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Building Hugger

Detroit, MI 48201

Amy Swift on evolving a company's business plan and focus

Businesses don't always end up in the space they originally intend. In fact, most don't. Most end up evolving into something far from, but still close, to their original intentions.

That's what happened with Amy Swift and her historic preservation firm, Building Hugger. Swift has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological University and a masters degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. She moved back to Detroit in 2011 and launched Building Hugger not long after that.

"I didn't want to work for a firm here," Swift says. "Detroit presented an opportunity for me to carve out a niche for myself."

At first Building Hugger started out as a design firm. It quickly evolved into a wider focus so Swift could achieve a goal and overcome a challenge. The goal, be a better steward of the built environment. Something Detroit needs more of. The challenge, maintain a constant revenue stream. Something Swift needed more of.

To accomplish those things Swift started taking on a wider variety of work. She taught design at University of Detroit-Mercy as an adjunct professor. She wrote for Curbed Detroit and Mode Shift. Swift also took on her own projects, such as buying a property at the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction. Building Hugger took on all that work.

"It was my way to organize my development efforts around town," Swift says. "I had just moved to Detroit and had a lot of different different talents."

Her auction purchase, which she is branding as the 2XHouse because its a city lot with two houses on it in need of renovation, led to one more skill: window restoration. Swift ended up taking a course in window preservation so she could handle her own window work on the house and quickly learned these sorts of skills are in demand in Detroit.

"I was learning a lot about that," Swift says. "It was really fulfilling. Much more than it was sitting behind a computer."

Today Building Hugger is enabling Swift to reach her goal and overcome her challenge. While she does a sizable amount of window restoration work (field work has become a passion of her’s) she is also taking on some design work. The longterm goal is to keep moving her own practice in that direction.

"The goal is to evolve Building Hugger into a more design-based practice," Swift says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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