In addition to showcasing the incredible work of the firm from the past year, we are shining a light on the people, memories and stories that give life to the work we do.
We had the opportunity to chat with several individuals from our ESa team to reflect on projects, accomplishments and memorable moments.
Featured in this article are:
Allie Bierman– Interior Design Team
Charlie Jorgensen– Principal
Jill Romano– Principal
Katie Koretchko– Interior Design Team
Lee Davis– Principal
Phillip Powers– Senior Design Manager
Tara Myers– Risk Manager/Principal
Tripp Parker – Project Manager
Wilson Sawyer– Architecture Team
2023 had a lot to be thankful for.
As we reflect on the past year there are many things to be thankful for. Our leadership and team members come to mind in addition to our clients and consultants we have had the privilege to work with. What are some things you are thankful for and what made an impact on you most during 2023?
Jill Romano: Reflecting on the past year, I am thankful for the firm’s leadership and the appointment of a new set of principals. I am grateful and humbled to be included in that group and thankful for the larger message it sends about the direction of the firm. It shows there are multiple paths to leadership at ESa and that we are focused on not only who we are but also who we want to be in the future.
Katie Koretchko: I am thankful for the incredible leadership of the firm, in particular the leadership in the interiors department. Tom Bauman and Alana Morris lead our designers with professionalism and care encouraging mentorship at every turn. I work most directly with Alana and am so thankful for her guidance.
Interior Design Team Members pictured at their Thanksgiving Party
Tara Myers: I continue to see ESa grow and our next generation of leaders stepping up and I am so thankful for that. At our recent firm update address, it was incredible to see leaders from all sectors give updates on the many projects we are designing. We have so much talent on our team, and it makes me feel like the future of the firm is strong.
Annual Firm Update
Charlie Jorgensen: I have been thankful for our emerging professionals and how they have continued to grow and take more leading roles on projects. Focused constantly on mentorship, we put a lot of time and energy into giving team members opportunities to learn and grow. A recent project comes to mind when a designer took the lead on a project and ran with it. It was inspiring to see the level of dedication, hard-work and mentorship come to life in this way. This was a great opportunity for this designer, but also a bell-weather moment for how our overall culture of mentorship is preparing the next generation to take on leadership roles.
Phillip Powers: This year I was able to attend the Trevecca Nazarene University Presidential Dinner with my wife and it was a wonderful evening. ESa has been a close partner to Trevecca, and with all the recent work the campus has never seen as much construction and investment.
For the dinner we were seated close to the front, and they had me stand-up to be recognized as they spoke about the firm’s impact on the campus and our lasting relationship. The President, CFO and the Dean of Students were specific in their praise of ESa and commented on the over twenty-year partnership we have shared. People even came up to me afterwards to introduce themselves and were so excited to meet one of the architects. It was special to see the true impact ESa and our team have had on this campus community and how the fruits of our labor have grown over the years.
If you aren’t having fun, what’s the point?
Share with us some fun or memorable stories from the past year. What are some things that put a smile on your face?
Jill Romano: One of the most fun things from this past year was part of the Arthur M. Blank Hospital project for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta when I and a bunch of other team members were able to climb up the large tower crane. If you happen to be afraid of heights this would have been an unsettling experience, but the view from the top was incredible.
Design team members of the Arthur M. Blank Hospital project for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Another fun story, also from the Arthur M. Blank Hospital project for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, involves a punch-list and scaring ESa principal Meghan Hartwell. For context, in the gift shop at the new hospital, there is a cabinet designed to store helium tanks for inflating balloons. I was looking at the cabinet and realized that Meghan was coming to meet us but wasn’t there yet, and I thought let’s prank her. Kristin Green hopped into the closet and closed the door just as Meghan was rounding the corner. She walks in and I asked her what is this strange little closet for? Meghan walks over and opens the door and Kristin jumps out to scare here. Meghan jumped and screamed louder than any of us had heard before, and we all had a good laugh. I think that is one of the funniest things I have seen on a job site in years!
Katie Koretchko: As part of an adaptive-reuse office project I am working on I selected a wall sconce that I thought would be so beautiful in the space. It had a rugged look, almost like cast-in-place concrete and it reflected the context well. I was looking into the specifications before sending it over to the engineer and then I found out that it was made of mushrooms. We ended up going a different direction, but you can imagine my surprise when I learned what this wall sconce was made of!
Lee Davis: A fun and inspiring story from the past year involved Tripp Parker. This is my moment to throw some favor his way. During the Tempo by Hilton project, he embraced the responsibility of understanding and owning the parking garage façade.
