The veteran Richmond architect sells his firm and becomes the buyer’s interior designer

The veteran Richmond architect sells his firm and becomes the buyer’s interior designer

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Joe Yates has sold his namesake firm after 27 years in business and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect. (Photos by Jonathan Spiers)

A staple of Richmond’s architecture scene is giving away his work, but not his drafting table just yet.

Joe Yates recently sold his namesake firm, Joseph F. Yates Architects, to Process Design and Service, an architectural design firm based in Mechanicsville.

The cash deal, which closed on October 1, brings an end to Yates’ ownership of his 27-year-old company, but not to the practice, which continues as a division of PDS.

The arrangement makes Yates the in-house architect for PDS, which focuses on industrial buildings and equipment, while allowing him and his team of one full-time and one part-time person to continue the work his company has become known for: residential adaptive reuse and rehabilitation.

“They needed an architect for certain projects, so it seemed like a good fit for them,” said Yates, whose office is in the Tudor-style Branch House building that also houses the Branch Architecture and Design Museum.

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Yates’s office is located in the century-old Branch House building, home of the Branch Architecture and Design Museum. (Business file)

“I can keep the office in the Al-Bayt branch, and I’m fine with keeping my existing projects and clients. I will only help them as needed,” he said.

After nearly three decades of running his own firm and nearly 50 years as a practicing architect, Yates said he is ready to hand over the work but wants to continue with his own design work. He worked with Dan Schroeter of Filament Business Advisors, who connected Yates to PDS.

“I had been thinking about what to do with the company for a while, and I had two options: either sell the company, or close the doors and leave,” Yates said. “I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time, it would be nice to keep it going.’”

That’s being done by PDS President Greg Barlage, who said his company was in the market for an in-house architect who could eliminate the need to hire designers for each project, and help the company diversify and expand its client reach.

Greg Barlage

Greg Barlage

“We do a lot of heavy industrial and commercial work, and we were looking to diversify further to get into some of the work we do and expand our customer base,” Barlage said. “We don’t use architects very often, but we do hire architects, and we wanted a way to bring in a licensed architect.”

He said the search reached out to Yates and the Virginia Beach company, and that Yates’ proximity was a factor in the selection. While PDS’s clients include manufacturer Alfa Laval’s facility in Sandstone, Barlage said most of the 3-year-old company’s business is located outside of Richmond — something he said they want to change.

“Since we don’t operate much in the Richmond market — we’re based here and the vast majority of our employees are based here in this area — this was a way for us to diversify into the Richmond area.” He said.

The arrangement will also provide Yates with company resources to assist him with his projects, Barlage said. He and Yates declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

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Yates designed the conversion of the Queen Anne-style Barton mansion into apartments for developer Clark Glavie. (Business file)

Yates, whose design work in Richmond has included converting apartments at the 19th-century Barton Mansion in South Barton Heights, said he looks forward to taking on new challenges with the PDS while continuing the residential work he has become accustomed to.

“It’s something new for me,” he said of PDS projects. “Sometimes they work with existing buildings, and sometimes they are asked to design and construct a new building. This is where I will come in to design the structure of the new buildings they are constructing.”

Yates, an Arlington native, studied architecture at Virginia Tech and has practiced since graduating in 1974. A job with the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, now the Department of Historic Resources, brought him to Richmond, where he said he worked with several architects Before that. He launched his own company in 1996.

“I was working for an architect who was driving me crazy,” he said of his motivation to start his own business. “For the most part it’s been good. Like every small business owner, it has its ups and downs. You have to do it all.”

At its largest, the company has five people, including business partner Ed Mulriani, who retired three years ago, Yates said.

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Yeats in front of the new apartment building he designed at Monument and Colonial Streets.

In addition to the Barton Mansion, local work has included construction of a new apartment building at Monument and Colonial Streets, an apartment conversion with developer David Gammino at 1322 W. Broad St., and the restoration of his former residence at 1812 Monument Ave. Which he and his wife Jackie Jackson sold five years ago before moving to a townhouse in Manchester.

Outside of Richmond, Yates is currently restoring the 1820s-era Hampstead House in New Kent County for John Poindexter’s Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation. The project is part of Poindexter’s efforts in recent years to preserve lands near his family’s generational home.

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Yeats at the Hampstead project site in New Kent. (Photo courtesy of Joe Yates)

Having had a hand in designing parts of Richmond for nearly half a century, Yates has his favorites when it comes to building designs in the city – the Commodore Apartment Building in Hull and Seventh Street in Manchester; The new CoStar building is under construction — as well as his least favorite buildings, some of his own work among them.

“Most of the buildings that went up could have been anywhere,” Yates said, referring to the city’s newer construction. “They could have been Charlotte, Northern Virginia, San Diego; there’s nothing about them that says, ‘This is Richmond.’

For the Commodore, which was designed by Odell Associates, he added, “I think they made a conscious effort to look at the old industrial buildings in the city. This building is certainly five storeys and most old industrial buildings, especially in Manchester, are only two storeys, probably Three. But I think they pointed that out.

“I think we’ve lost a little bit of the character of the city, because of the rapid growth,” he said. “It’s probably the same in every urban area that’s seeing a lot of growth.”

As for what lies ahead in his career, Yates said he hopes to continue designing for a few more years, and has no desire for a traditional retirement.

“I don’t play golf, I have no desire to, and Jackie has pretty much retired,” he said.

“I enjoy architecture. I enjoy design,” he added. “As long as we can start doing more touring, I might want to work for another three or four years. “I’m not going to sit at home and do nothing.”

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