CRW and JJR shared the expanded second floor. Wright remembers that restaurateur Leo Ping was interested in renting the first floor, but the insurance people told them it would be a fire hazard. Instead they divided the downstairs into smaller offices and rented it to attorneys, who found it very convenient to the County Courthouse and City Hall.
The modern facade may have been the most innovative design CRW ever did. They were very well regarded by their clients but were best known for practical designs that worked. Retired U-M planner Fred Mayer describes them as “a journeyman architectural firm. We’d hire them to do renovations and routine projects that didn’t involve sophisticated design, such as remodeling a lab. We knew we’d get the work we wanted from them, but they were not big on the glamorous.” At the Michigan Union, they redesigned the basement cafeteria. “We were told to make it ‘nookier’—more like a nightclub,” recalls CRW architect Bob Chance. That project turned out to be “too successful,” Chance adds: “The students came to study and wouldn’t leave.”
CRW did the same kind of work for another big client, the Ann Arbor Public Schools. “We’d get a call—‘Tex, we need two more rooms at Dicken. Can you do it?’—and we would,” recalls former CRW architect Bob Pierce. Pierce says that some of the younger staff members, himself included, wanted to branch out into more interesting work but that Colvin preferred to stay with what he felt they did best. Pierce eventually left CRW to work for the schools.