Integrated Services Firm Collaborates on Unique Projects
Stories of world-renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, aren’t usually on a fourth-grader’s summer reading list. But for Brian Walsh, president and CEO of The Collage Companies, their stories were the groundwork for his own.
“My passion for design and building started when I was a young boy, redesigning the floor plans in the Sunday newspaper and reading books on construction or great architects,” Walsh said. In 1982, Walsh’s homework paid off. He founded The Collage Companies, a Lake Mary design-build firm where he could deliver both design and construction to his clients. From concept to completion, the firm teams with architects and engineers to provide turnkey services that bring to life both the form and function of a project. “We felt strongly that an integrated process incorporating all key individuals of the design-build process provided the best solution for the project and best value for the client,” Walsh said. That integrated process and all the key individuals come together in Walsh’s vision to create a collage, combining creativity and technical skills across industries that make the most unique projects possible.
The collage also refers to the firm’s diverse portfolio of clients and projects. With completed builds in nearly every sector — including commercial, religious, transportation, education, hospitality, and parks and sports — Collage recently earned the recognition of being named one of GrowFL’s Companies to Watch.
A Family Affair
After so many projects and more than 35 years of service, keeping the passion of that young boy scrawling new designs in the Sunday newspaper might be attributed to the company’s steady focus on family. Walsh’s daughter, a photographer, handles Collage’s photography and imaging, and his son works as a preconstruction engineer and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in real estate development. But they aren’t the only people he includes in his definition of family at Collage.
“We are not a typical family-owned business,” Walsh said. “Collage has current and future leadership that has been with the company for many years, and we are serious about treating our employees as family. In fact, we are beginning the process to transition to an employee-owned business in 2020. It’s important to create an atmosphere of ownership and a real opportunity for growth to see a business thrive beyond the life of the founder.”
Trust, adaptability, communication and due diligence in the industries they work across are the cornerstones of the work, but the heart of it is Collage’s mission statement: “To build projects that strengthen the foundation and fabric of our community.”
While the firm’s work across sectors boasts impressive projects that include the Lynx Central Station and the Florida Municipal Power Agency building, both in Orlando, and Northland Church in Longwood, it is the firm’s work in hospitality that has been making the biggest splashes lately. The firm provided design build services for a new multi-story Hyatt Place on Vilano Beach in St. Augustine in an Art Deco architectural style that features two levels of underground parking, a full banquet facility, a rooftop lounge, a pool and an entertainment level. Collage’s portfolio also includes another hospitality complex in downtown St. Augustine, three new Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Central Florida, the Aloft by Marriott Lake Buena Vista near Walt Disney World, and projects with Hilton, IHG and Wyndham.
Strengthening the Fabric
In 1955, the first integrated Little League baseball game in the South was played at Lake Lorna Doone, with the all-black Pensacola Jaycees and all-white Orlando Kiwanis stepping onto the field. The fabric of the community is woven by stories like this one, so it was only natural that Collage would find itself working on the revitalization efforts for the 12-acre Lake Lorna Doone Park near Camping World Stadium and an iconic fountain that stands at its center.
The fountain will “forever be a symbol of the vibrant spirit of the people living in the Communities of West Lakes,” said Walsh, who has committed to funding the estimated $50,000 needed to design, build and install the fountain. The revitalization, which started in June 2019, has been spearheaded by the West Lake Partnership, which represents the West Lakes neighborhoods, along with residents, the City of Orlando and Florida Citrus Sports.
“We realize that as a company we have been blessed to grow and build our history in Central Florida and to be able to live out our mission ‘to build projects that strengthen the foundation and fabric of our community,’” Walsh said. “We have been able to walk alongside and help many great organizations and ministries do great work. We also realize it’s our responsibility to give back to the people in Central Florida and to those organizations that help and empower those people.”