Members of the Tempo by Hilton team attending the topping out ceremony
Now the fun part is that during the project, whenever mention of the parking garage would come up, I would say without fail, “that’s Tripp’s garage”. I’m sure that drove him crazy. When all was said and done it was completed, looked great and was an even better solution than a typical garage screen system. He put in the effort, and put up with my reminders, and delivered on what is now the central wayfinding element of the project.
Tempo by Hilton
Work hard, play hard.
Outside of the work we do at ESa, what are some exciting things you did while off the clock this year? Go on any adventures?
Katie Koretchko: This year I took a trip to Glacier National Park. I went with my husband and his family, and it was a wonderful adventure. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been. We went hiking, paddle boarding and enjoyed the majestic scenery. It was summertime when we went but the temperature was nice, and the weather was crisp and beautiful. We also saw a lot of wildlife including mountain goats, marmots and even a grizzly bear cub.
Katie and her husband in Glacier National Park
Wilson Sawyer: My wife and I love to travel, and this year we spent about nine days in Scotland. The country was tremendously beautiful, and we will certainly be returning soon.
Tara Myers: My mother turned 80 this year and I took her on a train ride from Vancouver to Banff, Canada to celebrate. The trip saw us traveling through the Canadian Rockies and we got to see some of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine. During the trip you would ride the train during the day and then in the evenings you would stop off in various towns to explore and sleep in hotels. Part of the experience was that the cars had tour guides who doubled as story tellers and would narrate the trip along the way.
Tara, pictured right, with her mother
Phillip Powers: My wife Melanie and I have been traveling a lot over the last five years. Last year we took a trip to Portugal which was incredible. This year we unfortunately did not travel internationally but were able to take a trip to the Northeast to see the fall foliage. We explored Vermont, New Hampshire and visited the coast of Massachusetts including Cape Cod and Nantucket.
Phillip and his wife at Heart Lake in Vermont
Charlie Jorgensen: I coach both of my son’s traveling soccer teams, and this year was special because my youngest son started. They are six and seven years old and it is so cool to see them come out and play and to be able to be there with them is great. It was funny, and I’ll never forget this, that for one of their first practices we ended it short so we could ease them into the longer training schedule. But they ended up being so mad that they had to stop playing while the older kids got to keep going. It is so refreshing to see their energy, motivation, and love for the game.
The past year was about community.
Whether giving back to the community or fostering a healthy firm culture, this year saw many ESa firmwide and sponsored events. What were your favorites from this past year?
Jill Romano: When it comes to ESa firm-wide events, I am a huge fan of our annual holiday party at Top Golf. Since we have started going to Top Golf in particular, I think the event has grown and become more fun than ever. It’s so important to have time for us all to gather and let our hair down. The work we do can be stressful and it is important to reconnect with each other and to have some fun!
2023 ESa Holiday Party at Top Golf
Part of this annual event I really like is the firm update meeting that takes place the morning of the holiday party. It is so awesome to get the chance to see what projects are underway, how things are going overall and get a sense of what others at the firm are working on.
Tara Myers: I always love Gingertown and the Cornhole Tournament and this year was no different.
Gulch Crossing Cornhole Tournament
Another new event I was involved with is an ESa sponsored program, working with ULI (Urban Land Institute), that is similar to the ACE (architecture, construction and engineering) program but centered on urban planning. The program is called Urban Plan and teaches high school and college aged students along with local leaders about urban planning and development, a relevant topic to Nashville today. I have really enjoyed engaging with the community and students in a dialogue about urban planning and the impact it has on our city.
Wilson Sawyer: My favorite event from this past year was the holiday party where I was recognized for my 10-year anniversary. I received many warm congratulations and some hilarious shoutouts from great times over the years.
Wilson at the Annual ESa Holiday Party, celebrating his 10-year anniversary
Lee Davis: From this past year I most enjoyed the Gingertown event. I have taken a leading role in this event for a while now and I like how it encourages a positive camaraderie between local design and construction firms.
Lee and his daughter participating in the building event for Gingertown
Charlie Jorgensen: My favorite event from this past year would have to be the ESa family picnic at the Nashville Zoo. It is always so nice to get to see everyone from the office and meet their families. This event is always a hit with my family, and we love the laid-back nature of getting the afternoon to explore the zoo and then have a picnic dinner to end the day.
