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Our History

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Our History

Founders of Urban Engineers

Our History

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Our History

We are proud to be a Team who enhances how people live, work, and play.

Urban Engineers, Inc. has a proud and significant history of turning problems into solutions. We have emerged as an engineering, management, and scientific leader since our inception in 1960 in the City of Philadelphia. The vision of our founders, shared and enhanced by a new generation of ownership, carries us towards great accomplishments and allows us to achieve, and often exceed, the goals of our assignments and the expectations of our clients.

August 1, 1960 The Founders. Robert C. Olson, PE (President), Edward J. D’Alba, PE (Vice President) and K. Yervant Terzian, PE (Secretary/Treasurer), along with four others from Lawrence T. Beck & Associates, formed the ‘lucky seven’ and established Urban Engineers, Inc.


Beginnings: From the first office at 1619 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, PA, we focused our early work on highway and bridge design. Notable projects in the early years of the company included the Delaware Expressway (I-95) and the Philadelphia Planning Commission’s urban renewal initiative, led by Edmund Bacon, whose design ideas helped shape the Philadelphia of today. Smaller projects were welcome too, like the mapping of underground utilities for the City of Philadelphia.


Quickly the firm established itself as a major player in the engineering of public works for the city with its involvement in the Upper Schuylkill East Side Intercepting System project. Then, in 1969 Urban began what would become four decades of continuously providing services for the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).

Early Successes: Though we, and our projects, began small, the exhilaration from early successes, positive attitudes, and diligent work by motivated people produced a solid foundation for growth.The small staff was well acquainted, and a ‘family’ atmosphere was encouraged. As we expanded into a medium-sized firm, the founders wanted it to expand in a controlled way, maintaining the family-like work environment and the commitment to quality and clients that existed when we were founded.


The 1980s and 1990s were decades known for big changes in technology and for Urban Engineers as well, with new, big opportunities for major economic projects. In 1985, the design team, led by Urban, for Philadelphia’s Center City Commuter Rail Program revolutionized the city’s skyline. Following that, Urban provided construction management for the Vine Street Expressway starting in the project’s infancy, in addition to working on Interstate 476, the ‘Blue Route,’ and for Washington National Airport. Changes in office location and leadership only marked a couple of many milestones made over these years.

2000s: During this time, our vision began to look beyond the confines of our organization. Our reputation for ‘well done’ projects had preceded us to the client’s door and Urban realized large project successes – our momentum was strong. While maintaining a hands-on approach and focus on diversity and innovation, Urban grew to over 300 employees and attained the ISO 9001:2015 certification, the internationally-recognized gold standard for quality management. We also changed our corporate organization to better benefit our employees - we became an ESOP in 2001.


In 2007, we established the Urban Training Institute, which became a resource for internal training needs and an outlet for expert external training. Now Urban trains employees of all firms and agencies nationwide. Additionally, during these years, Urban began providing PMO services for two game-changing, ‘mega’ projects in NYC – the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access – projects destined to have enormous impact, along with many more high profile enterprises.

Today – To date, we have grown far beyond our original seven employees to 450, from one office to 15 nationwide, but our roots remain – we are a family (a growing one). We are a Team that champions transformation and focuses on creating an environment that improves safety and quality of life for the clients and communities we serve.  


A testament to that environment was Urban’s being named ‘Top Workplace’ in the Philadelphia Region in 2010, along with numerous other awards, including ‘Company of the Year’ by PENJERDEL and ‘Healthiest Employees.’ Our first Excellence Magazine was distributed in 2010, a unique magazine providing a new perspective on externally distributed company publications within the industry, which has since been awarded as well.

We have transitioned our leadership only three times throughout our company's history. From our start in 1960, then in 1990, and now in July of 2016. Through a strong internal mentoring process, the vision of our founders, combined with the passion of our new leaders, our passion and core values continue to carry us to great accomplishments. We are proud to be a Team who enhances how people live, work, and play. 

Ken Leadership Transition