Elegant design for practical spaces
by Virginia Lindauer Simmon
Tyler Scott, majority owner and managing partner of Scott + Partners Inc. in Essex Junction, moved to Vermont from Montana in 1984 and incorporated his architecture firm in 1993.
Tyler Scott comes from “a whole family of attorneys down in the Washington, D.C., area.” He grew up near there, in Maryland, although all of his summers were spent in Montana, where the family’s roots really were. That’s because Scott’s grandfather Burton K. Wheeler had moved from Montana to D.C. in 1922, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1946.
“Every summer when school got out, we’d get on the plane, then train, for Montana, and when school started, we’d come back,” says Scott. For five summers following high school, he worked on a trail crew at Glacier National Park for the National Park Service. “It was a dream job, really,” he says. “We were a somewhat undisciplined bunch of guys whose roles were to clear trails, fight fires, and do rescue work.”
Scott did not opt for the Washington lawyer career path. “Did you ever spend your life with a bunch of attorneys?” he asks with a laugh. “They’re a contentious bunch. I was not an arguer.”
He chose instead to follow his love of buildings and study architecture at Kent State University in Ohio, graduating in 1977 with a bachelor of science in environmental design.
“There wasn’t a lot of work in Ohio,” he says, “certainly not in architecture, so I worked in construction there for a year and a half.”
Washington state, however, was booming, and Scott decided to join friends who had traveled to the Tri-Cities area in the southeastern part of the state. He headed west, coincidentally at the same time his girlfriend, Jane Reese, landed a job in the Seattle area. Scott found work with a Ridgeland architect named Jon Anderson.
“Jon had projects in Washington and up in Alaska,” says Scott. “They were mostly schools for what was then the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Jon was, by percentage and technical standards, American Indian, so he qualified for preferential hiring by the federal government.”
He recalls his 18 months with Anderson as a lot of fun, particularly the trips to Alaska. Many of the school projects, he says, were “way out there — waaayyy out there! We’d even fly 737s out through the Bering Sea and land on gravel runways. We went all seasons — in June, in the fall, and in the dead of winter. The dead of winter was a little bit dicey flying out to these villages, but as a young guy, you don’t worry about these things.”
That area of Washington was not that appealing, though, says Scott, and wanting to pursue his bachelor of architecture, which he needed in order to become licensed, he decided to move to Montana, where his brother was living. In 1980, he and Jane left for Bozeman.
He found work with architects and in construction there while he studied at Montana State University, earning his bachelor of architecture, which would be followed by a master’s degree in 2008. He and Jane married in ’81, and he graduated in 1983.
“I worked there for another year,” says Scott, “but a pretty bad recession hit and Montana was losing population.” Expecting their first child, he and Jane decided to move back east.
“We wanted to be somewhere north, to be in the mountains.” After a flurry of letters and interviews in New Hampshire and Vermont, Scott received an offer from Burlington architect Colin Lindberg.
Seeking an attorney to help with the closing on a house in Essex Junction, Scott called his cousin, Montpelier lawyer Bob Fairbanks, “my one and only relative in the state.” Fairbanks recommended Randy Amis.
“He’s really good at what he does, but you’d never know it, because he’s very self-effacing and humble about how good he is,” says Amis.
Scott worked with Lindberg for a little over three years. “I think I left in January of ’88,” he says, “because Ralph left a little earlier, and I wanted to get through Christmas.”
“Ralph” is Ralph O’Mara-Garcia, with whom Scott started a firm they called Shelter Design on Swift Street in South Burlington. They worked together until 1993, when O’Mara-Garcia took a job with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (now part of Homeland Security).
“I never liked the name Shelter Design much,” he says. “When Ralph left to work for the government, I re-formed the company as Scott + Partners Inc.”
By this time, the offices had moved to 20 Main St. in Essex Junction, where it has remained — and grown. “We’ve tripled the space inside the building,” says Scott, who confesses that, even at the current 1,400 square feet, the firm is bursting at the seams. “We need about twice that much,” he continues, acknowledging that his landlords, the partners of the accounting firm of Bilodeau Wells & Co., which is also growing, can’t release any more space.
