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Change is a good thing

By: Armando Ramirez October 26, 2018 No Comments

From Natalie Kostelni of Philadelphia Business Journal October 26, 2018

JKRP Architects is entering a new phase with its founder, Jerry K. Roller, turning the reins of the firm over to a next generation of leaders while he enters a new role that requires him to delicately balance taking a step back while still staying involved.

Paul A. Georges, who joined the Philadelphia architectural firm the year after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and has stayed for 30 years, has been named managing principal. It’s a transition that has been talked about and been in the planning stages for some time. A move in 2015 to rename the firm to its current JKRP Architects set the stage for this eventual change. It was done as one way to separate it from running up against what had been an eponymously named firm and a perception was that it was “Jerry’s firm.”

Roller, who founded the firm 35 years ago, has increased the number of partners over the years; there are now 10. It’s a structure that resembles more of a law firm rather than architectural firm, he said, and has allowed for a deep bench of leaders. Roller embraced his decision to ultimately take a step back.

“It seemed to be the right time. I enjoy this. There is no end date. I still own a piece of the firm,” Roller said.

Plus, there’s lot of social capital that has been built up during his tenure. “There’s value in that that should still be nurtured,” he said.

Roller started the firm in 1984, at the time leaving an architectural practice based in Spring House, Montgomery County. It was a firm whose founder didn’t want to make any of the people working there partners and that motivated Roller to set out on his own. “I truly believe in this profession that you want to own a piece of a firm,” he said.

JKRP Architects designs a range of retail and entertainment projects. Some of the work it has done includes designing the Capital Grille and honeygrow restaurants, the Shops at LaSalle as well as Regal Theaters. The firm also does health care and senior housing projects as well as residential developments including 400 Walnut, South Star Lofts and Naval Square. It eschews a lofty “starchitect” persona that some other firms strive for and prefers not to be a firm known by a particular design.

As with most architectural firms, JKRP took its lumps and went down to 25 employees from 35 during the recession but unlike many others, it survived and emerged stronger. Its foresight not to have a single focus helped it weather the downturn. The firm now has 57 employees and set to hire three more.

Georges, 57, doesn’t see any “earth shattering” deviations from the way the firm has been operating. Any changes will be minor and concern the growth and management of the firm, he said. What Georges doesn’t plan on doing is changing the identity and culture that has been set. It has worked so far and is expected to in the future, he said.


Read more from Natalie Kostelni of the Philadelphia Business Journal