Category archive


Fragility. Resilience. Recovery.

in Columns/Perspective

Several years ago, I read a newspaper article that presented an alarming statistic – the proposition that in any given month, more than 40% of Americans would be unable come up with an extra $400 to pay for an emergency auto repair. At the time, I remember hoping that number was somehow incorrect, and in fact it has since been disputed as a possible misinterpretation of a polling question. What isn’t in dispute is the fact that many Americans were woefully unprepared to weather the economic shutdown that began in March of this year. Analysis of Federal Reserve data from 2018 revealed the median American savings was $5,200 and one in three Americans aged 45 years or older had zero savings set aside for retirement.

I admit I am having trouble grasping how a country with such breathtaking wealth could be so fragile at its foundation. Perhaps the rise of the U.S. economy and the stock market over the last few years had obscured the view of people struggling at the fringes until, as my father used to say, “lightning struck the out-house.” In a matter of weeks, the undeniable vulnerability of a huge segment of our population has been laid bare and our resilience as a nation is being tested like never before.

At the end of last year, our team sat down to select topics for the 2020 issues of St. Louis CNR. Ironically, we planned for our May/June issue to include a look at the world of environmental remediation, which is essentially the correction process for previous miscalculations. Amid these very strange times, I can’t help but see parallels to our current situation around the themes of fragility, resilience and recovery. As an example, had we known asbestos would later be identified as a human carcinogen, it would never have been adopted for use in construction materials like insulation and flooring. We simply didn’t know what we didn’t know, and as such we were vulnerable. It was a miscalculation that broadened our perspective on what could possibly go wrong and it ultimately birthed strong construction industry segments dedicated to both avoiding and recovering from mistakes.

“The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” written in 2005 by Tulane Medical School professor, John M. Barry, describes another kind of miscalculation. The book tells the story of the first world-wide pandemic which was caused, in large part, by American soldiers returning from Europe after World War I. It is estimated that between 21 and 50 million people succumbed to the Spanish Flu in 1918 and 1919. Others have estimated losses at above 100 million.

Surely, one hopes, the world is better positioned now to weather a problem of such epic proportions. Experts are racing to come up with medical treatment and ultimately an effective vaccine. To date, the quickest vaccine ever developed was for Mumps, which is a virus spread in ways very similar to COVID-19. That solution, developed in the 1960’s, took four years start to finish, but I am banking on mankind’s collective ingenuity and that faith is based on innovations brought to light in the face of other looming disasters.

In the early years of the 20th century, Europe was facing a population explosion and was desperate to produce large quantities of ammonia essential for agriculture when Fritz Haber, a Prussian chemist, figured out how to basically pull this vital element out of the air. The production of nitrogen-based products such as fertilizer and chemical feedstocks, previously dependent on acquisition of ammonia from limited natural deposits, suddenly became possible using an easily available, abundant base — atmospheric nitrogen. The ability to produce much larger quantities of nitrogen-based fertilizer increased agricultural yields and prevented billions of people from starving to death.

Perhaps the solutions we need will likewise come from an unexpected source. One that is not among the many currently undergoing dissection by our 24-hour news outlets. In the meantime, experts agree that testing is the truest arrow in our medical quiver and the surest path to a return to the life we all miss so dearly. What I know is this… Throughout history, smart, motivated people have accomplished amazing things. Right now, I sleep a little better knowing the world’s smartest people are hard at work on treating and preventing COVID-19, and they could not be more motivated. My hope is that when all is said and done, we will emerge with fresh perspective on the fragility of both life and lifestyle, and that we will be strengthened and unified by our resilience even in the darkest times.

Much More Than a Fish Story

in Columns/Perspective

I have had the good fortune of experiencing some amazing things in my lifetime, and I can say without hesitation that snorkeling an ocean reef ranks at the top of the list. My first venture into the magical and almost incomprehensible world of undersea life is decades behind me now, but I was awe-struck then and the sense of wonder I felt left a lasting impression.

