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Five Questions with Spillman Farmer Architects

By LVEDC Staff on December 3, 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: Spillman Farmer Architects is the subject of this week’s LVEDC’s FIVE QUESTIONS interview. The company has been a hallmark in the Lehigh Valley for 86 years and recently were honored with the first AIA Pennsylvania Firm Award. Our interview features principals Daniel Harrigan AIA and Joseph Biondo AIA.

The ArtsQuest Center/PHOTO PAUL WARCHOL PHOTOGRAPHY

The ArtsQuest Center/PHOTO PAUL WARCHOL PHOTOGRAPHY

LVEDC: Congrats on your recent honor. You’ve been around 86 years and you’re still relevant – to what do you attribute your long-standing success here in Lehigh Valley?

JOSEPH BIONDO: Thank you. We are deeply honored to be selected as the inaugural recipient of the 2013 AIA Pennsylvania Firm Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in the profession over the last decade. This achievement would not have been possible without our clients, who repeatedly entrust their resources to us, and allow us to explore thoughtful solutions through a process of critical thinking and problem solving. We must also attribute our success to our founders, namely Robert A. Spillman, FAIA, who ensured our firm’s future success by branching out into diversified market sectors. Spillman Farmer’s excellence in projects for education, healthcare, industrial, commercial, and civic markets has allowed us to weather economic downturns, and has introduced us to clients outside of the Lehigh Valley – as far as Iowa and North Carolina.

LVEDC: It’s not unusual for successful companies to pull up their stakes and move on to a more “exciting” and profitable area – why has Spillman Farmer stayed here?

DANIEL HARRIGAN: The Lehigh Valley is exciting and profitable; we planted our roots here 86 years ago, and we intend to stay. Our region is rich with culture and history, and home to several Fortune-500 companies, intriguing start-ups, world-class colleges and universities, and places for community gathering and entertainment. We are minutes from some of the best hiking, skiing, biking, and rafting, and we are a short drive to many major metropolitan areas. These tangible attributes attract workforce and tourism to our region. The interesting topography of our region –mountains and waterways – is what defines our communities’ development and distinguishes us from other regions in the state. The Lehigh Valley provides well-balanced nourishment in the form of arts, culture, education, and recreation of all kinds. Spillman Farmer is proud to help the Lehigh Valley be an ideal place to live, work, play, and learn.

LVEDC: As an in-demand architectural firm, what are some of the projects you’re most proud of – not only the ones you worked on but others scattered throughout the Valley?

BIONDO: For 86 years, we have been delivering high-quality, effective, and inspiring places to our clients. We pour our hearts into all of our projects, so we have many proud moments.  It is particularly gratifying to work on projects that serve the greater good and have a long-term benefit to our community job market and our quality of life. Spillman Farmer’s involvement in the redevelopment and transformation of the former Bethlehem Steel site into a cultural destination is a source of great pride. We continue to enjoy the challenge of finding new uses for existing buildings in the Lehigh Valley, such as ArtsQuest Center, Lafayette College’s Arts Plaza, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of NE PA’s TechVentures, Sigal Museum, Partnership for Innovation, and the former Neuweiler Brewery.

LVEDC: What’s on the drawing board for Spillman Farmer – I’m talking current and future projects of note?

HARRIGAN: The commercial real estate, higher education, and non-profit sectors throughout the Lehigh Valley have experienced accelerated recovery over the last 12 months. State and municipal investments into public services facilities have increased as well.  We are taking advantage of this trend and have recently won several significant private- and public-sector projects.  These include the new City of Easton City Hall and Transportation Center, Cetronia Ambulance Corporation’s new Joint Operations Center, a renovation and expansion to Banko Beverage Company’s Operations and Distribution Center, and a tenant fit-out for Walmart in Liberty Property Trust’s 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse on Commerce Center Boulevard. In addition, we are expanding classrooms and laboratories on two Penn State University branch campuses, upgrading several dormitories at Kutztown University, and providing campus planning services for Southern New Hampshire University and Mount Aloysius College.

LVEDC: Why do you think Lehigh Valley continues to grow and attract outside companies?

BIONDO: The Lehigh Valley is home to three unique, yet related urban cores. Allentown appears to be on rapid pace of repositioning itself as the Valley’s crown jewel of culture with revitalization efforts such as PPL Center, the Waterfront, and the Neighborhood Improvement Zone. Bethlehem’s historic districts on the North and South sides of the city have created two uniquely walkable downtowns. Cultural projects on Bethlehem’s South Side continue to find success as ground zero for a resurgence of arts and culture. Easton, with its rich transportation history, continues to thrive as a hub for transportation and government. Institutions such as Lafayette College, Crayola and the State Theater have helped downtown Easton grow into a rich cultural center. These revitalization efforts, as well as our proximity to major transportation routes, make exploration of our region accessible for outside companies. As we move forward, it’s important to remember our history. As ever, we are faced with economic, social, and ecological challenges that call for integrated planning efforts. The Lehigh Valley has unique opportunities for historical value and new growth to exist side-by-side, providing the kind of infrastructure, built environment, and social context that will continue to draw people to our area. These challenges will require the kind of steadfast leadership that has served our Valley for generations, as well as well-informed planning and a bit of flexible spontaneity. To remain vital, our cities will need to become reacquainted with the creative, innovative, intellectual, cultural and technological histories that define us.

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