Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the May 13 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Lance Weatherton has grown the Rogers office of Retail Design Collaborative (RDC), formerly P+R Architects, from two employees to 13 in less than two years. As regional director, Weatherton oversees the 2,500-square-foot office above Victoria’s Secret at Pinnacle Hills Promenade.
Weatherton joined the Long Beach, Calif.-based design firm in July 2017 after nearly 10 years at Bentonville-based Harrison French & Associates (HFA). There, he was program manager and spent about half his time working at 7-Eleven headquarters in Dallas. HFA handled all 7-Eleven store designs in the United States and Canada for about five years, and he worked as a liaison between the companies.
The Little Rock native was project manager for Miller Boskus Lack Architects when he was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class in 2003. He joined the architecture firm in 2000 and worked there for seven years before he was recruited to HFA.
A recruiter called Weatherton about the opportunity with RDC, a firm with nearly 200 employees in four U.S. offices and a Shanghai office. He found the firm would be a good fit for him as the position reminded him of the one he had after he graduated, and it allowed him the opportunity to have a hand in all aspects of projects.
Weatherton, 49, is charged with managing and growing the office, and he would like to double the square footage of the existing office to accommodate the growth. The Rogers office has three architects, and all employees have a hand in each project.
“I wanted to build the office and give the staff here, the staff that I recruited, the opportunities that I had when I got out of school,” he said. “It’s not the typical when you graduate, they stick you in a corner, and you do window details. And you do the mundane. I want to provide you opportunities to really, really learn about the practice early in your career so you understand fully what it takes to be in an architectural practice.
“A lot of architects around here, especially a lot of younger students or graduates, don’t get the opportunity to do a lot of this stuff. And with us having offices in Long Beach, south of L.A., here centrally in the U.S., up in the East Coast and in Shanghai, collaboration is in our DNA.”
Weatherton’s favorite aspects of his position include the teamwork and to provide staff with opportunities. The opportunity to work at RDC has been the highlight of his career thus far, and he noted the technology it has that a smaller firm might not have, such as virtual reality, 3-D printers and laser scanners.
Weatherton said the office has shifted to a more diverse portfolio of projects over the past year. About 20% of the work it’s been doing is for Walmart, but a year ago, it was 80%. The goal is to have about 50% of its work for Walmart.
Other clients include real estate services firm Brookfield Properties, upscale grocery store Erewhon and a smaller developer on the West Coast. The Erewhon market in Los Angeles, a boutique movie theater in California and the redevelopment of a department store in Chicago are some of the key projects in the works. RDC is working on about 1 million square feet of mall redevelopment projects.
Over the next three to five years, Weatherton hopes to continue growing the Rogers office, be promoted to principal and become more connected to the University of Arkansas and the community. He also hopes to build a Studio One Eleven team at the Rogers office. Studio One Eleven is a brand of RDC and handles community and urban projects, he said. RDC has been at the existing Rogers office for about eight years. Before that, it had an office at World Trade Center Arkansas for about 10 years.
RDC plans to collaborate with homeless day shelter Genesis House in Siloam Springs for the second phase of the organization’s tiny home development.
Weatherton enjoys traveling with his wife, Stacia, and has two stepsons. He’s president of the homeowners association for Lakewood in Fayetteville.