Published April 15, 2008
Volume 16, Number 4

Bigger Quarters Help BKF Engineers Expand Local Presence;
90-plus years focusing on the nuances of the development and public infrastructure business

BKF Engineers played a key role in the creation of San Jose’s popular
Santana Row. The company recently relocated to larger offices in Hacienda.

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Having celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2006, BKF (Brian Kangas Foulk) certainly knows its way around northern California. Almost a century’s worth of operation has not only given the civil engineering firm granular familiarity with the terrain; it has also presented the opportunity to participate in many of the landmark projects that have shaped the direction of today’s built environment—from Santana Row and Stanford Shopping Center to Oracle’s world headquarters and the Vasona Light Rail extension.

A few months ago, the firm reshaped a piece of its own environment when it moved into expanded quarters at 4670 Willow Road, after roughly seven years in smaller offices elsewhere in Hacienda. The new space boosts capacity to 45, allowing plenty of room for the 32-person Pleasanton staff to grow. BKF headquarters are in Redwood City, and offices in San Jose, Walnut Creek, and Sacramento extend its northern California reach. “In our business it’s important to have a local presence,” observes CEO David LaVelle. “Our multiple offices allow us to be tuned into the needs of the different communities we serve.”

With the firm’s long track record, LaVelle is well positioned to cast a seasoned eye on the state of today’s development. It’s always been cyclical in the region, he observes, but certain constants have emerged. For one thing, even though a project might languish on the drawing board for a few years during a downturn, once business activity starts to pick up, the steady influx of new Californians is likely to propel it forward again. “Every year another 350,000 people move into the state. They all have to live, work, and shop somewhere,” he remarks.

Appearance is also becoming more and more important. In northern California in particular, “we’re very focused on making sure projects have amenities like landscaping or set-backs to provide the feeling of open space,” he notes. The higher standards do drive up costs, but they also result in a much more attractive product. Part of the trade-off is higher density on other portions of the property, which in turn is giving traction to the new generation of mixed-use environments that combine office and retail space with much-needed housing.

“We find cities embrace mixed use,” says LaVelle. It allows them to fulfill their obligation to create more housing, while adding to their revenue-generating retail base. The new projects are also popular among residents. “People like to live close to a place they can walk to for coffee, and perhaps do a little shopping or go to the movies.” Santana Row, with its multiple meeting places, many of them outdoors, serves as a good example of the “destination feel” that attentive mixed-use planning and design can produce.

Another example is the development currently under construction around the Dublin Transit Center site in Dublin. “It’s a big project for us in the area, incorporating a lot of new housing densely built around the BART station,” he comments. 

For more information about the full range of BKF’s civil engineering, master planning, and surveying services, visit the firm’s web site at www.bkf.com.

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