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RTKL Associates buys Miami design company


RTKL Associates Inc., Baltimore's largest architectural firm, said yesterday that it acquired a Miami design company that will help the company expand into Latin America and the Caribbean.

The firm - Howard Snoweiss Design Group - has about 55 employees and focuses on designing hotels, resorts, corporate interiors, cruise ships, and entertainment and retail complexes.

"We see Miami really as the capital of South America, and we will be moving our work in South America to the Miami office," said David C. Hudson, president of RTKL.

He said that in the next two years, RTKL plans to open offices in Shanghai, China; Frankfurt, Germany; and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

The 54-year-old firm conducts about 95 percent of its work outside Baltimore, Hudson said. RTKL was recently ranked the fifth-largest architectural firm in the world by World Architecture magazine, he said.

"We clearly have a corporate strategy of diversifying our business across all of the real estate markets and around the world," Hudson said.

Hudson said RTKL will open a new Miami office that will be staffed by both RTKL and Snoweiss employees. He expects the total number of employees in the office to grow to about 100 by the end of the year.

Howard Snoweiss, the founder of the acquired firm, was named senior vice president of RTKL and will lead the firm's Miami operations, Hudson said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

RTKL has designed numerous buildings in Baltimore, including the new Alex. Brown building, where it is headquartered, and the Hyatt Regency hotel. The firm's work covers a billion square feet in 60 countries, and its projects include retail and entertainment centers, government buildings and health care facilities.

RTKL has already had projects in South and Central America, but with this latest acquisition, Hudson said, RTKL is targeting the cruise ship industry.

"We're excited because this group does something very different than we do," said Hudson. "We see the cruise ship industry as a major market in hospitality, both the ship side and the land side."

RTKL has about 225 employees in its downtown Baltimore headquarters and more than 900 employees in offices in Washington, Dallas, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Madrid.

Alan Reed, president-elect of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said he's been seeing more architectural firms looking abroad over the past 10 years.

"It seems like it started in Hong Kong and Japan," said Reed, a principal at Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick Inc.

"It seems like the foreign countries are attracted to American architects, and this country is attracted to foreign architects."

Hudson, who is only the second president of RTKL, said the privately held firm's revenue was $108 million in 1999. Revenue for this year is projected at $130 million, a figure that does not reflect this latest acquisition.

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