Palo Alto is known as the economic center of Silicon Valley, as many of the top international players in technology are headquartered in the area. Google and Paypal are just two of these tech heavy hitters. The city is also known to be a hub for venture capitalists, and the place is thus well known for its business potential.

Thinking of businesses looking to set up in the area, especially for commercial purposes, our editorial team put together a list of the best retail architects working in the area. These firms are knowledgeable in sustainability practices that ensure their designs fit the Palo Alto scene while being cost-effective and suited to a client’s needs.

MSA architecture + design

360 22nd Street, #800, Oakland, CA 94612

MSA architecture + design (MSA) produces creative spaces and solutions with the use of stealth technical details. The firm has collaborated with a broad spectrum of clients over the years, ranging from small businesses to large corporations. MSA worked with b8ta on a brick-and-mortar rollout of retail shops for technology products where customers can experience using the merchandise. The firm designed 14 locations; 10 of these locations were full scope, which included site survey and construction administration services. The Palo Alto flagship features high ceilings and exterior storefront glazing for an impactful appearance and experience.

Erin Bowes serves as MSA’s owner. She guides the firm with more than 20 years of experience working on designs for retail, healthcare, and hospitality projects. The firm’s team is encouraged to practice professionalism, open communication, and flexibility to ensure clients are provided high-quality services. MSA serves the Bay Area in CA.

Habitec Architecture & Interior Design

2290 North 1st Street, Suite 304, San Jose, California 95131

Habitec Architecture & Interior Design has over 49 years of experience in the industry. Under the leadership of Jim Starkovich, a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the firm has a solid foundation of experience in the educational, commercial, recreational, residential, and industrial sectors. It can also offer clients services for industrial/office and business park/land development projects.

Habitec’s success is attributed to its ability to produce creative design solutions for clients. Each project is designed to be practical, functional, and fall within a client’s budgetary constraints. The firm also ensures that its designs are responsive to the community and environment of the project site. Habitec’s commitment to good design comes from its mission to create communities that are innovative, inspiring, and sustainable.

MEI Architects

949 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94108

MEI Architects focuses on designing site and context-specific public spaces. Its experience includes healthcare, civic, commercial, retail, residential, mixed-use, institutional, and transportation projects. The Polutrauama Aquatic Center for the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the firm’s Palo Alto, CA projects. MEI designed the center’s new aquatic therapy facility to replace the existing therapy pool building. The facility has a therapy pool, a lap/exercise pool, a gym, a running track, and shower and changing areas. There is a two-story lobby that also acts as the main lobby for the natatorium and future wellness center. The Polutrauama Aquatic Center was designed in line with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification criteria. MEI collaborated with The Design Partnership for the exterior design.

Donald Luu and Mei Mei Chan are MEI’s founding principals. Their leadership guides the firm in aspects like business development, client management, project oversight, quality assurance, and documentation review. The firm’s other works can be found in the San Francisco, Palo Alto, Monterey, San Jose, and Menlo Park areas.

Hayes Group Architects

2657 Spring Street, Redwood City, CA 94063

Hayes Group Architects is known for producing diverse and solution-oriented designs. Its projects are made to balance innovation and practicality while serving clients. The firm’s style is dependent on the context of each project and fitted to location, social and physical needs, and client requirements. President and founder Ken Hayes, AIA, leads the team with his deep knowledge of design and the entitlement process.

Many of Hayes Group Architects’ works can be found in the Palo Alto and Menlo Park areas. 270 University Avenue is one of the firm’s commercial works in Palo Alto. It is a modern office and retail building on a mid-block site. There is a large glass retail frontage, an exterior staircase, and windows where natural light can filter through to the basement. The second-floor office has floor-to-ceiling windows that provide shaded and filtered light. Hayes Group Architect’s work on this project has been acknowledged with the AIA Santa Clara Valley Merit Award 2006 and the 2010 City of Palo Alto ARB Award.

Chang Architecture

251 Park Road #900, Burlingame, CA 94010

Chang Architecture’s work is most commonly found in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Its designs are geared toward ensuring projects are completed on time and within budget. The firm also puts importance on creating sustainable design strategies and being cost-effective. Chan Architecture has worked on over 500,000 square feet of LEED-certified projects.

Clifford Chang, LEED AP, leads Chang Architecture using a hands-on approach. He collaborates with clients as a principal designer, project manager, and technical expert. Among his projects is the Palo Alto Tech Center, which used to be an office park known as “The Harbor.” Chang Architecture removed old wood timbers and replaced them with lattices, and sunshades were used in place of the old fabric awnings. Approximately 90% of the project uses recycled materials, including recycled plastic bags.

Trachtenberg Architects

2421 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Trachtenberg Architects focuses on creating designs that are creative, solution-oriented, and cost-effective. The firm works on understanding each project’s factors—like site conditions and budgetary constraints—to provide clients with appropriate services. This approach has led to successful projects like the Tom Sawyer Software headquarters in Berkeley. The project is a major renovation and expansion of a hundred-year-old structure. Trachtenberg Architects maintained the scale and proportions of the existing building while ensuring it fits the context of its location. The interior was remodeled to create a more modern look.

Under the leadership of David Trachtenberg, LEED AP, Trachtenberg Architects employs a hands-on approach when designing and constructing its projects. The firm collaborates with clients and builders to develop budgets and schedules. Each step of the project is measured against these parameters to increase project success and prevent unnecessary costs from increasing. The firm serves Berkeley, Palo Alto, Richmond, and Oakland. 


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at General Contractors with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at General Contractors, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration