KEPHART Celebrates 50th Anniversary

By Bryce Hall, president KEPHART

Every success starts with a vision, and it takes a dedicated team to realize it. In 1974, Mike Kephart envisioned an architectural firm that served the mission that “everyone deserves a well-designed place to live, work, and play.” For 50 years, this philosophy has shaped KEPHART into the design leader it is today. As the firm celebrates its 50th anniversary this week, KEPHART’s President Bryce Hall reflects on each era of KEPHART’s history and the leaders and team integral to the success it enjoys.

When Mike Kephart founded KEPHART in 1974, our firm had just five employees and a small office off Lincoln Street. It was a boots-on-the-ground operation, with every employee pitching in where needed. It was not long after establishing the firm that Mike recognized the need to expand our focus beyond the architecture of the home, and he added land planning to KEPHART’s professional services so we could also focus on the community, and the place each home has within it. 

As Mike used to put it, “The location of a building is key to its identity. Without it, we’re not looking at the bigger picture of the community.”

For the first decade, KEPHART worked primarily in the metro Denver area, and in the mid-‘80s, Mike recognized the need to diversify geographically. He established partnerships to offer integrated professional services in the Midwest and Southeast, establishing our national presence. KEPHART still focuses on geographic diversification, and 35% of our work is executed outside of the state of Colorado. Mike also drove the firm to become an exceptional partner for our clients by providing top-notch service and striving to find additional ways to bring value to their projects. In 1982, KEPHART hosted our first Valentine’s Day party to recognize the clients and consultants so vital to our success, and this event has become a bi-annual tradition that we still honor today.

Fast forward to 2006, two offices and 30 employees later, Mike retired and the ownership and leadership of KEPHART transitioned to Paul Campbell. With Paul’s background in construction, we enhanced our quality control and contract administration services to provide a more comprehensive experience for our clients, and it was during this era that we sharpened our focus on multifamily housing. Paul reinforced the importance of ensuring everyone at KEPHART understood who we are as a firm by reaffirming our mission and clarifying our core values, both of which influence every strategic decision we make today. 

Shortly after moving to our current office in RiNo in 2008, the Great Recession hit. We became a boots-on-the-ground operation once again, relying on our resilience and our core values of commitment to improvement, optimistic spirit, nurturing relationships, collaboration, and transparency to guide us through challenging times. During this time, we heavily invested in our employees, reinforcing our business processes, and investing in our knowledge base and skillsets. We implemented innovative technologies, like Revit, to improve how we work, and we became experts in the nuances of HUD and tax credit projects to become better partners for our clients. Before retiring, Paul divested his ownership, taking on partners and forming an ESOP. When he retired in 2022, he sold his shares, making KEPHART officially employee-owned. We also added Associates for the first time to recognize exemplary team members who are champions of our culture and have shown a deep commitment to the success of the firm. 

When I became president of KEPHART in 2019, the pandemic brought new challenges to our firm. In a time of uncertainty, we battened down the hatches, and it was full steam ahead. We changed how and where we work and, for the first time, hired employees outside of Colorado. Our sights remained high, and we opened our first out-of-state office in Phoenix, Arizona at the end of last year. 

Reflecting on our firm’s history, I see a group of legends who were focused on creating well-designed homes for people to thrive. I could list the awards we have won over the years, but that is not why we design homes. Mike Kephart always said that our reward is the appreciation we get from our clients, and that still rings true for us today. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, we want to honor the legacies that have made us who we are while recognizing our commitment to change. We’ve refreshed our logo to signal the start of our next chapter while still honoring our past. We at KEPHART are excited about the next challenge at hand and what the next 50 years will bring. 

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