The acceleration of development in the Charlottesville area can be tracked with many measurements. The expansion of a prominent engineering firm’s local office also is a good indicator.
“We are growing along with our clients, and making sure we can serve all of them in the right way,” said Craig Kotarski, senior project manager at Timmons Group.
Timmons Group is a national engineering and design firm headquartered in Richmond. It opened a Charlottesville office in 2005.
The local office has grown from six to 13 employees over the last two years, and has added environmental engineering and landscape architecture to its portfolio of services. The firm will soon occupy an additional 1,000 square feet in the former King Lumber building on Preston Avenue.
Timmons Group has done engineering for projects at many of Albemarle County’s public schools, including the 16-classroom addition to Woodbrook Elementary School under construction this summer.
“Timmons’ willingness to sit down and listen to what we want, while helping us make a practical plan, has really been great for us and our students,” said Joseph Letteri, Director of Building Services for the county school division.
Timmons Group also has been hired for ambitious public and private projects that will reshape Charlottesville in the years ahead, including the Charlottesville Technology Center in the Main Street Arena site; the redevelopment of Friendship Court; and multiple new buildings on West Main Street.
Timmons Group is sometimes consulted for much smaller projects— but these, too, can have significant impact for the communities they serve.
Kotarski recently helped to design a new building for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia in the Southwood mobile home development. The 2,800 square foot modular structure, set to open this month, will allow the organization to nearly eliminate a 100-student waiting list for the Southwood club.
“[Kotarski] was really interested in making the installation a part of the neighborhood, not a building that stands out,” said James Pierce, director of the local Boys & Girls Clubs. “He took care to pay attention to input from neighbors.”
The growth of Timmons Group’s Charlottesville office mirrors the rapid expansion of the company as a whole. Timmons Group has acquired and merged with many smaller firms over the last several years, and now has over 500 employees in offices across the U.S.
Project manager Cody Pennetti joined the Charlottesville office in March after working as an engineer for Dewberry in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.
“I want to apply some of the lessons we have learned from the growth of that region— things that have worked well, and things that haven’t been as successful,” Pennetti said.
Pennetti said the increasing density of buildings in and around Charlottesville presents new challenges for site engineers.
“There’s a lot more that you have to think about,” Pennetti said. “Everything needs to be lined up perfectly. … The level of detail could get down to a fraction of an inch.”
Kotarski said developers have taken a markedly different approach to their business since the Great Recession.
“A lot more thought is being put into development,” he said. “More developers want to create a product that they are happy to stand behind.”
Kotarski said some developers, hoping to anticipate changes in transportation technology, have asked for site plans to include charging ports for electric cars, and for designs that could one day accommodate autonomous vehicles.
“These things are hard to predict, but they are important to developers who want to build something that will last,” he said.