DeStefano Architects merges with Mass. firm


PORTSMOUTH -- Lisa DeStefano, long a fixture in commercial and residential design and development in the Seacoast, is merging her architectural firm after its acquisition by Maugel Architects in Harvard, Massachusetts.

The merged company - DeStefano Maugel Architects - will remain at DA’s downtown Portsmouth location. DeStefano said the merger gives the firm more capacity in the design and development of commercial and residential projects. She also said the merger relieves her of what she called “back office work,” giving her more time to concentrate on the parts of the job she loves doing. The merger is effective July 1.

“That allows me to focus on the stuff that I really love to do, and that’s connection to people and it’s design,” DeStefano said.

She won’t be any less involved in the community she and her team at DeStefano Architects have been involved in since DA’s creation 24 years ago.

“I’m born and bred and committed to the community,” she said. “I’m not going away; I’m still a principal of the firm. What I can do is bring more depth than what I’m able to do right now.”

Maugel Architects celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018 and established an avenue for long-term growth by relaunching the brand and naming new principals Daniel Barton, Jonathan Cocker, Mike Kunz and Mark Pelletier to the firm. The acquisition of DeStefano adds bandwidth in capacity and geography.

“This collaboration brings a strong design resource to the New England commercial real estate landscape, one that features depth of design talent, service-oriented business philosophies and a culture of employee well-being and social purpose,” said Brent Maugel, president and founder of Maugel Architects. “Lisa and I are extremely excited about the opportunities this expanded capability brings to our employees, our clients and our communities.”

Maugel Architects has designed what it described as “millions of square feet” of commercial and residential real estate throughout New England in a range of industries, including commercial, corporate interiors, life sciences, health care, industrial and multifamily.

DeStefano’s work downtown can be seen in such projects as Portwalk Place, the residential condominiums at the former Pier II site at 10 State St., the Hilton Garden Inn, and the Kearsarge Building, to name but a few. The first downtown project she was involved in was the development of 100 Market St. in 1999 and it grew from there, in part because of the professional relationships and contacts she fostered.

DeStefano was encouraged by her mother Martha, a hairdresser, and her late father, Don, who worked for the city of Portsmouth, to be whatever she wanted to be. “They were both very supportive in anything that I undertook,” she said in a previous interview.

Graduation from Portsmouth High School in 1981 was followed by New Hampshire Technical Institute and Boston Architecture Center, where she earned a degree in architecture engineering in 1991. She worked with local firms as she became a registered architect in 1994, then started her business in 1995.

DeStefano said she’d been thinking about a change in direction. “I’ve had conversations over the years with other firms, but at the 50,000-foot level,” she said. “But I never had a conversation with somebody where I really felt that we understood how each other got to the successes that they were because we were going on similar tracks but never met each other.”

A mutual acquaintance in the industry suggested they talk. Last November, they talked on the phone, then met in person, with DeStefano sensing the firms’ similar values.

“There were a lot of symbiotic things we were finding with our companies,” she said. “For me, personally, the conversation was about how all these positive things could benefit us here at DeStefano Architects with larger capabilities for design and production.”

The 14 people in the Portsmouth office, combined with the 35 people in the Harvard office, is an opportunity for growth.

“We can hire one here or one there, but we never had the opportunity to grow exponentially to this amount to benefit the clients,” she said. “We never commit to a project that we can’t meet the deadlines. That’s important to us. Our reputation for quality of designs and meeting clients’ needs is so important to both firms.”

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