These days, my close encounters with marine life tend to involve bait and a boat, but I am still fascinated by the notion that fish live out their lives completely unaware of the world that exists beyond the water’s edge. On the rare occasion that a fish finds itself on the end of my line, I imagine that for the fish, the experience of being caught, reeled aboard a boat and released back to the water must be the equivalent of a human being abducted by aliens. I acknowledge the strong possibility that my fascination might not be reciprocal. Maybe the fish don’t care at all about the who, what, where and how of what happens on land, but I’m certain I am not alone in my very human curiosity about what goes on in the world below the sea.

Here in St. Louis, the idea of developing a premiere marine-life attraction has been floating around for long time. Some of the country’s first tank exhibits made their appearance at the 1904 World’s Fair, and those of us who have been around awhile probably remember a scheme to establish a major aquarium feature as part of a master plan for the St. Louis river front that surfaced in the early ‘90s.

Like other big concepts that require a great deal of vision and commitment, this one has taken some time to materialize, but St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management has finally made the long-held local dream a reality. The St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station will open in December with 44 exhibits and 130,000 animals representing 257 different species.

As you can imagine, building a two-story, 120,000-square-foot aquarium inside a National Historic Landmark structure dating back to 1894 presented some unique challenges. From demolition to site preparation to completion, St. Louis building companies large and small have contributed their expertise and creative genius to overcome those challenges and bring this project to fruition. We are pleased to bring you their story in this issue of St. Louis CNR.

When the doors open next month, visitors entering the aquarium lobby will be dazzled by a 14-foot-tall clock tank holding 10,500 gallons of water and a collection of colorful discus fish native to South America. Arched ceilings will add to guests’ sensation that they’re embarking on a train journey, especially as their ticket (which includes a specific “boarding” time) is called out and they enter simulated, life-size train cars to begin their tour of the aquarium.

The River Monster exhibit, designed and constructed to look like the ruins of a South American temple, will house enormous fish native to South American rivers and lakes. Not surprisingly, the Piranhas will be housed in their own separate exhibit.

No doubt one of the most talked-about experiences will be an exhibit known as Shark Canyon, which will house 60 sharks and rays. A walkway will lead visitors down below the 250,000-gallon tank, some 18 feet deep at its deepest point, for a close-encounter moment with schools of sharks swimming all around and directly over their heads. I can’t wait to check it out and I am excited to think that with the opening of the St. Louis Aquarium, I won’t have to don flippers and a snorkel to hang out with the fish on their own turf. I wonder if the aquarium’s residents will be as impressed as we are by the genius that went into creating their new home.

Mike Chollet

P.S. As we close out our 50th year of publication, I want to take a moment to thank our readers, our advertisers and the countless individuals whose professionalism and dedication have enriched and strengthened the St. Louis construction industry over the years. On behalf of the entire St. Louis CNR team, it is an honor to serve you and we’re grateful for your continued support of our endeavors.


Changing Times

in Columns/Perspective

Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are at the center of our cover story in this issue. They make up a segment of our population that have been known to elicit reactions from folks my age ranging from mild amusement to serious concern about the future of the American workforce. It’s an age-old story of one generation coming to grips with new methods and attitudes of the next – the young adults who are finding their way in the working world of today. Both of my children fall neatly into the Millennial category.

In 2008, at the height of the economic downturn, my son graduated from the Missouri University Science & Technology with a degree in computer networking. Like many of his peers facing a daunting job market, he decided to embark on a five-month backpacking jaunt through Europe. He had a pretty good time (including hazy memories of Octoberfest in Munich, Germany) before dwindling funds inspired him to come home a month early.

Shortly after he got back, he did something many of us older folks have probably never done – posted his resume online in view of potential employers. To our amazement, within days he was contacted about a position with an online medical records company in Kansas City. We knew landing a job at the intersection of technology and healthcare would be a major win for him. He drove up for the interview and a few days later was offered a job with a starting salary that I didn’t achieve until midway through my working career. Though he is not an engineer per se, his STEM education – the subject of another feature in this issue – provided him a huge push forward.

