This is a story 40 years in the making. The focus is people coming together every day to aspire, create and accomplish. Inspired by the kinetic energy that each and every relationship our firm has built over the last four decades has created. That energy, based on creating mutual success through the service and trust of our clients, has propelled us to places our founders never dreamt of. People are Cuhaci & Peterson’s most important asset; the people we employ, the people we work for and the people we work with make up our cultural DNA as a firm.
Finding the right people happens when we create connections with those who have the power to exceed expectations by transforming ideas into value. Those who are curious and courageous risk takers, who search for canvases to paint with a larger brush and create a bigger picture. That’s how a firm started by one has grown to nearly 300. As Lonnie Peterson, co-founder of Cuhaci & Peterson often remarked, “Finding the right people makes all the difference in the world.”
These core principles live on today as our vision and mission, as well as in the underlying cultural values that guide the Architectural and Engineering professionals that work with us. As we continue to write our story, we have the good fortune of continued growth through the calculated expansion of our capabilities to repeatedly add value for our clients. With this growth, we have expanded outside the firm’s initial Florida geography to enable the addition of branch offices in Boston and Philadelphia that work hand in hand to successfully complete projects across the continental United States and Hawaii.
Whether it is one man starting a business with borrowed space on a conference room table or a project team traveling across the country, the hope remains the same; Cuhaci & Peterson seeks to place the power of creation and accomplishment in the hands of our employees and our clients, one project at a time.
OUR STORY BEGINS WITH “EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS”
The first chapter of this story begins when Lonnie Peterson, the son of a Nebraska farmer, and Ed Cuhaci, a Turkish immigrant, met in the fall of 1976 in Ottawa Canada. Their relationship grew quickly, and on a cold January day in 1978, Ed asked Lonnie to expand Cuhaci & Associates to sunny Florida. It was August of 1978 when Lonnie stepped off of a plane in Orlando, Florida and started his business development efforts by making calls and typing up letters at a conference room table of one of Ed’s longtime business associates.
Cuhaci & Peterson was born.
Small projects kept Lonnie busy until a recommendation from a friend led to the firm’s first commercial grocery store remodel. That Winn-Dixie store both began the firm’s longest client relationship to date, and was also the catalyst in many other grocery projects in the years to come. By exceeding expectations with our first major client, a level of trust was solidified that led to not only other projects with them, but recommendations and introductions that opened doors within the industry for our young firm.
By focusing on relationships, rather than completing a single project, we focus on helping our clients understand the insights into their design and assist them with reaching their full potential. Having expanded our scope of services over the years, as well as continuously learning and being agile, has allowed an organic growth that we hope continues into our next 40 years.
HERE’s the ‘Pointe’
By the mid 1990’s the firm had a reputation – a reputation for retail. From strip centers to power centers, Cuhaci & Peterson had become a brand that regional developers could trust. In 1994, opportunity came knocking and allowed our retail portfolio to ascend to the next level.
A phone call from an industry promoter marked the day retail expanded to lifestyle. This fortuitous call resulted in the firm being selected to design Pointe Orlando, a project considerably larger and more unique than anything previous undertaken by the firm. More importantly, this project also provided some much needed industry exposure that catapulted the firm to a new level of collaboration with national brands and developers outside of our region.
Situated on a triangular piece of property, Pointe Orlando is located in the tourist district near Orlando’s convention center and was designed with restaurants, an experiential toy store and a theater. While that may be commonplace today, twenty years ago, this was a groundbreaking concept. Today, with multiple renovations behind it to stay relevant with consumers, it’s still one of the most heavily trafficked locations for Orlando convention attendees and tourists alike. The project spanned several years and was the largest, longest running project in the history of the firm at that time
EVOLUTION IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
We headed into the new millennium with a renewed momentum and growth at the forefront of our minds. The early 2000’s brought depth to the firm’s menu of services both technically and corporately with support services. The biggest leap for the firm was the decision to become multi-disciplinary and expand outside the reach of purely architectural services. The choice to integrate services is a very defining moment in our history and one that many firms never choose to embrace. Adding Engineering allowed the firm to be competitive on a whole new playing field in our industry and opened doors with clients who value internal collaboration—a one stop shop if you will. Soon thereafter, the design/build of C&P’s own building in Baldwin Park, Florida began and when all was said and done, the firm topped 100 employees and was operating on a national scale. In addition, the A/E distinction quickly brought opportunities when two new sectors were created to take on the firm’s first hospitality and food service projects.
