St. Louis, like many cities across the country, has been looking for ways to jumpstart growth in the small business community and the means to bring different cultural programs and commercial endeavors together. The North Sarah Redevelopment (NSR) project is only the first phase in the city’s North Central Redevelopment plan, and it injects $25.8 million in funding to complete critical public improvements, build more affordable housing, and weave in new commercial and community spaces in one of its most vibrant historical neighborhoods. Looking for a team to deliver on all these goals, the city tapped design-build construction management firm Brinkmann Constructors (Brinkmann) to expedite the process and coordinate with other entities to raise awareness and excitement for its strong leadership and innovative approach.
“All of the project managers, project engineers and senior management at Brinkmann hold engineering degrees,” asserts Daniel Feagans, Brinkmann’s project manager for the NSR project. “We believe that the extra perspective is critical to building trust with the client, understanding what is most important to them, and delivering a result that works.” A clear understanding of the client’s priorities has been key to Brinkmann’s corporate culture since the company was founded in 1984, and the company has completed over $2 billion in construction over more than a quarter century in existence.
Brinkmann’s headquarters are located in Chesterfield, Mo., and a second office in Denver, Colo., helps the company support clients across the country in retail, office, data center, entertainment/hospitality, schools, multifamily residential, warehousing/distribution/manufacturing and more sectors. The company is active in almost 20 midwestern, southern, eastern and western states. Brinkmann’s national experience providing the most advanced technology and the brightest professionals to new construction and renovation was one factor that helped attract the eye of McCormack Baron Salazar, the NSR project’s developer, but it was the firm’s proactive approach that sealed the deal.
Every Brinkmann project begins with a thorough preconstruction and planning phase full of feasibility studies and needs assessments to anticipate snags and develop value-engineered solutions to forge ahead. McCormack Baron Salazar also requested Brinkmann partner with Simms Building Group Inc., a local certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), to develop a strategy that could provide the greatest number of opportunities to the project’s immediate community and to local minority-owned businesses.
The Land of Opportunity
When completed, the NSR project will provide 27 buildings of multifamily housing, commercial space and community space to attract new businesses and knit together St. Louis’ central and northern neighborhoods. Historically, the North Sarah neighborhood has been known as the Sarah-Finney Business District. Local MBE-certified architecture firm KAI Design & Build was brought on to design a development that referenced the neighborhood’s vibrancy and its historic past. The development now includes a mix of garden-style homes, townhouses and split-levels to provide residential space above and retail space on the street level.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hope VI program awarded the program $7.8 million. The Hope VI program was established to eradicate severely distressed public housing, and part of the NSR project involves the demolition of a nearby public housing high-rise so residents can relocate to NSR’s 120 units.
Early on Brinkmann and the NSR team coordinated with local MBE liaisons to level the playing field and invite as many MBE-, Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE)- and Section 3-certified business as possible. Though St. Louis Housing Authority’s goals for this project include meeting a 25-percent minority-owned business quota, the NSR team managed to far exceed that goal. “The anticipated tally will be somewhere around 40 percent, which we achieved by splitting up bid packages amongst two or three subcontractors,” states Feagans.
Ultimately, Feagans feels the move provides an important opportunity for local and young contractors to develop critical professional experience in the public sector. “The NSR project was developed to bring opportunities to the local community, so we sat down with all of the subcontractors and established the goals of this project and how we could best help them succeed as well,” admits Feagans.
With the Strength of Many
So far the NSR project is on schedule, motivation is high, and Brinkmann considers the match to be a success. “Brinkmann’s philosophy is very much grounded in giving talented professionals the tools and autonomy to be flexible with the project’s requirements and build trust directly with the client,” says Feagans. Brinkmann’s lead-by-example approach promises highly involved service, a commitment to making the right decision no matter how difficult, recognizing the accomplishments of others, and always delivering the project. Every project presents its own set of challenges and this project will its own, but the Brinkmann approach is well suited to handle the demands of a project involving a mix of public and private entities.
As a result, the firm has had a much smoother experience in the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008. Though the firm has focused many efforts on the commercial and retail sector, its experience working nationwide enabled the firm to develop relationships with clients in healthcare, assisted living facilities and also within the public sector, especially with the Department of Veterans Affairs. And Brinkmann has used its eye for outlining the most effective and efficient specifications, schedules and accounting to identify markets that offer the most opportunities.
In the next few years the Brinkmann team will continue to support its client base with its multi-phased approach to every solution, strategically entering new markets as opportunities arise. And throughout all projects Brinkmann Constructors will build on its reputation for innovation, determination and perseverance to strengthen both communities and the company for future economic development.
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