Though the company he works for is not a Disneyland environment like Google or Facebook, they offer excellent pay and an incredible buffet of work benefits such as an onsite medical care, onsite child-care facilities, low-cost legal services, etc. He has been with company now for almost 10 years and was recently granted permission to work remotely. In early January, he left Kansas City and relocated to an area called Germantown in Nashville, TN. Just this morning, he sent me pictures of his new “office” on the roof deck of his apartment complex which features a spectacular view overlooking Music City. His mother and I have followed his progress with a kind of a “what the heck is this?” admiration.

I imagine the challenge of wrapping our Baby Boomer heads around the new normal is similar to what earlier generations experienced when the workweek was trimmed from seven days to six and then to five, when collective bargaining came into being or when child labor laws were enacted. At the start of my own career, I clearly recall thinking that my new ideas were the future and that the “old timers” were just too set in their ways. It is the interminable march of progress and I believe it is to be embraced. What real option do we have but to roll with the changes?

The story of the inspiring young men and women in this issue highlights new attitudes of today’s incoming workforce.

Marquez Brown, a state wrestling state champion in high school, was awarded a full ride to St. Louis Community College. After his first year, feeling unfulfilled, he joined the Air Force and wrestled in the Armed Forces while training to be military police. After military service, he returned to his hometown of Alton, IL, completed tests to enter the District Council 58 of the International Union of Painters & Allied Trades (Glaziers 1168) and began an apprenticeship in April 2006. At 36, Brown is now a Glazier Field Supervisor for IWR North America.

Nathan Garrett, 31, has been a member of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council since 2014. An encounter with Carpenters Council Director of Training & Workforce Development, Dr. John Gaal, led to a tour of the Carpenters’ training center and Garrett knew then that he’d found his niche. Garrett is currently working for Kirkwood Stair & Millwork.

Matt Murphy, 32, recently completed the apprenticeship program with Bricklayers Local 1 of Missouri and is a journeyman. Thanks to his background of completed courses at Missouri College and St. Louis Community College, Murphy was able to test in as an improver on an accelerated track. Murphy is now working with a team of bricklayers for Superior Waterproofing & Restoration, caulking windows on a 22-story-tall glass building owned by Hertz Investment Group in downtown St. Louis.

Kelly Stokes, 38, is a licensed electrician and member of the IBEW Local 1. Stokes says he took a great deal of math and science at his mother’s urging. After graduating from Ritenour High School in St. Louis, he enrolled in the night school electrical engineering program at Washington University. Stokes graduated in 2014 with his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and has been working since for BRK Electrical Contractors.

These fine young people and others like them are helping to move our industry forward in new and exciting ways. I’m inspired and encouraged by their ambition and I believe it serves as a great reminder for all of us that fresh perspectives make excellent fuel for progress.

A Legacy for Tomorrow

in Columns/Perspective

I was driving a winding back road in Eureka recently when a sign at the entrance to the Myron and Sonya Glassberg Family Conservation Area caught my eye. I knew the Glassbergs back in the 1970’s during my stint at the Washington University faculty club and they were a lovely couple. Seeing that sign sparked fond memories of the Glassbergs, and I was pleased to see that they had left a legacy that reminds folks like me that their family was here, and that they cared deeply about nature and their community.

Personally, I am not a person who feels compelled (or qualified) to leave my mark on the world in such a literal way. When my time comes, I will be satisfied to have simply lived the best life I possibly could, but as a native St. Louisan I have a deep respect for the heritage ingrained in our city. We have long track record of creating exciting new structures, and a wonderful propensity for paying tribute to the builders of the past by revitalizing older structures to be enjoyed by current and future generations. One such project, City Foundry STL, is featured in this issue of St. Louis CNR.