Tripp Parker: Gingertown is one of my favorite events of the year. I loved having my son there, he enjoys building and already talks about wanting to be an architect when he grows up. He will ask me, “daddy if I’m going to be an architect does that mean I get to build it too?” I tell him that a contractor is who gets to do the building part, and he replies that he wants to be a contractor. I joke that I would prefer him be an architect, but I respect and support his interest in the industry however that takes shape. He was able to participate in the build event here in our offices and see them place the finished gingerbread structure on the site at the event. His excitement and energy are incredible to see, and I still feel that same way when I see something that I designed and worked on come to life.
Tripp and his son at Gingertown
We are always learning and growing.
Learning takes many forms including conferences and professional development programs. What were some professional development opportunities you took advantage of during the past year?
Jill Romano: I attended the AHCA (Agency for Health Care Administration) conference in Florida. This was incredibly useful since they are rolling out all new codes at the beginning of the year, so staying current with that is a must.
I have also done a lot this year with Women in Healthcare. I serve on the board and am so inspired by this organization. The events are always insightful because they cover such a large range of healthcare professions and are not solely focused on the A/E/C (architecture, engineering and construction) industry. We get to hear and learn from healthcare providers and consultants and see how women at all levels of the industry are effecting real change and having a lasting impact on healthcare.
Charlie Jorgensen: This year I was honored to be accepted to the American College of Healthcare Architects (ACHA). To achieve this, we had to document our healthcare experience and then demonstrate our ability through an examination. I was not alone in this achievement and was joined by fellow ESa principals Jim Bachert and Sam Burnette.
Katie Koretchko: I attended the Impact Tennessee conference, hosted by Hastings, with some members of ESa’s sustainability team. It was inspiring to get to see what is occurring in the state in relation to sustainability and environmentally friendly design. It was a nice reminder of the impact that we can have as designers on the built and natural environment and the responsibility we share to be good stewards of the earth in our designs and project approaches.
Allie Bierman: This year I attended NeoCon, the premier interior design conference, in Chicago and also joined the board for IIDA Tennessee and attended their chapter leadership conference which was also in Chicago. I was able to participate in University of Tennessee Knoxville’s career day and sat on panels and gave a guest lecture. It was amazing to return to my alma mater and get to teach about interior design as a career path.
Phillip Powers: This past year we made a strategic effort to become more involved in IAVM, the International Association of Venue Management. This is a unique room to be in as an architect, but with the Fisher Center and ambitions we have on the performing arts design side, we want to be sure we are meeting and interfacing with venue managers, owners and making contacts that could translate into project opportunities.
Looking forward to 2024.
As we start this new year, what are some things you are most looking forward to?
Phillip Powers: This year my wife is in her third trimester, and we will welcome a son some time in February at the beginning of this new year! 2024 for me will be Dad year and we could not be more excited for this next chapter.
Phillip and his wife Melanie
Katie Koretchko: I am most looking forward to seeing one of my projects be completed in the new year. I have been working on an adaptive-reuse office space and have been involved in this project from the beginning. Seeing a project from start to finish would be a first for me and I am excited to see it come to life.
Tara Myers: The national AIA Documents Committee will be coming to Nashville in 2024 and I am looking forward to getting the chance to show them our city. I’m also excited to see the continued growth of our projects and the firm and experiencing the impact we all will have on our community in the year to come.
Tripp Parker: I’m looking forward to new experiences and opportunities. The firm is always trying to improve who we are and our own culture, but I feel like there is a lot of opportunities that Nashville and its growth are affording us. I feel like ESa has positioned itself to have a finger to the pulse of the energy of the city. I’m looking forward to all that we can accomplish from this vantage point.
Lee Davis: What I am most looking forward to is seeing who steps up in the coming year. We have so much talent on our team, and I want to see people’s passions rise to the surface to meet the needs of our projects. That really is my central philosophy to leadership, is matching what someone loves with what the needs of the team are to meet challenges. Looking forward to seeing how that takes shape in 2024.
Allie Bierman: I am excited to see Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital continue to grow and come to life. I have been working on this project since I joined the firm almost three years ago and can’t wait to see how this incredible pediatric healthcare facility takes shape.
Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital
Charlie Jorgensen: For this coming year, I am most excited for the continued growth of our team and to see the many talent team members we have grow and come into their own, particularly in healthcare. If we can continue to further our culture of working to exceed expectations and take ownership, the rest of the work will fall into place. We are fortunate to have a talented roster of emerging professionals and it is exciting to continue to see them grow and achieve.