5 minutes with Matt Wolfert

Matt Wolfert
Matt Wolfert Credit: Jake Hill

Milwaukee-based Bray Architects is in growth mode, both geographically and in the markets it serves. The firm recently announced a growing footprint in the Quad Cities area with the opening of a new office in Davenport, Iowa, and the acquisition of Moline, Illinois-based design and planning firm Bracke.Hayes.Miller.Mahon, Architects. The acquisition allows Bray to expand in new markets, including religious, mixed-use and tax-credit housing. The approximately 70-employee firm is also mulling an expansion of its Walker’s Point headquarters.

In a recent interview with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Alex Zank, Bray president Matt Wolfert discussed the firm’s recent growth and projects it is working on.

Growing in Quad Cities

“We are a predominantly Wisconsin-based architectural firm that has focused on K-12, higher education, municipal, a little bit of financial and some corporate (projects), but we didn’t have access to a lot of other geographic markets. About two years ago, we identified a number of key markets we’d grow into geographically, with Iowa being one of them. And the reason is the way they fund public school construction … Overall, Wisconsin does larger projects when times are good and voters approve (referendums), but Iowa funds things on a more stable, consistent basis. Both markets are important to us but the stability of Iowa is of great appeal to help offset the big swings up (and) down that Wisconsin brings.

“The acquisition of BHMM really came from about seven or eight years ago, when we had some early conversations with them about pursuing projects in partnership. None of those projects came to fruition … but we developed an early relationship with them that was positive. They re-approached us about a year ago it’s been now; they were looking to merge and grow their operations in Iowa and Illinois. We found that they fit well with us culturally.”

Milwaukee expansion 

“We have acquired the property to the north of us (821 S. First St.) … and are in the process of abating and we’ll eventually be demolishing that building to support the future growth and expansion of the firm and of the (headquarters) building.

“We can’t say unequivocally yet (when) we’re going to start … but we are to the point of saying that we are exploring expansion opportunities, one of which will be directly adjacent to us … Much of that will be dictated by how many team members we plan to add in the years ahead, and we’re kind of in the process of going through that strategic planning now.”

Current projects

“Right now, we have a number of great projects going on in the office. Probably the largest we’re involved with is a new high school in the Sun Prairie Area School District. It’s a great project that’s currently in the design phase – a well-over $100 million project … The other one that’s local, and one that’s close to our hearts, is Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (a $33 million, 100,000-square-foot school at 1818 W. National Ave.). We’ve spent the last couple years planning and conceptualizing, and now we’re in the construction phase.”

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.