MKSK Becomes an Employee-Owned Company

Greenville Reedy River Redevelopment Area & Unity Park - Credit MKSK

Greenville Reedy River Redevelopment Area & Unity Park - Credit MKSK

MKSK, Inc., is proud to announce that it has become an employee-owned company through the creation of a new Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

MKSK, the 29-year-old national award-winning, landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm, announced that it has created an employee stock ownership plan to provide long-term ownership and organizational stability that will ensure that talent stays intact to serve the company’s clients and secure the company’s future for its employees and the local communities where it practices.

Through MKSK’s ESOP, employees will earn shares in the business while working for the company. The ESOP benefit is funded entirely by company contributions and requires no out-of-pocket investment by employees. It enables all employees to share in the firm’s long-term growth and success. Under this plan, ownership of the company is held in the ESOP Trust, and all employees participate. This is designed as a long-term retirement benefit, with the employees’ accounts increasing as the value of the business increases.

“The move to an ESOP will only enhance the creative design and planning leadership of MKSK,” said Brian Kinzelman, FASLA, AICP, LEED AP, who will continue in his current position as CEO. The company’s principals also believe that by investing in the current professional team, they will be able to continue to attract and develop the best emerging design and planning talent in the industry and help them build the necessary leadership qualities to become the next generation of leaders.

“As we look to the future, our practice is increasingly in demand as we face the societal challenges of our time,” Kinzelman continued. “We have been intentional in adding talent to our team, and the retention of these incredible professionals ensures our ability to continually address our communities’ needs. This ownership structure provides for the long-term stability of this group of colleagues, continuation of the practice past the founding generation and increased service to our clients.”

MKSK, which employs 100 people, has experienced great growth — doubling in size over the last decade, making it larger than most landscape-architecture firms, which have an average size of less than 10 employees. While the company has goals for more expansion, it plans to remain purely a landscape-architecture firm, believing that in doing so, it will stay true to its mission of focusing on what is right for each community and each client on every project.

MKSK operates a network of seven metropolitan studios in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina. The company works in cities to reimagine, plan and design urban environments for the enjoyment of all.

“I am privileged to work with our gifted designers and planners, and it is an honor to pass the firm ownership and future leadership to our employees. I am extremely excited about our bright future together,” said Tim Schmalenberger, FASLA, and a Principal and COO. “MKSK has a strong collaborative philosophy which allows us to bring diverse talents together to create successful projects. The MKSK approach has always focused on exceeding expectations through creativity, community and teamwork.”

Some of the company’s most well-known projects across the country include: • Scioto Greenways, Columbus, Ohio: This award-winning, transformational park design reconnected downtown to the Scioto River waterfront by restoring the natural river channel and creating 33 acres of new green space, 1.5 miles of additional multi-use paths and bikeway connectors, and new launch points for recreational river access for canoeing and kayaking. MKSK developed the master plan for the Scioto Greenways and was the Landscape Architect for the design and implementation.

• Greenville Reedy River Redevelopment Area & Unity Park, Greenville, South Carolina; MKSK and the City of Greenville partnered on an innovative approach to equitable development and public space planning on the west side of Greenville, South Carolina. MKSK prepared a district plan for parks and open space in the Reedy River floodplain and an affordable housing and equitable development plan for the neighborhoods surrounding the river and future park. This comprehensive approach to parks and community planning provided the foundation for social and environmental equity in the culturally rich neighborhoods west of downtown Greenville and also provided a model for urban floodplain management and green infrastructure.

• Blue Ash Summit Park, Blue Ash, Ohio: The Summit Park Master Plan was created to guide the future development and adaptive re-use of 230 acres of highly valuable former airport lands near the geographic center of the city of Blue Ash, Ohio. MKSK led the planning process, which involved significant stakeholder involvement, a series of public meetings and workshops, and a thorough market analysis intended to inform a highly active, revenue-neutral program for the city’s new “Central Park.”

• Tulsa Arena District Master Plan, Tulsa, Oklahoma: The Arena District Master Plan will help guide the City of Tulsa and its partners in developing improvements to the district’s public realm and incentivizing private development. This master planning process assessed the current state of the Arena District, evaluated the potential of public infrastructure investments, created a system of engaging public spaces and streets, identified opportunities for private development, and provided a market-based and phased roadmap for future decisions.

MKSK has formed a new Board of Directors of Principal practice leaders, with Brian Kinzelman, FASLA, AICP, LEED AP serving as the company CEO and Tim Schmalenberger, FASLA, serving as COO. The board makeup will also include MKSK Principals, Chris Hermann, AICP, and Darren Meyer, PLA, AICP. Cara Bobcheck, senior director, Insight and Strategy at Global Prairie, Washington, D.C., will serve as the outside board member.

MKSK will also benefit from the strategic advice of an Advisory Board, including Chris Ronayne, President of University Circle, Cleveland Ohio; Paul Russell, Director of Landscape Architecture Graduate Programs & Associate Professor at the Clemson School of Architecture, Clemson, South Carolina; and CK Satyapriya, President and CEO of CTL Engineering, Columbus, Ohio.

An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a retirement plan that enables employees to own the firm where they work through a qualified trust. Established in 1974, there are about 6,700 ESOP businesses in America, employing more than 13 million employee owners (source www.nceo.org).

About MKSK
MKSK (formed in 2011 from a merger of MSI Design and KKG, both founded in 1990) is a collective of 100 landscape architects, urban designers and planners who are passionate about the interaction between people and place. MKSK is a national award-winning practice with a network of seven metropolitan studios in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina. MKSK approaches planning and design with a clear understanding that each place is unique and has economic, social, environmental, historical, and cultural influences, which should be explored through thoughtful, contextual, sensitive design. MKSK works in cities to reimagine, plan, and design dynamic urban environments for the betterment of all. MKSK are strategic thinkers and bold innovators who celebrate the power of collaboration to plan and build authentic places. MKSK partners with clients to create places that are socially connected, ecologically responsive, and economically sustainable. For more information, visit the company website: https://www.mkskstudios.com/

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