- Written by: Driver URBAN
- Produced by: Driver URBAN
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
C.W. Driver ranks among the western United States’ premier builders, boasting a landmark-heavy portfolio that has been curated since being founded in 1919. C.W. Driver kicked off a new era of general contracting and construction management once again in 2012 through the formation of Driver URBAN, an independently operating company specializing in the construction of high-density housing, mixed-use, senior living, hospitality and student housing developments. Driver URBAN brings the experience, longevity and financial strength of its parent company to highly desirable urban markets, where the company’s Lean operating philosophy and innovative building practices can have greatest impact.
Though still in its first year, Driver URBAN promises to live up to its parent company’s reputation of building structures to last a lifetime. Already the Irvine, Calif.-based company has projects in the pipeline with three mobilized and projects in preconstruction. The three projects under construction are being built in some of Los Angeles’ most desirable neighborhoods, adding badly needed market-rate apartments and a host of above-par amenities to tempt an influx of Angelenos.
“We can provide the highest levels of service, technology and financial strength at a competitive cost because of our relationship with affiliate company C.W. Driver,” expands Brian Chartrand, executive vice president at Driver URBAN. “[C.W. Driver] has been around for 93 years, is financially solid, and has extensive investments in technology and an expert staff.”
The association gives Driver URBAN access to all of its affiliate company’s human resources department, quality control staff, safety staff, building information modeling (BIM) technology and staff, scheduling staff and accounting resources, without requiring Driver URBAN to invest much-needed capital in such extensive overhead costs. As a result, a lean Driver URBAN, which employs between 25 and 50 skilled professionals, offers all of the fixings of a sophisticated, innovative and experienced contractor without the cost, which Chartrand attests fills a critical gap in the marketplace.
Driver URBAN sets out to offer luxurious living in metropolitan settings, and the AVANT marks the first of three projects to break ground in Driver URBAN’s portfolio. The mixed-use AVANT adds 247 units across two seven-story buildings totaling 203,000 square feet of space and 11,000 square feet of retail space at ground-level. The site is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles situated just across from the L.A. Live entertainment development, the L.A. Convention Center and the Staples Center, home of the L.A. Lakers. The two buildings will be connected by a pedestrian bridge and will share an outdoor pool, spa, fitness center and business center.
Also under way is K2 Los Angeles, a multifamily residential development in Los Angeles’ blossoming Koreatown neighborhood. The highly diverse neighborhood boasts one of the highest population densities of all Los Angeles neighborhoods as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “We’re actually building on a zero-lot line site, so we have very little space to stage our construction operations,” adds Jonathan Pardes, a project manager at Driver URBAN and head of the Koreatown project. “We’re employing a variety of Lean techniques, but above all, it involves a lot of coordination between all of our teams to make sure we stay on schedule.”
By mid 2012, though, Driver URBAN was lucky enough to secure a sidewalk closure permit and had already completed some minor abatement work on the existing structure and began demolition, clearing the way for the construction of 130 apartment units. The structure sprawls across 92,037 square feet, which will include two levels of subterranean parking, a fitness room, business center, bike lockers, a rooftop deck and a landscaped interior courtyard. Utilizing precast concrete, prefabricated electrical and HVAC systems and just-in-time delivery is allowing the project team to create a more efficient construction process, which is necessary for an on-time completion in February 2012.
Both AVANT and K2 Los Angeles were designed with five levels of Type III wood framing sitting atop two levels of Type I concrete podium, which rest on two levels of subterranean parking. The use of concrete for the building yields a structure capable of exceeding California’s strict seismic building codes, and the building possesses a seamless, harmonious aesthetic that brings modern appeal to the neighborhood.
“We’re starting to see this ‘five-over-two’ building type because of the increased density it provides,” adds Chartrand. “I believe we are the second firm to build a project like this in California, as the usual is to build four levels of wood framing, not five. The extra level makes it a higher-density project, but still keeps it out of the high-rise category.”
Though it isn’t a five-over-two construction, Driver URBAN’s third project is certainly in line with the overall trend of including luxury amenities and plenty of common spaces to create the feeling of a community, not a complex. The Gibson is nestled in the heart of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica neighborhood. The development adds two buildings and a total of 106 apartment units, each built atop two levels of underground parking. The three-story development includes 10,000 square feet of space for retail tenants, and is located just blocks from the beach for the ultimate in Coastal California living.
The next few years will bring plenty of opportunity for Driver URBAN to establish itself as a strong competitor in the multifamily market, but the company’s isn’t ready to lose sight of what matters most to its success either. “We strive to be progressive and offer one of the best places to work in Orange County to our employees,” adds Chartrand. “We’re in the process of developing a new ‘people plan’ that we will roll out next year that addresses topics like creative benefits, live-work balance initiatives, award and recognition programs, employee social events and volunteering opportunities.”
Along the way, Driver URBAN plans to follow its affiliate company’s example and pursue work in major metropolitan centers along the West Coast, where it will strengthen a reputation for stability, integrity and safety. As Driver URBAN looks to establish a foothold in the gamut of multifamily projects, from comprehensive senior living to affordable student housing, the company will rely on its ultra-talented employees to uphold ambitious quality construction standards.
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