Ratio Architects acquires North Carolina firm

A prominent Indianapolis architectural firm whose high-profile projects include the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Convention Center is expanding into North Carolina through an acquisition.

Ratio Architects Inc. announced Monday it has acquired Raleigh-based Cherry Huffman Architects. Financial terms of the transaction between the two private firms, which became effective Jan. 1, were not disclosed.

Cherry Huffman was founded in 1992 by Louis Cherry and Dan Huffman and has 16 employees. Ratio executives became aware of the firm while working in the North Carolina market on projects for Duke University in Durham.

Ratio has 72 employees and had $9.9 million in revenue in 2009. It’s the fourth-largest architectural firm in Indianapolis, according to IBJ statistics.

“We started looking into what it might mean to have a greater presence [in Raleigh-Durham],” Ratio CEO Bill Browne said Monday morning. “We found that [[Cherry Huffman’s] vision, goals and principals were very much aligned with ours.”

Browne said the acquisition also should allow Ratio to compete for projects in parts of Virginia and South Carolina. Besides Indiana, Ratio has projects in Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois and North Carolina, and is pursuing work in Florida.

Cherry, who was named one of Ratio's six principals as part of the merger, said the deal allows his firm to better compete for projects.

“For us, as our marketplace has evolved in the past five to six years, there’s much more of an expectation of a national presence,” he said. “For us to maintain a presence in the marketplace, we needed to do something to align ourselves with a [larger firm].”

Cherry Huffman’s projects include the design of a high school and theater building in Raleigh, as well as an education center at North Carolina State University.

Ratio’s acquisition of Cherry Huffman is the firm’s second. In 2004, it purchased a small practice in Champaign, Ill., home of the University of Illinois, to take advantage of opportunities there.

Browne, an Indianapolis native, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Illinois and the University of Florida, respectively, before helping  launch Ratio in 1982.

At the time, Browne and developers Cornelius “Lee” Alig and Harold Garrison owned Mansur Development Co. and HDG Architects, the predecessor to Ratio.

Operating the two companies enabled the trio to control the development and design of their projects, which in the beginning slanted toward historic buildings. Browne became president of architectural operations in 1985 and bought out his partners two years later, prompting the name change to Ratio.

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