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New five-member architecture firm revs up in Rose City

Daily Journal of Commerce

February 14th 2001

With only five people to start, the new full-service architecture firm Myhre Group Architects is definitely a contender in the industry. Principal Jeff Myhre leads the members who are all former employees of
Portland's Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects.

Myhre, along with associates Steve Pearson and Rob Matthews, formed the company in August.

Thirty-three-year-old Myhre grew up in New Jersey, the product of an entrepreneurial family. His parents, both developers, often felt frustrated working with architects who only wanted to do their art and didn't pay enough attention to their needs as clients. Myhre took note and decided he wanted to become an architect who understood developers' needs and treated them with respect as clients, while also maintaining the art of architecture.

"I can talk to developers and I understand where they're coming from," explained Myhre. "I understand why they're coming to me as an architect. I can take their dreams, their products and turn them into something that is marketable. Fusing those together has been really successful."

Prior to graduating from the University of Idaho in 1991, Myhre had worked for a construction company and an architecture firm in his home state. After graduation, he worked in Salem at an architecture firm, then joined Ankrom in 1994. Ankrom made him the youngest principal in the firm's history early last year.

People were constantly coming up to Myhre and telling him he was destined to have his own company.

"I think that every architect's goal is to eventually have their own firm and those that can, do," said Myhre.
The key to taking that step was having the right people. Myhre had plenty of allies on his side. All five employees had worked together at Ankrom, but it was an amicable split between the company and its former workers. According to Myhre, Ankrom was extremely supportive of the split and it was a mutually beneficial situation.

Fellow Ankrom employees were encouraging Myhre to start his own business, promising that they would follow and put their own "blood, sweat and tears" into making it happen.

"I really want to be in control of the direction I go personally and professionally. I realized I had enough of these outside influences coming at me that I said, 'let's pull the trigger and go for it,'" explained Myhre.
The company's mission is reminiscent of Myhre's initial inspiration from his family experience - to understand developers like no other firm.

"The art of architecture is truly in the service. If you don't have the service, then you're just another creative firm. Creative firms come up with great ideas, but they don't make projects happen," stated Myhre. "We want people to come to us because they know they can get creative ideas that will work, and we'll be in the trenches with them the whole time."

To meet his goal of personalized client service, Myhre makes himself available to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A self-proclaimed workaholic, Myhre admits to having clients who call at four in the morning with an inspirational idea, and Myhre is up, pouring himself a cup of coffee, and listening away.

"That's been my recipe for success and how I became the youngest principal at Ankrom. People have always said that I had great entrepreneurial skills. Clients kept telling me that the service we offer is over and beyond the top. I'm more than a guy in a tie and a white shirt that delegates work. I do the work," said Myhre.
The company has been approached by many area architects who want to work there, but Myhre plans on keeping it small for the time being.

"We've stayed as efficient as possible with a lot of work and good solid hours and tried to minimize pulling on staff until it's absolutely necessary. If that means I have to work 80 hours a week for the next five years, then I will," said Myhre.
Locally, the firm has an interesting project in the works in the Pearl District for a developer who Myhre refers to as "an incredible visionary." An eight-floor condominium complex, Myhre believes it will redefine high-density living with things like movable walls, furniture and partitions. The building, currently up for a design review, will also feature innovative lighting and materials, even an interior glass elevator.

In addition, the firm is designing a $20 million resort in Lake Tahoe and has also been approached by someone to do high-end dot-com office buildings in the San Francisco area.

While the company so far has been focused on high-density housing, resort and hotel design, there's no limit to the type of projects they will take on. As far as regions go, Myhre doesn't plan on setting any boundaries there either. His goal is to take the company wherever there is client demand.