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A Resurrection of Sorts for Cubellis

April 7, 2010

By C. J. Hughes

Cubellis, the Boston-based architecture firm that was written off for dead five months ago when it closed over problems with creditors, has staged a phoenix-like comeback.

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Former principals John Larsen and Christopher Ladd, and former partner Richard Rankin, have launched a new firm, CI Design, Inc., which appears to be a spitting image of its predecessor.

For one, the firm, which opened in December, just a few weeks after Cubellis was shuttered, takes its name from the initials for “Cubellis International.” It also focuses on familiar markets, with offices in three cities where Cubellis was based: Boston, Dubai, and Baltimore, where CI is headquartered.

Similarly, all 20 of CI’s employees are Cubellis alumni, and most of the firm’s commissions are ones begun by Cubellis. The 24-year-old firm, which had five partners and 28 principals when it folded, was known for campus buildings, apartments, and shopping centers.

While Cubellis was ultimately saddled with cumbersome debt because of ill-timed mergers, like the one in 2008 with Atlanta’s Dougherty Design Group, CI can run much leaner, said Larsen, CI’s president.

“The larger the firm, the greater the overhead,” says Larsen, referring to his former employer, which had 220 employees in nine offices when it closed. “We’re in a much more competitive position.”

Some clients that had hired Cubellis will now employ CI, such as the Howard Group, a developer from Miramar Beach, Florida, which is expanding its Silver Sands Factory Stores from 450,000 square feet to 600,000 square feet. It says it’s grateful for the continuity between firms.

“We’re pleased we could keep the design team together,” says John Heiser, a Howard vice president. “They transitioned without a hiccup.”

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