by Dan Rafter
Timothy Homburg started his career with NSPJ Architects in Prairie Village, Kansas, immediately after graduating from Kansas State University. He is now the co-president of the firm. Homburg recently spoke to Midwest Real Estate News about succeeding in architecture, embracing the controlled chaos of the industry and building a roster of loyal clients.
A passion for drawing: In high school, I loved to draw. I wasn’t necessarily working on architectural drafting, but I was drawing. Then I was lucky enough to get a good instructor in mechanical drawing. Later in high school, I took a class in architectural drawing. I had an idea that this might be something that I would like to do. When it was time to go to college, I had to decide what I was going to study. I made the decision to go to Kansas State University. I decided on a whim, for lack of a better word, to go into architecture. I found that it was a good fit. It matched what I really thought my career path should be.
Who needs structure? I always say, there are people who enjoy structure in their careers, who enjoy knowing what to expect on a day-to-day basis. This career is far from that. You never know when the phone rings who is going to be on the other end. I love the variety of this career. Every day you are challenged with creative endeavors. I can’t believe I have a job where someone pays me to draw and be creative. That part of it is amazing. I work with owners and developers who are challenging and creative. They push us to be the best we can be at every juncture. That is the neat part of this career. No two days are the same. Every day is exciting.
Long hours, plenty of pressure: Architecture school is a great way to prepare you for this industry. In school you’ll put in long hours in high-pressure situations. That sets you up for what your career is going to be like. We have to work late in the evenings or on weekends to get the work done.
Results: We have an interesting project going on now, CityPlace in Overland Park. It’s a very large development in the heart of the suburbs of Kansas City, 90-plus acres of mixed-use development. The site had been sitting vacant for 30 years. Numerous people had tried to get the land developed. There were challenges, though: There were some significant site constraints and a powerful surrounding neighborhood that had quashed proposals before. It almost seemed like any development plans for the site were doomed. Our team came through, though. We found a design for the master plan for the property that got us through the process. We now have the plans approved, and we are starting our first phase of 344 units of high-density multifamily development on the parcel. There will also be retail and office components to the project. This is a project that without creativity and innovation would never have gotten to this point. No one gave up on this project. It’s a huge feather in our collective cap.
The power of listening: We listened to the neighbors’ concerns and did something about them. That made all the difference. So many times, developers or architects think they know what is best without seeking input from the neighbors. We engaged everybody in the process from a very early stage. We listened to their concerns, their hot-button issues. We worked to find a way to resolve them. Not everyone got 100 percent of what they wanted, but everyone got something of substance that made it OK to give up on some of the other things that weren’t necessarily as important to them.
Controlled chaos: There are some people who want to come into work and know what every day is going to be like. They like that structure. I personally would be bored to tears with that kind of structure. For me, there’s likely to be a fire that needs to be put out. I enjoy that kind of controlled chaos, the energy that brings to the entire team.
Relationships matter: This career is about relationships. We have been in business for 53 years. We don’t do a lot of heavy, active marketing. We don’t slap our name up on every billboard and try to capture the attention of everyone out there. But what we do successfully is create loyalty in our existing clientele. Every time they have a project, they come back to us. That boils down to creating excellent service and listening to the client. You want your clients to feel like they are a part of the process. And that’s not just for a big multifamily development, but for a small residential construction project, too. You want that guy who is doing a small addition to his house to feel like he has been part of the process. It’s tough to survive by working with one-shot clients. We have such a great relationship with our existing clients, they continue to market for us and come back to us for future projects.