The company that would become Bennett Benner Partners was founded in Fort Worth in 1956 as Don W. Kirk, Consulting Engineer, a name associated with many landmark projects in North Texas.
The name changed through the years as the company expanded ¬– in 1965 to Kirk Voich and Smith Architect-Engineer, in 1967 to Kirk and Voich Architect-Engineer, in 1986 to Kirk Voich Gist Inc. (KVG), in 1997 to Gideon Toal, in 2011 to Bennett Benner Pettit, and finally to Bennett Benner Partners in 2013.
But through all of that, the over-arching thrust of the firm has remained unchanged, and by whatever name, the firm was and is deeply linked with the city and the area.
“We continue to create notable and innovative projects in Fort Worth and beyond, including numerous financially and politically complex initiatives,” the firm says of itself. “And it hasn’t gone unnoticed, with more than 60 awards in the past 10 years recognizing our outstanding design and planning work.”
Recent among those projects are the Frost Tower in downtown, the Western Heritage garage in the Cultural District, the renovation of Heritage Park Plaza overlooking the Trinity River and the Chisholm Trail mural building renovation, which served as the backdrop for national broadcasts by ESPN for the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2014 Final Four.
Michael Bennett joined the firm in 2004 as a principal and has been chief executive officer since 2008. Bruce Benner has been with the firm since 1984 and was named principal, president and COO in 2001.
The firm is a community trustee as well, listing 45 organizations of which it is a member and/or supporter, among them Amphibian Stage Productions, the Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County, the Fort Worth Opera, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Leadership Fort Worth, Lena Pope, the Presbyterian Night Shelter, all of the local chambers of commerce, the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and the Fort Worth Zoo.
Bennett, principal and CEO, responded to a questionnaire from the Fort Worth Business Press:
What differentiates your company from others in a similar business?
I believe our firm’s commitment to its purpose of providing thoughtful and creative design that enhances our community and fulfills our clients’ goals makes us who we are as a firm.
All businesses go through some tough times. What was your greatest challenge and how did you respond to it?
The Great Recession was the most difficult period for our firm as it was with many firms in the design profession. We were fortunate to enter the recession with good cash reserves, which we were able to use on occasion to help us through. We also worked hard to minimize staff concerns by keeping them informed of what we were doing and why.
The business climate is changing rapidly. What do you foresee as challenges?
Access to labor is a challenge, due to the fact that many architects lost their jobs during the recession and left the profession, or never entered the profession after university, leaving the profession today short of experienced architects. Further, the design profession in Fort Worth is relatively small compared to other cities of our size, meaning that there are fewer qualified architects available in Fort Worth.
Rising construction prices caused by the overheated market, labor shortages and tariffs are starting to affect the viability of some new projects and could become a major challenge in the coming months for the design and construction industry.
In general, do you see the present business climate as challenging, uncertain or optimistic and why?
Overall, I think the present business climate is positive for us, due primarily to the continued growth in the Fort Worth area.
If you could make one and only one change in the present business climate, what would it be?
Bennett Benner Partners
500 W. Seventh St., Suite 1400, Fort Worth
Number of people employed: 35
– Paul K. Harral