(Originally printed in EDCO’s December Newsletter)
Celebrating 30 years in Central Oregon, Pinnacle Architecture’s mission is to design places that enhance lives and community. The firm provides planning, architecture and interior design services for education, multi-family housing, healthcare, senior living, and social service projects. It prides itself on its solid reputation for integrity, collaboration and socially responsible design.
We chatted with native Central Oregonian Peter Baer, Pinnacle Architecture President, to talk about how he got his start, the growth of the firm and the importance of community and community partners.
EDCO: Tell us more about Pinnacle Architecture and how you got your start.
Peter: Pinnacle is celebrating our 30th year in business…during a pandemic! So, how did Pinnacle get started? I’m one of those rare Central Oregon locals born and raised in Bend, my family’s roots dating back to 1917. After getting my architecture degree at the University of Oregon in Eugene, I returned to Bend and began working in Real Estate Development. Unfortunately, in 1990 the US entered a recession, and Bend was hit hard. I was laid off, with a new mortgage and a baby on the way. After the layoff, I began working part-time at Central Oregon Community College as an instructor in design, drafting and construction. The work was good, but I wanted to make more of an impact and get back to design. After many conversations with my wife and mentors, I decided to take the risk and start my business, Pinnacle Architecture.
Just three months or so after taking the plunge, I hired my first employee and purchased a small office on 3rd Street. Through word of mouth and attending local events, we were designing everything from single-family homes to churches, bowling alleys, offices, and public buildings. I really found a sweet spot in Eastern Oregon. It started with responding to a request for a proposal for an affordable housing complex in Baker City, and we won. That led to city hall remodels, community centers, senior facilities, and community health buildings. My team and I really enjoyed the work’s social impact, and we began doing these types of public service projects all over Oregon. The mission of Enhancing Lives and Communities evolved and is a guiding belief today.
When I founded Pinnacle, it was always my desire for the company to continue long after I retire. In 2018, Briana Manfrass joined as an owner in the firm. She’s been part of the team since 2006 and a strong leader committed to fulfilling Pinnacle’s mission. We’ve got a great mix of talented employees in Bend, Portland and Vancouver, WA.
EDCO: Who is your ideal client?
Peter: Pinnacle specializes in affordable housing, community healthcare, behavioral health, senior living, and public service (i.e., government buildings, community centers, etc.) projects. We do our best work when our client’s mission aligns with ours – enhancing lives and communities. For example, we’ve partnered with Housing Works for nearly 20 years and provided more than 500 affordable housing units to the tri-county area. Earlier this year, our team worked with Deschutes County to create the area’s first Stabilization Center to help those experiencing a mental crisis get help instead of being sent to jail or the emergency department.
EDCO: What are the benefits of having a business in Central Oregon?
Peter: Bend is my home. I grew up here and have extended family throughout Central Oregon. When starting the business 30 years ago, various resources helped me start and grow the firm, including COCC, Bend Chamber, Central Oregon Builders Association, and EDCO. Our location has allowed us to work across Oregon and, with easy flights out of Redmond, expanded into Arizona, California, the Carolinas, Massachusetts, and Montana.
EDCO: Do you have a recent development you’d like to share?
Peter: I’m pretty excited about a new project that recently broke ground in Redmond called Midtown Place on the corner of 5th Street & Greenwood. It’s a 47-unit workforce housing project developed by Housing Works as part of the City’s Mid-Town Plan. It took a lot of collaboration and community engagement to make it happen, and it’s going to transform that area and meet a housing need!
EDCO: How have you been affected by the pandemic and what have you learned?
Peter: We keep a balance of private and publicly funded work to respond to the economy’s ebbs and flows. When the economy is good we typically see more private work and during recessions, we historically do more public work. The unforeseen impacts of COVID affected both client types equally, causing a significant shock to our business. $1m worth of projects went on hold in a few short weeks when COVID came to Oregon. Our healthcare, non-profit and senior living clients were focused on COVID response. We’re just starting to see an uptick in clients moving forward, including some essential healthcare projects using CARES funding.
This pandemic has reminded me of the importance of being flexible and always having a Plan B and Plan C. My team has done a fantastic job supporting me and the business – from adjusting to remote working and changing workload demands to thinking critically about how our designs must adapt. Luckily, we had remote workers before the pandemic, so our team was already comfortable using video conferencing. Now, most of our clients and project partners are too, although we miss the connections you can only make in person!
EDCO: Have you worked on any COVID 19 related initiatives to support neighbors and the community?
Peter: Helping communities is our mission. In March, our team organized a letter-writing campaign for Cascades of Bend Senior Living. On top of COVID, Cascades of Bend was undergoing a renovation we designed. Our team and their family and neighbors wrote over 100 letters to the staff and residents to bring a little joy during an uncertain time. Team members have volunteered at NeighborImpact packing food boxes, donated to Red Cross in a staff fundraising campaign, and are currently doing a food drive and warm weather clothing collection for the Shepherd’s House warming shelter. Both NeighborImpact and Shepherd’s House are clients.
EDCO: How do you support EDCO and why?
Peter: Pinnacle is an EDCO member because we feel their work is vital to shaping how our community grows. During the last recession, Central Oregon was hit hard. Because of EDCO’s focus on helping diversify our area’s industry, drawing a mix of business and workforce to Central Oregon, I feel our community will recover better.