Architect John Alden, Scott’s business partner, joined the firm in 1999. Working with them is one other architect, Joel Page, plus six staffers, including Estelle Nelson, the office manager, with whom Scott also worked at Lindberg’s office. Scott hired her part time when she was seeking to return to the workforce after having a child, and she eventually came on full time.
The firm handles an eclectic mix of projects, but does no single-family residential work. “We did years ago,” says Scott, adding with a chuckle, “but that takes a level of patience I don’t have. There are architects in this area who are very good at it, and I’m very happy, when someone calls us to do a house, to give them names.”
The firm does a lot of work for Fletcher Allen Health Care — “everything from cardiac cath [catheterization] labs to outpatient clinics to inpatient facilities to surgery suites,” Scott says. “Fletcher Allen requires things to work well, because the efficiency of their operations depends on that, so you can’t just apply the same old rules to each of these projects.”
Another focus is multi-family affordable housing projects, which Scott + Partners handles for both Housing Vermont and Cathedral Square. “We’re currently completing a project in two phases — 69 units total — in Burlington’s New North End for Cathedral Square, and one for Housing Vermont and Champlain Housing Trust — a 33-unit affordable apartment project.”
Over the years since Scott’s arrival in Vermont, he and Amis have maintained a personal friendship, and their professional lives have intersected through these affordable housing projects. Amis is past president of Champlain Housing Trust and Cathedral Square.
“What I know is that Tyler spends a lot of time doing architectural work for nonprofits like Champlain Housing Trust,” says Amis. “I’ve worked with him on several of them.”
Scott calls the firm’s focus “primarily commercial work, also interiors.” Prominent among recent projects is work on both phases of the Dealer.com expansion. “We did Phase 1 in 2007 and just finished up that addition on the south side of their building, along with the rooftop solarium.”
That addition presented quite a challenge, because Mark Bonfigli of Dealer.com wanted a roof over the fitness room that opened. “First, we had to find a company that actually made them,” says Scott.
“Mark Bonfigli, one day when he and his wife had just got back from Italy, said, ‘We saw one there,’ and I said, ‘Mark, it doesn’t snow in Italy the way it does here.’”
One was eventually found in Sweden, Scott says, “and then there was the challenge of importing it here, making sure it worked with the codes here, and then from an environmental point of view, it opens up to the out-of-doors, so how do you keep the room from overheating? The challenges were extraordinary.”
The result was worth it, he says. “They’re a good client and just wanted to do the right thing for their employees and for the company.”
Other clients include Instrumart and its 14,000-square-foot redo; Heritage Ford & Toyota, which is building a 35,000-square-foot service facility and renovating the sales building; and Counseling Services of Addison County, for whom the firm has renovated various buildings in Middlebury.
“We really enjoy what we do,” Scott says. “We are involved with the new Department of Health project proposed to be built in Colchester just beyond Junior’s, 50,000 square feet as an addition to the UVM science facility.
Outside the office, Scott enjoys fly-fishing and anything outdoors. He and Jane divorced in 2005, but in ’08, he met Dottie Watson when he was working on an addition to the Timberlane Dental Group. She is now director of women’s health services at Fletcher Allen. Randy Amis married them last summer.
This summer, they’re taking their children — Scott’s two, Peter, 27, and Laurel, 25, and Watson’s daughter, Hillary, 19 — to Italy.
Montana still has a place in Scott’s heart. He spends two weeks every summer there to visit his mother and would like to build on the 16 acres he owns in West Glacier, although he confesses it’s kind of odd to leave Vermont in the summer.
As for the future of the business, right now all of the firm’s work is within Vermont. “We may expand at some point into New York or New Hampshire,” he says, “but we don’t want to grow very much more, because I don’t want to become just a full-time administrator.” •