Boulder-based Communication Arts Inc. was acquired by a Canadian company Friday in a move aimed to help the 37-year-old design firm -- which was behind everything from the Pearl Street Mall to Madison Square Garden to the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- recover from the recession.

Edmonton-based Stantec acquired the assets of Communication Arts for an undisclosed sum. As a result of the acquisition, Communication Arts' 25-person staff will remain and operate under Stantec as "Visioning.Brands.Experiences.," said Richard Foy, a founding partner of Communication Arts, 1112 Pearl St.

Under the terms of the agreement, Foy and fellow principals Henry Beer and Janet Martin are expected to stay with the firm for at least the next three years and groom a new set of leaders within the company, he said.

In the economic recession, as the commercial building sector seized up and the credit markets froze, projects became fewer and farther between for Communication Arts and others in its industry, Foy said.

As a result, Communication Arts' staff shrunk. The firm that was 80 people strong five years ago saw its staff size drop to 50 people two years ago and 25 people today, he said.

"We've been seeing projects disappearing off the radar screen for the past two years," Foy said. "It just vaporized."


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In January, Stantec approached Foy and Communication Arts with an acquisition plan.

"We were down to 25 people and fretting over how we were going to recover, and they said, 'We can help you recover from the downturn. We'll have you back up to 70 people in downtown Boulder in the course of about a year,'" Foy said.

Communication Arts is the third American design firm acquired by Stantec in a month.

By acquiring Communication Arts, Stantec will gain specialties related to "branding and visioning," officials said in a statement.

"This is a service that, in the past, we hired outside firms to complete," Bob Gomes, Stantec's president and chief executive officer, said in Friday's announcement.

Foy said Stantec's sustainability-focused efforts -- including the net-zero engineering of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden -- sit well with Communication Arts' passions. And Communication Arts' "humanizing" focus appears to be heavily celebrated by Stantec, Foy said.

"It seems to be too good to be true, almost, in terms of their enthusiasm in what we can bring to projects," he said. "They want that to survive."