Tampa Bay architecture firms Wannemacher Jensen, Hoffman to merge

The merger will keep architects in studios in both St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs.
Hoffman Architects in Tarpon Springs designed the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College.
Hoffman Architects in Tarpon Springs designed the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art on the Tarpon Springs campus of St. Petersburg College. [ Javier Garcia ]
Published March 15, 2021|Updated March 15, 2021

Two local architecture firms with a wide portfolio of Tampa Bay schools, museums and public buildings are merging into one.

St. Petersburg’s Wannemacher Jensen Architects is absorbing Tarpon Springs’s Hoffman Architects in a merger that will diversify both firms’ operations. Hoffman will operate under the Wannemacher Jensen banner, but keep its North Pinellas studio open, giving the firm a third office in Florida.

While some back-of-house services may become redundant, Wannemacher Jensen principal Jason Jensen said he expects the combined firm will keep his staff of 21 and Hoffman’s staff of six. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“If we were competing often, then we would just be eliminating a competitor,” Jensen said. “We saw that they were competing in different circles than we were, and we wanted to get into that circle.”

Wannemacher Jensen has designed numerous high-profile projects around Tampa Bay, including the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier, the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art and the Madeira Beach Municipal Complex.

Hoffman has created buildings like the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center and Shorecrest Preparatory Academy. But locally, it may be best known for its its public school projects, including Quail Hollow Elementary School in Wesley Chapel and prototypes for 17 campuses in Pinellas County.

The deal has been in the works since last fall, though Jensen said early discussions began before the coronavirus pandemic. The economy of the past year “was a factor in my mind,” Jensen said, as both companies pondered the future of small- to medium-sized architecture firms.

“Are small firms able to contract and survive?” Jensen said. “If you lose a major project that is sustaining you as a small firm because of COVID or an economic downturn, can you survive? We have more capability; we have some room to contract if needed. We were fortunate in that we didn’t have any layoffs in the downturn. But that’s because we stayed diversified.”

Adding Hoffman’s public school portfolio is a good way to maintain that diversity, he said. Already, the two firms functionally collaborated on a bid last fall for a project at St. Petersburg’s 74th Street Elementary. And they’re looking at upcoming bids on both public school and higher education projects around the state

“Working together is extremely seamless at this point,” Jensen said.