The Expansion of MWA

Continuing our celebration of 35 years in business, we sat down with Jeff McGraw and asked him about his journey from working as an architect in MWA’s San Francisco office to opening a new location in Portland. This post is the second in our history series, following our first post, The Beginning of MWA. Join us as we continue to unveil the history that led us to where we are today.


After just a few years in business, MWA’s San Francisco office was expanding. By 1990, MWA’s office expanded to Oakland for new local opportunities following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and our growing water and industrial work.

After 12 years at our firm, Jeff, his wife Shura, and their young daughter Molly considered a move to Portland, Oregon, to join Shura’s family. Jeff was excited about this opportunity for a shorter commute, a new home, and good schools for his kids.

When Jeff told Michael and Carlton he was moving, he was committed to MWA and the clients he was working with. He asked them if they were interested in opening a new branch of MWA in Portland.

Intrigued, Michael asked Jeff to write a business plan for the new branch. Having never written one before, Jeff went to a software store and found a Business Plan software. Two weeks later, Jeff handed Michael a stack of paper with a plan, schedule, and budget for a Portland office.

After the presentation, Michael said he was in support. Jeff noted that he would pre-market PNW clients and hope to have projects lined up before the move to Portland.

To begin building business in Portland, Jeff went to all our existing clients with offices in Oregon and presented to them. This resulted in two new projects – Ankeny Pump Station, a joint venture with Sera Architects for the City of Portland, and a Lab and Chlorine room conversion for the City of Corvallis. Once he secured these two projects, Jeff set out to find his team.

Jeff interviewed four people in one of CH2M Hill’s conference rooms and hired Faez Soud, his first employee for the Portland office. Twenty years later, Faez is now one of our clients at the City of Portland.

Former MWA Principal Kacey Clagett traveled to Portland to help Jeff tour office spaces. Together, they chose Honeyman Hardware Lofts, an old seven-story building converted to lofts in Portland’s Pearl District. The office was big enough for three staff and a small conference room. Jeff worked with a local furniture builder to design tables and cabinets for the office.

Brown and Caldwell was the first client to visit our office. While there, they told Jeff that the Ankeny project would expand to another location across the Willamette River, which became the Port Center Pump Station project—MWA’s first major commission in Portland. MWA expanded to two other locations within Honeyman Hardware Lofts before opening our location in the White Stag Building.

Currently, MWA has two offices, one at Washington High School in Southeast Portland and the other at 135 Main Street in Downtown San Francisco.

Team MWA standing outside of their Portland

Continuing the Journey

Join us as we continue to tell our story through a five-part blog series. Part three – Team MWA – will be released next week.

Want a sneak peek into our entire history? Visit our History Booklet for the full story.

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