Driving through St. Louis, you don’t have to look very far to find buildings that were long-ago shuttered and slowly being absorbed into a decaying urban landscape. The sad truth is that without a lot of vision, determination and funding, many of these structures will eventually be beyond help. Thank goodness there are people in our community who are willing, able and passionate about making the investments required to bring them back to life.

Transforming an old manufacturing site into an urban, mixed-use mecca while preserving as much of its original character as possible is the objective of City Foundry STL, a $230 million redevelopment project coming to life in Midtown St. Louis. City Foundry STL is but one facet of an $8 billion of development-related investment occurring within a five-mile stretch from the Gateway Arch to Washington University in St. Louis.

Steve Smith, CEO of Lawrence Group, is principal owner and developer of City Foundry STL.  Located on 14 acres, the site is bounded by Forest Park Avenue on the north, Highway 40 (Interstate 64) on the south, Spring Avenue on the east and Vandeventer Avenue on the west.

Smith developed City Foundry STL’s master plan in close collaboration with the neighboring Cortex Innovation District, directly west of the project site, to propel and sustain the synergy that both share in terms of innovative minds and their brightest ideas.

City Foundry STL sits on property that once belonged to one of the largest electrical manufacturers in the nation. The original foundry opened in 1929 and for the first 40 years, the site was known as Century Electric Foundry, where a vast variety of electric motors, castings and automotive parts were produced. After the final property owner, Federal-Mogul Automotive, closed its doors in 2007, the property stood vacant until Smith and team began preliminary work to develop City Foundry STL. As expected, the decade-long dormancy presented both challenges and opportunities.

An excerpt from a website chronicling the City Foundry STL project says it all:

If these walls could talk, they’d tell a story that’s uniquely St. Louis. They’d speak of more than a century of grit, hard work and determination. But most of all, of constant transformation. It’s a transformation driven by inspiration, creativity and collaboration – and the vision to create something new.

The project team has intentionally left as much of the character of the original foundry as possible with the perspective that it’s more important to preserve relics than to make things look new and precise. In addition to an oversized crane that will remain inside the building, original masonry, cleaned but not modified, will line the interior walls of a food hall that will be a central attraction. Smith said construction teams chose to leave the walls as they were rather than replacing them with a modern brick façade, in part to comply with historic preservation standards, but more to the point, because they felt it was important to retain the building’s original character.


It’s an exciting time to be in the building industry and it’s wonderful to imagine how the builders of tomorrow will harness their vision to pay tribute to today’s work.

These Things Take Time

in Columns/Perspective

My parents were happily married for 57 years. She was 17 and he was a 24 year-old army veteran when they got married in 1950. Until 2007 when my father passed away, they rarely spent more than a few hours apart. They lived together, worked together and, as dedicated golf fanatics, they played together every chance they got. Some people might say that sounds like an awful lot of togetherness, but reflecting on their deep commitment to each other reaffirms my belief that family connections are the glue that binds the world together.

I mention that they worked together because it was such a big part of their lives. My parents were small business owners—proud proprietors of an instant printing company on South Grand Ave. When they started their business, “instant printing” was new and transitional technology, but over time it was swept away by the advent of desktop and digital printing. My parents made a modestly comfortable living while it lasted and when they were ready to retire, they made the difficult decision to close their shop for good.

As executor of their estate, I was grateful to find that their legal and financial affairs were in good order when my mother died in 2017. Aside from some knotty gas and mineral rights which my forward-looking grandfather acquired in the 1950’s and bequeathed to his only daughter, the whole process was pretty straightforward. Textbook stuff for the most part but still, unraveling their modest estate was a slog even with a good head for math and accounting. It would have been considerably more difficult if the process had included liquidating or transitioning their business.

