Opening Bell

‘Found the Right Thing’

HKS finally lands an office in Seattle

By Rob Smith November 9, 2023

Doug Demers, the principal of HKS’ new Seattle studio, says the design firm is bullish on the future of Seattle

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

There’s no typical day for Doug Demers. And that’s just the way he likes it.

Demers leads global architecture and design firm HKS’ first Seattle office. The Dallas-based company, one of the nation’s largest architectural firms, has developed projects in the city since 1994, but until August never had a physical presence here. The Seattle office is the firm’s 27th.

“I think they have wanted to do it. They couldn’t quite find the right thing. They found the right thing, and they’re doing it,” says Demers, who most recently was at B+H Architects. “HKS has for a long time known that the Pacific Northwest was a blank spot in their geographic coverage and a great location for all kinds of innovative opportunity. It’s a creative and growing market.”

It’s also a comfortable fit for all involved. Demers, who has also held senior-level positions at architecture firms Perkins + Will and Callison and commercial real estate firm Collier’s International, began his career at HKS headquarters in Dallas in the early 1980s. He worked then with Dan Noble, who is now HKS president and CEO.

HKS — whose practice includes health care, life science, hospitality, education, and sports stadiums — has done lots of work for Seattle Children’s Hospital over the years. It is currently designing a nine-story life science project and is also working on a major renovation for the W Bellevue hotel. All told, the firm is involved in 23 projects across the state. The Seattle office has 10 employees.

Demers says HKS has previously explored acquisitions and other strategies to gain a bigger foothold in Seattle, and the firm views the city as an important international market.

“Now is a great time to plant a flag in Seattle,” says Noble, who joined HKS right out of college, as did Demers. “The right opportunity presented itself and we simply couldn’t pass it up.”

Joining Demers at HKS are three former B+H colleagues: Bryan Croeni, Christa Jansen, and Joslyn Balzarini.

Despite HKS’ familiarity with the Seattle market, setting up an office is no easy task. On a recent day, Demers met with an official from commercial development firm Wright Runstad for breakfast, had lunch with a hospitality executive, and then helped lead a business development meeting for the company’s West Coast offices. He also spends time recruiting as he ramps up the Seattle office, which has responsibility for the entire Pacific Northwest. The office, in fact, is called the Pacific Northwest Practice.

“The approach is we want to be regional,” Demers says. “Clearly, I’m here in Seattle and I want to be tied to this market (including Bellevue). But there are going to be people in all kinds of places.”

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