain's Cleveland Business.