For many business owners, the complexities of planning for and making the transition of their life’s work to the next generation of the family can be daunting. Our cover story in this issue is about that very issue and it includes some data you may find surprising: According to the Family Business Resource Center and the Conway Center for Family Business, 88 percent of family-owned businesses think their family will still be running the business in five years and 40 percent of family execs expect to retire within that time period, but fewer than half of these owners have selected a CEO successor and eight out of 10 have no succession plan in place. One-third of those companies won’t survive into the second generation, only 12 percent will remain viable into the third generation, and fewer than 3 percent will survive the transition into the fourth generation. Despite those sobering national statistics, construction-related companies in the St. Louis area provide many examples of families who have safely navigated the rocky shoals of transfer of ownership down through the generations. It’s a great story and, if you haven’t already, we hope it inspires you to consider getting started on a succession plan of your own.

Also in This Issue:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road A tax increase in Illinois has some residents fuming while others look forward to better roads, new building structures and safer bridges. In this issue we cover the large-scale transportation needs that have been on the wish lists of IDOT and MODOT and the direct impact of those future projects on the construction industry.

Embracing Creativity to Make Large Commercial Deals Happen In this story, we delve into the critical function of banks and commercial lenders in making deals happen and creatively financing construction projects using non-traditional tools and resources.

BJC West County Hospital, Florissant Siteman Cancer Center on Track for 2019 Finish Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, a replacement for the existing 47-year-old facility, is being built by joint venture PARIC/KAI and designed by Christner. The 6-story, 260,000-square-foot healthcare destination is part of BJC HealthCare’s overhaul of the 54-acre campus, including construction of an 125,000-square-foot medical office building.

ARCO Ice Rink Projects Score Big for the Stanley Cup-Winning St. Louis Blues When Arco’s ice rink projects are completed, the St. Louis Blues will have a new state-of-the-art practice facility in Maryland Heights and Maryville University will open a $15 million facility at the Chesterfield Sports Complex in Chesterfield Valley.

Building a Legacy: The Vision Continues

in Perspective
Mike Chollet

Washington University in St. Louis has played a unique role my life. Though I was never registered there as a student, I spent a large part of my youth on its storied campus.

Our cover story in this issue features a transformative $280 million project called “Campus Next” which is focused on the east end of the Danforth Campus at Washington University. Growing up in University City, my family home was about five blocks from that area, but back then it was known as the Hilltop Campus. As a kid, I thought the Hilltop Campus moniker made a lot of sense given the elevation of the property and the steep hill which extended from the north side of the athletic complex down towards the old Channel 9 building and Forest Park Parkway. My siblings and I called that stretch of landscape “suicide hill” and it was our favorite destination for sledding. When we needed to thaw out between sledding runs, we found the perfect spot in the lower level laundry rooms of the married resident housing. Every Spring, our entire neighborhood crew looked forward to the annual Thurteen Carnival fundraisers. The rest of the year (assuming the statute of limitations for trespassing has run its course by now) I confess that we pretty much ran wild, exploring campus buildings, galleries, tunnels and engineering facilities. Those were much simpler times.

In my twenties, I found a more legitimate excuse to hang out on campus when I took a job as a manager of the Whittemore House, a wonderful old mansion built in 1912 on Forsyth Boulevard which serves as the faculty club for professors and staff of the University and the medical school. The five years I spent at Whittemore House ultimately laid the groundwork for what turned out to be a rewarding 30-year career in the hospitality industry. During my time there, I was privileged to meet many of the great people who helped make WashU what it is today and whose names now grace buildings across the campus.

In a roundabout way, I could even credit WashU for the existence of my two wonderful children, since the campus is where I met their mother Debbie. In the late 70s, she took a job waitressing at the faculty club to help finance her graduate studies in the engineering department. As she neared the completion of her degree, Debbie began her job search. Always one to aim high, she reached out to William Tao, one of those great people who helped to write the University’s story. Tao was a true giant in the local engineering community, a member of the Washington University governing board and, conveniently enough, a Whittemore House member.

