Architecture Firm Jerde’s New CEO Talks Growth

Architecture Firm Jerde’s New CEO Talks Growth
Peter Priebe is taking over from Paul Martinkovic, who is retiring.

Downtown-based design and architecture firm Jerde Partnership Inc. has a new chief executive who plans to further its growth trajectory.
Peter Priebe, the former chief operating officer at Irvine-based WATG Holdings Inc., took the helm from Paul Martinkovic, who retired after more than three decades at the firm.

“After 32 years as CFO and CEO, I felt it was time to transition to those in the company prepared to lead the firm into the next generation of Jerde,” Martinkovic wrote in an email to the Business Journal. “I’m confident that those leaders will take the company into greater levels of success and deal with the challenges of a post-Covid world.”

Martinkovic postponed his retirement in 2020 due to the pandemic to help with the firm’s “economic stability” before Jerde’s board picked Priebe as his successor.
Priebe said his CV was in line with what Jerde has done and wants to do going forward.

“Jerde is such a well-known brand in the space,” Priebe said. “I was excited that they were looking for a CEO, and I threw my name in the hat. I felt that with my background in hospitality and planning and international, having a global background between Europe, Middle East and Asia, I thought the puzzle pieces fit really well together,” he said.

Refocus on Americas

Despite being based in L.A., a large portion of Jerde’s work takes place in other cities, and roughly 70% of the company’s work is done abroad.
Recent mega projects by Jerde overseas include the 1.56-million-square-foot Oxigeno in Costa Rica and the 2-million-square-foot Kashirskaya Plaza retail center in Moscow.

In 2021, the company opened an office in Mexico, and it also has outposts in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul.
“The integration and the reason why the board and chairman likely selected me was because of that international presence that Jerde has, and I’m very familiar with that, and it plays extremely well with the global reach of Jerde and where they want to take the firm,” Priebe said.

He plans, however, on “refocusing back to the Americas” and added that the company was “extending our reach and regrouping our reach back to Europe in some respects, but Europe is going to be a modest plan. Really, the focus is on North America, South America and the Asia Pacific sectors. We’re well situated for the China market. We’ll continue that, but a lot of the growth will come from Asia Pacific and the Americas.”
Some of Jerde’s best known local projects include the makeover of Santa Monica Place in 2010 and work on the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Retail, sports and entertainment

Jerde does a lot of work on retail, and sports and entertainment centers.
Priebe said the company is “refocusing on the new paradigm of retail” in how it approaches design, which also means more uses.

“With Jerde’s background in place-making, experiential design and complementing with my background in hospitality, it’s really going to be around the things that are unique like mixed-use, residential, oversight and strategy of existing or new spaces.”
Some of the company’s recent retail and entertainment projects include a $135 million retail development in Huntington Beach known as Pacific City and The Battery, the development surrounding the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park.

“We’ve gotten a lot of immediate and current traction on The Battery,” Priebe said. “(It hosted) the World Series in Atlanta. Every time they showed a picture back to Atlanta, people were celebrating. That type of environment and built space where people are gathering around sports venues and entertainment and place-making, that fits right up Jerde’s alley. We’ll see more of that happening. We’ve got some local traction.”
Greg Rodgers, a vice president at Jerde, said the company has been working on stadiums and activating areas around stadiums.

“There’s a trend that’s been happening in the last eight to 10 years … where team owners are realizing they can do a lot more with their land around their stadiums than just surface parking lots. They can activate the land all year-round instead of just on game days,” Rodgers said.
He added that the company has seen interest in similar projects both nationally and internationally.

“You are really creating a city within a city, a mini city, a 24-hour city where people can truly live, work and play. You are creating residential and you have a large entertainment anchor,” Rodgers said. “You are really creating a place or destination that exists in addition to supplement the stadium use.”

Priebe said the company was working to “really extend the offerings to the surrounding neighborhood and city, and pushing those boundaries of what the offering is past just the confinement of the site” when it came to stadium projects.

International growth

Since its founding in 1977, Jerde has grown to 100 employees worldwide with more than 70 based at its L.A. headquarters. Rodgers said the company would continue to grow but would never be massive.

“We are never going to grow into a giant firm. … Part of the special brand of Jerde is taking this boutique scale approach to every project and client,” he said. “The growth will be there, but it will be somewhat modest in numbers.”
Priebe said beyond the Americas, he also sees “an opportunity to double down in Singapore” and grow in Asia beyond just China.

“We are definitely, over the next two to three years, looking at growth to keep up with our clients’ demands. That’s going to be a bit organic … but acquisitions are always on the table,” he said, adding that there were no current acquisitions planned.
The company has grown through acquisitions in the past, acquiring Chinatown-based landscape and architecture design firm Superjacent in 2019.

Priebe said he also wanted to work to grow the talent Jerde already has.
“After 35 years, it is my hope that Jerde will continue to push the boundaries of design in creating unique destinations around the world,” Martinkovic wrote in an email. “I’m eager to watch the firm’s continued evolution, and to see the ideas and solutions that Jerde comes up with in the future.”

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