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2011 Most Influential Women Honoree: Rita Baron

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Rita Baron has applied her knack for architecture to redesign her career.  

The 1999 Drury University architecture graduate first worked for 360-member architectural firm Farnsworth Group, where she became senior project designer, before starting her own company. Baron Design & Associates LLC launched in February 2003 and has designed structures in the health care, government, financial, corporate and restaurant sectors.

“I am known for my extensive work in the design process and construction management for space planning, master planning, strategic planning, contract administration and management of project and construction budgets,” Baron says.

More recently, she has added other entrepreneurial activities such as franchisee of Einstein Bros. Bagels in Springfield and Chicago, commercial developer through Raga Properties LLC and partner of Parlor 88 lounges in Springfield and Chicago.

Baron and company last year redesigned the oldest building on Drury’s campus, Wallace Hall, a project that had a short 90-day window.

“She took one of the iconic buildings on campus and brought it to 21st century standards, while preserving its charm and historical presence,” says Drury President Todd Parnell. “She began the process the day the students moved out for summer and handed it back the day before they returned.”

Other notable projects include Hamra Plaza and Wendy’s restaurants for client Sam Hamra; the $10 million, 125-room Hilton Garden Inn, which is designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-Gold standards; and the $5.7 million, three-story OakStar Bank, of which Baron is a founding investor and serves as board and committee member.

“Whether the intent is to adapt and reuse an existing facility or design an entirely new project, my design must make a strong, aesthetically pleasing statement,” she says.

Baron holds memberships in the National Association of Professional Women and the U.S. Green Building Council, and associate memberships in the American Institute of Architects and the National Council of Architecture Registration Board.

A mother of two elementary-age daughters, Baron also is helping to shape the future for area youth through her board service. She is a Drury trustee and chairwoman of the campus operations and sustainability committee, and her board memberships include Isabel’s House Crisis Nursery, Springfield Regional Arts Council and Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“It is through example that we can influence our youth to work hard, achieve our goals, give to our community and advance our society for the better,” Baron says. “I support the well-being of the children of our community by helping to establish a firm ground from which they can grow.”

Click here for full coverage of the 2011 Most Influential Women.
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