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CannonDesign expands its presence in Colorado with BWG acquisition

Future mergers could be in the offing.

November 02, 2017 |

Colorado State University's 121,600-sf Behavioral Sciences Building in Fort Collins is one of the many higher education projects that Bennett Wagner Grody has worked on. Image: BWG

Growth-minded AEC firm CannonDesign announced this morning that it will merge with Denver-based Bennett Wagner Grody Architects (BWG), a 28-year AE firm with portfolio strengths in the K-12, Higher Education, and healthcare sectors.

This alliance gives CannonDesign its first office in Colorado, and represents its second acquisition within the past few months. In September, Cannon announced that it was joining forces with Houston-based design firm FKP, whose expertise extends to healthcare, science and technology.

CannonDesign did not disclose the terms of its agreement with BWG. But Brad Lukanic, AIA, who took over as CannonDesign’s CEO 15 months ago, indicated that this deal is part of his 102-year-old company’s larger ambitions to expand by linking with strategic partners. “We’re in the mode of looking at how our practice is evolving,” he tells BD+C. “The two recent mergers are key steps” in CannonDesign’s growth framework, and are expected to help the company expand its position in the education and S+T sectors.


Brad Lukanic, CannonDesign's CEO, says his company intends to continue growing organically and through mergers with strategic partners. Image: courtesy of CannonDesign


Don Grody, AIA, a founding partner at BWG, says that about a year ago his firm started thinking about its future within a consolidating AE industry, too. It concluded that prosperity hinged on locating the right partner firm. He says the company worked up a list of 200 AE firms, and targeted 20 of them with an information piece about BWG. “CannonDesign was one of the firms that responded positively to BWG as well as to the Colorado market.”

Grody says the merger “allows us to harness new services and expertise to help our clients leverage the built environment to improve performance and create stronger futures. It gives us a very distinct perspective in the industry.”

CannonDesign has coveted a bigger presence in Denver “for a very long time,” says Lukanic. BWG’s recent projects in the state include Colorado State University’s Behavioral Sciences Building, Colorado Mesa University’s Engineering Building, and numerous projects with Kaiser Permanente. CannonDesign’s work in Colorado includes the renovation and expansion of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Student Recreation Center, the expansion of the University of Colorado Hospital’s Anschutz Inpatient Pavilion, and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Holaday Athletic Center.


Don Grody, one of BWG's founding principals, is in charge of innovation, quality planing, and excellence at his firm. Image: courtesy of CannonDesign


BWG’s management team, including its three principals, is staying on with the company. BWG will operate as Bennett Wagner Grody Architects | CannonDesign, and while its brand will eventually disappear, that transition process “could be fairly long,” predicts Lukanic, because Cannon Design doesn’t want to lose any of BWG’s marketing cachet.

Once its merger with BWG is completed, CannonDesign will have nearly 1,000 employees working in 19 offices in North America and abroad.

As for future expansion, Lukanic says CannonDesign is tracking markets where populations are growing and where its core business sectors are strong. He points specifically to Texas as an area where the firm wants to be a bigger player, and to construction services as an area for potential increased business.

He says that CannonDesign is also looking at “a few key international markets” for expansion, both within and outside of North America.

Lukanic believes that, by operating multiple offices, CannonDesign has a better shot at attracting and retaining the “emerging leaders” it will need to be successful in the future. Its geographic diversity “gives our people more lifestyle options.”

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