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Storrow Kinsella Associates Inc.: Landscape firm aims to improve urban settings Architectural training helps SKA in bid to transform communities

December 12, 2005

John Kinsella is proud of Davlan Park, a collection of grass, trees, plants and public art tucked away on a tiny patch of green next to the Mass Ave Starbucks.

He smiles when he sees someone sitting on a bench or at a table, taking a break from the bustling commercial corridor. He remembers when the so-called pocket park was just neglected space.

But that was before Storrow Kinsella Associates worked its magic.

The 20-year-old landscape architecture firm, owned by Kinsella and his wife, Meg Storrow, does more than dig holes and plant flowers. SKA aims to transform communities and the people who live in them. Their work is more urban planning than upscale gardening.

Kinsella, a graduate of the University of Michigan's College of Architecture and Design, has worked with and been influenced by experts like renowned Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

"My pivotal experience was my first job working with Eero on the site for the Jefferson Memorial, the St. Louis Arch, Dulles National Airport and on other really incredible buildings," Kinsella said.

Storrow, whose father and aunt were architects, chose landscape architecture after attending a Harvard University program that let design students explore careers in urban planning, architecture or landscape architecture.

The two met while working as consultants on the $50 million Cummins Inc. headquarters in Columbus. About halfway through the five-year project, they wed.

When the building was finished in 1985, Storrow and Kinsella launched SKA. Storrow worked full time to establish the business while Kinsella stayed with Cummins as a consultant. They moved to Indianapolis in 1996 as the business grew and its client list stretched from Evansville to Lake County.

Last year, SKA saw its biggest growth spurt-nearly a 40-percent increase in business-and this year revenue has nearly doubled to about $2 million. The owners credit repeat customers and the addition of landscape architect David Roth, who helped the firm move into new Indiana cities.

Storrow Kinsella remains one of the largest independent landscape architecture firms in the state, its owners said.

Since it must compete with larger, multidisciplinary firms, the Indianapolis company has established partnerships with counterparts in other specialties, like engineering and technical planning. Together, the smaller companies can tackle bigger projects.

SKA also has developed long-term relationships with clients, including the cities of Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Beech Grove.

In Beech Grove, it's working on the "Better, Brighter Beech Grove" initiative, which includes improvements along Emerson Avenue and Main Street, and plans for a greenway and pedestrian path for the community.

Beech Grove Mayor Joe Wright says Storrow Kinsella has taken his vision for the town and transferred it to the planning documents that spell out the steps necessary to accomplish his goals.

"They have helped us move our projects through the concept stage and get them closer to design and development," Wright said. "They've done a good job for us."

Another client, Mike Cline of Hannum Wagle & Cline Engineering in Terre Haute, said one of SKA's greatest assets is its role as a "gap filler." He worked with the company on the Brown Avenue Corridor Project, which ties a major artery there to economic development zones, pedestrian-friendly areas and the multi-state National Road Heritage Trail.

"The project involved a team of six consultants, and as the project evolved, many design issues developed that really did not fit within the scope of any of the various firms," he said. "SKA jumped in to fill the gap in a timely and quality manner to help the team move forward.

"They fill that type of role better than any firm I have worked with in my 30 years of experience."

Even with strong revenue growth, Kinsella said it can be challenging to continue to work on multiyear projects while expanding into new communities and keeping up with emerging technologies.

So how do they do it?

Storrow explained it best.

"It's a 24/7 mind-set. I don't view myself as having a job-it's a way of life. We work hard, but it's fun and challenging," she said. "I can't really imagine doing an 8-to-5 job."


Meg Storrow and John Kinsella designed Davlan Park for Riley Area Development Corp., which wanted to develop an urban park on a small patch of land between Alabama Street and Massachusetts Avenue.
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