In 2010, by capitalizing on the firm’s considerable grocery experience, C&P expanded into the convenience store sector. After an extensive interview process, the firm was selected to develop the prototypes for the Florida expansion of Northeast based Wawa. With the complementary nature of our corporate cultures and diligent work ethics, the firm developed a relationship that has transcended that of a typical client and consultant; we have a true partnership in every sense of the word. This led to C&P’s acquisition of LMA Architects, a team of 5 in Philadelphia, which over the last five years has burgeoned into nearly 30 professionals across multiple locations, who are responsible for maintaining Wawa prototypes for all regions.
TURNING THE DIAL
With the disruption in retail and having evolved to embrace a full menu of services in house, our sectors were continuing to advance, as well. Grocery led to convenience and food, food took us on a journey into hospitality, and eventually expanded into senior living. But this didn’t happen overnight and wasn’t as simple as one might think. As the word evolution implies, this all took time, effort from our team and the recommendations of multiple well developed relationships to make those leaps.
One shining example of this slow but steady progression was with our first senior living project. Although C&P had done design work in the sector before, none of those projects had come to fruition. However, sometimes being in the right place at the right time pays off; a Principal engaged in a conversation about an issue at an existing senior living facility that no one had found a solution to and one sketch later, the client was intrigued. A few phone calls later, enamored by positive recommendations from others in the industry, C&P got another opportunity to prove our worth with this project type. This opportunity turned into our first built senior living project and signaled the beginning of what has since become a booming sector for the firm. In fact, we turned the dial a bit more and took the knowledge gained in our development of skilled nursing facilities to take on projects in the healthcare sector.
ONE TRUSTED RELATIONSHIP BLOSSOMED INTO MANY…
Some risks are worth taking; we learned this early on, and it is one of the reasons our reputation is what it is today. Back in the era of pencil and paper, a new technology called computer aided drafting was becoming the next big thing in architecture and engineering. Although C&P had some basic CADD capabilities, one of our sought after grocery clients required the firm use a very specific brand of software. This was a purchase that would be a sizable investment for a small firm, both for the technology and to train staff in using it.
To succeed in business, some level of faith in your skills and client is needed, so we gambled on this relationship. They said, “Buy it and we’ll give you the work.” We did and the leap paid off; it not only helped us grow with that client but allowed us to be early adopters of new technological advances that, in turn, provided opportunities with many others.
To this day, our progress hinges on our courage to take calculated risks that transform us into a firm of the future. To do this we must be agile in our understanding and adoption of new technology. We strive to stay on the on cutting edge and help lead our industry with innovation as tech becomes a part of our everyday. Utilizing BIM (Building Information Management), AR (Augmented Reality) / VR (Virtual Reality) and other emerging technology, we continually seek to create innovative solutions for our clients.
We are embarking on a journey, seeking a new set of opportunities that will transform us into the firm of choice for our staff and clients. This human centered approach allows us to put people first, synchronizing our mission with the quest to seek the best staff and clients. We draw upon our great history of people and relationships, spanning decades, and our natural curiosity to aspire to question everything, connect the dots and be relentless in the creation of the most innovative solutions in the markets we serve.
We hope to gain this prime position by helping our clients understand how we can provide value-rich, actionable insights from existing physical environments, through the lens of connected technologies. These insights influence decisions up and down the work stream, from design concept through post occupancy. Our success has the catalytic effect of expanding the end points of traditional Architectural and Engineering services, a place where both Cuhaci & Peterson and our clients can reap mutually beneficial successes in both quality and velocity. Harnessing this new value within our markets will help the dynamic between us and our clients reach its full potential.
This brave new world will be founded on our ability to recognize emerging technologies as market disruptions, yet courageously embracing them to promote change and create value. This compelling position helps us unleash in everyone the power to aspire, create and accomplish while placing us in a venue we seek: to be our client’s trusted partner. To ensure success, we must become the facilitator, positioning ourselves directly in the path or our client’s innovation.
In the future, we must become more agile to make adjustments and perform at scale, meeting the fast changing requirements of evolving business. Our next chapter – while yet to be written – will, as it was in the beginning, be centered around people. We will pursue innovation and seek to create team wins, truly personifying the equation 1+1=3; where the sum can actually equal more than the individual parts. Our people will take us to new heights, and will fuel success that our founders could not have envisioned on that borrowed conference table 40 years ago.
Time and time again, the relationships we’ve cultivated over the years turned into tangible opportunities and chances to show how we can transform ideas into value for our clients. Thank you to everyone we’ve worked with or worked for. We consider you all one of the innumerable relationships that’s been part of our 40 year history.