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Hawaii Architectural firms

WATG, one of Hawaii’s largest architecture firms, is looking to get more work in the state after years of putting more of its focus towards other markets, one of the firm’s top executives told PBN.

“We have missed the boat when the economy started to turn for the better, ” said Chao “Robert” Zheng, vice president and director of development of Asia Pacific for WATG, which has offices in Dubai, Los Angeles, Irvine, Istanbul, Honolulu, London, Singapore and New York. “We didn’t get into the Hawaii market as much as we want to, [but] we are trying to correct that.”

He noted that it would go as far to correct that as turning down overseas projects if it conflicts with a local project.

“We [also] have some of our people becoming [more] involved in the community, ” said Zheng, noting that this means being on neighborhood boards and community associations.

The firm, known for its elaborate resort and hotel designs in places such as Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Bora Bora and Kazakhstan, rebranded about seven years ago and is celebrating its 70th anniversary next year. Its legal name remains Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo.

“We are the founding office, [and] we were innovative at the time when we first started, [so now] our CEO wants that same spirit invigorated, ” Zheng said.

One of its other major initiatives is looking to move into a new office space, which will come with a more free-address environment.

The lease on its offices at the Topa Financial Center, where WATG has a floor and a half, ends at the end of 2015, but the firm may move before then, said Craig Takahata, vice president and managing director of the Honolulu office.

The firm, which has a total of about 50 employees and would like to add 10 more people, is looking at areas such as Kakaako, Chinatown and even staying in the Downtown Honolulu area.

“We have been looking for a year and a half, ” Takahata said.

WATG, which launched its Wimberly Interiors design services firm in 1997, formed in Hawaii in 1945, and just a year later started work on its first hospitality project, the renovation of The Royal Hawaiian hotel in Waikiki.

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