One Madison Park architect downsizes

By Lynne Miller | January 29, 2009 01:01PM

As development projects shrink in scope and number, Cetra/Ruddy, the architectural firm behind One Madison Park, has reduced its staff by 15 percent over the past year.

The cuts were “across the board,” including architectural designers and employees on the administrative side, said Nancy Ruddy, who founded the Soho company with her husband, John Cetra, in 1987.

She declined to say how many employees currently work at the prolific New York architectural firm, though she noted that at the end of 2007 into early 2008, there were 90 people on the payroll.

“We’re downsizing like everyone else,” she said. “We call it rightsizing. All our core people are still here. We’ve never been a hire-and-fire firm.”

Several other firms have been cutting staff due to the construction slowdown, including Skidmore Owings & Merrill, FXFowle Architects and Perkins Eastman.

Cetra/Ruddy, whose work includes One Madison Park and 77 Hudson, plans to take other steps to cut costs such as requiring all employees to pay a percentage of their health care premiums, Ruddy said. In the last six months, the firm trimmed its budget for utilities, office supplies and other office purchases by 20 percent.

While Cetra/Ruddy’s portfolio includes hotels, offices, interior renovations and institutional work, including four projects for the Bronx Zoo, the company in recent years has became more well known for its work developing luxurious condominium towers. At the height of the building boom, condos represented at least 50 percent of Cetra/Ruddy’s practice, Ruddy said.

“We’ve only had one of our condominium projects stop,” she said, declining to identify the project. Several others are under construction and moving forward including One Madison Park, 77 Hudson, 141 Fifth Avenue and 40 East 66th Street. Such projects, though, are not a reflection of current market conditions since they could have been started before the credit crisis hit.

In a typical year, the company tackles from 20 to 30 projects. The firm expects smaller renovations to take the place of big developments this year, Ruddy said. Cetra/Ruddy’s only big project is a high-end, 150,000-square-foot waterfront residence in Cochin, India.

Large New York-based projects “are not coming along for us or for anybody,” Ruddy said. “For us, it’s about doing smaller projects for our clients and getting through this year.”