Landscape architects design a major merger

Three landscape architectural firms that have designed some of Lexington's most visible projects have merged to form M2D Design Group.

The individual firms were Morgan McIlwain & Associates; DesignWorks, owned by Mark Arnold; and The Landplan Group; owned by David White.

The new firm becomes the largest landscape architecture and urban planning firm in Kentucky.

The partners, each a licensed landscape architect, bring their own specialty to the new firm: McIlwain in design; Arnold in marketing and client contact; White in construction and office management.

The M2D Design Group, with offices at 400 Old Vine Street, follows a trend among design firms in recent years to achieve greater efficiency through merger.

White said that as owner of a small firm, "You have to do some of everything. We each had to set up bank accounts. We each had to pay the bills. It was very time-consuming. By consolidating, we're more efficient."

The 16-member firm now has seven landscape architects, three landscape designers, two landscape architecture interns, a full-time civil engineer, a full-time marketing specialist and an accountant who comes in to oversee the books. The merger "freed us up to be designers," Arnold said.

The consolidation will allow them "to build the base for a firm that's going to be around for a while," said McIlwain, 61. Arnold is 51, White 43.

Some of their work includes:

Bluegrass Community and Technical College: M2D began work earlier this month on a campus master plan for BCTC when it moves to the 65-acre parcel occupied by Eastern State Hospital at West Fourth Street and Newtown Pike.

Berea College: Design work has been started to remove an old heat plant and utilities building on campus, converting the land into a major greenspace named the John Fee Glade, in honor of the college's founder.

Western Kentucky University: In the conceptual phase are plans for a possible $55 million shooting range that could be used for the 2016 Olympic Games. The range is being designed for archery, riflery, pistol shooting and skeet. If Chicago lands the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, Western will bid to host those shooting events.

Kentucky Horse Park: In preparation for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, a $24 million outdoor stadium designed by EOP Architects is under construction at the Kentucky Horse Park with McIlwain as lead landscape architect.

Blue Grass Airport: The entrance wall was designed by Arnold and DesignWorks, who also designed the airport gates that will be built starting in the spring. The mural on the retaining wall on Versailles Road was designed by The Landplan Group.

Looking ahead, the firm wants to expand outside of Kentucky and develop a client base in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and throughout the Southeast.

M2D will remain focused on campus planning and higher-education projects, streetscapes, parks, trails and bikeways.

"From Pikeville to Paducah, we have designed streetscapes across Kentucky, probably 25 different projects between our firms, pretty major downtown street renovations," Arnold said. "We want to continue working in that area."