ai Design Group merger means new services, employees for Charlotte office

"It takes us to a whole other level of capability and service across this market and the U.S.," Jones continued. "We're basically tripling the size of the architecture group and doubling the size of the interior group."

Adding engineering services and a wider gamut of architectural projects will continue the local growth Jones says ai Design has experienced in the past several years. The firm's portfolio includes upfit work for MetLife's (NYSE: MET) U.S. retail division headquarters in Ballantyne and Sonic Automotive's (NYSE: SAH) campus on Colwick Road. ai Design Group has also been appointed to do the interiors for Babson Capital Management's future office at 300 South Tryon, where the asset management company will occupy the top eight floors, as well as the ongoing renovations at 300 South Brevard, a 360,000-square-foot uptown office building that formerly housed an AT&T call center.

Progressive AE offers services in architecture, design build, eng ineering, interior design, landscape architecture, and planning and consulting.

"This partnership is an opportunity to combine experience, increase diversity of thought, expand our geographic reach and share best practices to enhance the delivery of services to our clients nationwide," said Bradley Thomas, president and CEO of Progressive AE, in a statement. "It also comes at a time when both of our firms are in a position of strength, allowing us to accelerate our momentum together."

As part of ai Design Group's anticipated growth, the company is expanding its footprint. It will now lease the entire fifth floor — 11,000 square feet — at 330 South Tryon, the same building the Charlotte Chamber occupies. Previously, ai Design Group occupied a portion of that floor.

"We've had tremendous growth in 2014 and 2015, which is continuing this year," Jones said. "With these additional market sector capabilities and services, we're beginning an expansion of our office."

That means 20 new employees in the near term, but Jones said more positions are expected as ai Design Group and Progressive AE integrate further. In fact, Jones indicated one of his biggest worries is that the company will outgrow its space at 330 South Tryon sooner rather than later.

The leadership team at ai Design Group — Jones, Principal Kim Marks and Associate Principal Ryan Doherty, a former Charlotte Business Journal"40 Under 40" winner — will remain intact. The Charlotte firm also will largely retain its moniker, to be identified as ai Design Group, a company of Progressive AE.

The merge is effective starting Monday, Jones said. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

"We've got a really strong group at the top and we're backed up by a great team of leadership," Jones said. "Every one of those individuals is staying in place. This was made this as a joint decision between all of (the partners)."

Ashley Fahey covers real estate and development for the Charlotte Business Journal.


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