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Collaboration from Concept to Completion
CTA, Inc. celebrates 75 years designing some of the Flathead’s most recognizable buildings
Rich Baars, left, and Gerry Nichols-Pagel work on mapping out an energy model at CTA Architects Engineers in Kalispell. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Drive from Whitefish to Lakeside and you can’t avoid seeing the work of CTA, Inc.’s architects and engineers. The Flathead Valley is a literal portfolio for the company, including the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Sportsman and Ski Haus in Kalispell and the Tamarack Brewing Company in Lakeside.

This month, the Billings-based architectural and engineering firm celebrates its 75th anniversary. Part owner and Kalispell branch manager David Mitchell said the company’s longevity can be partly attributed to its commitment to the communities in which it works. CTA has offices in Kalispell, Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Livingston, and Helena and employs more than 150 people in the state. There are also offices in Texas, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. The company has 365 employees, with 13 based in Kalispell.

In June 1938, structural engineer Ralph Cushing and architect Everett Terrell founded CTA, then known as Cushing and Terrell Architects-Engineers. Mitchell said the marriage of architects and engineers under one roof is what makes CTA unique among its competitors.

“You normally have to bring in five or six different consultants to make an entire team,” Mitchell said. “But with CTA, we’re all right here and on the same server … We have a broad group of people to serve our clients.”

Because of CTA’s diverse team, the firm is involved in the building process from concept to completion, Mitchell said. Once a building is done, the company provides consultants to make sure that all of the systems are working properly, including aspects such as air-conditioning, heating and ventilation.

Air and heating systems are the focus of mechanical engineer Gerry Nichols-Pagel. Currently, Nichols-Pagel is working on the heating system for the new St. John’s Lutheran Hospital in Libby, now called Cabinet Peaks Medical Center. Designing a heating system for the hospital proved challenging at first, because Libby is not connected to a natural gas line and extending the pipeline from Kalispell would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The alternative is electrically powered boilers, something that fit in well with the design because Nichols-Pagel was able to work closely with architects.

“It can be a challenge, but it’s a lot easier when you have good people and it’s less of an issue when you have everyone under the same roof and speaking the same language,” he said.

A group of architects in CTA’s Boise office that specializes in medical facilities designed the Libby hospital. The Kalispell office then took over the management of the project since it is closer. Mitchell said technology makes it easier for businesses to work on projects in other areas and half of the Kalispell employees are working on jobs in other states.

Mitchell himself works on government projects, like schools, fire stations and public buildings. One of the biggest challenges designing and engineering a government building is meeting budget. A few years ago, CTA led the design of the new Glacier High School in Kalispell.
“It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding,” he said.

David Mitchell talks about CTA Architects Engineers growth while at the company’s Kalispell offices on Main Street. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon


Currently, CTA is working on the extension of The Wave fitness and aquatic center in Whitefish and the Kalispell Brewing Company. Located on the corner of Fourth and Main Street, the brewing company hopes to open in August. Co-owner Maggie Doherty said they worked with CTA for about five months on the design of 9,000-square-foot building’s remodel.

“CTA provided us with an amazing vision for our building,” Doherty said. “We fell in love with the building, but it really took CTA to realize its full potential … They have given us a vision and we can’t wait to see it come off the page.”

Collaboration inside the company and with its clients is why CTA has succeeded and lasted 75 years, Mitchell said. In the future, Mitchell sees CTA continuing to establish itself in the communities it calls home, while working on projects all over the world. CTA currently has design projects in South Korea, Ireland and Mexico.

“It’s all about collaboration and that’s what drives us. Sitting down with designers and clients and coming up with solutions,” he said. “Anybody can make a building look good, but to combine energy efficiency, esthetic and budget, that takes a great team.”
 
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