Debbie likes to say that his written response to her resume, in which he thoughtfully provided suggestions for some other companies that she might consider, was the kindest rejection letter

she ever received. Soon after the letter arrived, Debbie was working a club party when she spotted Tao and his wife Anne and approached him to thank him for the letter. After a five-minute conversation, they agreed to meet again later that week to continue their discussion. Charmed by her intelligence and tenacity, Tao hired Debbie as his assistant. She worked for William Tao & Associates for more than eight years and in the process built a lifelong friendship that continues to this day.

Washington University has always been a dynamic part of the St. Louis landscape, and its reputation as one of the premier educational facilities in the world is a diamond in our city’s crown. Over the decades, the University’s visionary leadership has provided the St. Louis building community with a continuous supply of challenging and innovative projects and we look forward to continuing our role as documentarians of the University’s the next chapter. As for me, my sledding days may be over, but the WashU campus will always hold a special place in my heart.

A Good Story Well Told

in Columns/Perspective
Mike Chollet

St. Louis Construction News & Review was launched in 1969 as The Voice for the St. Louis Construction Industry, and the founding Publisher was adamant about his choice of the word “for” rather than “of” in that tagline. Nearly 50 years later, we are mindful of that subtle but very important difference. Our stated purpose is not to speak on your behalf, but rather to provide a voice for the local construction industry. We see our role as story teller – the stories themselves are yours and our goal is to document and share them.

Every year around this time, the St. Louis CNR team comes together to brainstorm and identify topics for the two or three “Industry Features” that will appear in each of the six issues scheduled for the upcoming year. As you can imagine, it’s a tricky assignment to look ahead, sometimes 14 months into the future, and land on a dozen or more stories that will be timely, relevant and interesting to our readers.

The “Building Features” you see in each issue are obviously more time-sensitive, subject to unexpected setbacks, projected completion dates and dependent on our ability to round up the industry contacts we need to help us tell the story accurately. Whether the topic is chosen 12 months or 12 days before we start writing, the truth is, setting up those interviews can be a struggle. The more players connected to a project, the more difficult it is to identify the right spokesperson for each entity and locate a window in their schedules for the interview.

When we can get it, access to a subcontractors list is optimal. Those lists give our writers perspective on the complexity of the project which improves the accuracy of their reporting and often adds dimension to the stories that might have been missed. Subs lists also make it more likely that we will get the attributions right. For the record, publishers hate running corrections. Not because it’s inconvenient, but because it means we didn’t get it right the first time. We are always grateful to the General Contractors who understand the value of a good story well told and support our commitment to getting it right by providing subcontractors lists for their projects.

Occasionally, our efforts to report on what’s happening in a particular segment of the industry are similarly thwarted by communication issues. In fact, we were forced to cancel an “Industry Feature” planned for this issue when significant efforts to arrange interviews with leading providers of the products and services we intended to cover failed. My optimistic evaluation is that everyone doing this particular line of work is swamped right now and too busy to talk to a reporter. Our team was disappointed about losing what we thought was an important story, but we also regret the lost opportunity to support those companies by featuring their work.

On the heels of this loss, our always-sunny editor, Kerry Smith, made what I think is an important observation. Kerry noted that most of the companies she called were not prepared to tell (or to help us tell) their stories. Without a designated media spokesperson or an understanding of the value of editorial coverage in their home market, opportunities were missed. If my hunch is right, and all the companies we called were buried in work, that’s fantastic, but the missed coverage still matters because it might have helped queue up projects for when the pipeline eventually slows down. The next time the phone rings, whether it’s St. Louis CNR or another publication calling, remember that your story is worth telling, and you can help make sure it is a good story well told.

Publisher’s Perspective

in Columns/Perspective
Mike Chollet

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
― Albert Einstein

The library has always been one of my favorite spots. As a lover of history and an avid reader, I believe I’ve probably learned more in the last 15 years than I managed to absorb in the previous 50 combined. Inversely, the older I get the more challenging it becomes to embrace change. Depending on how you interpret Einstein’s statement above, I could be headed for a zero-sum game, intellectually speaking.

History tells us that while mankind’s relationship with change is complicated, great things can happen when a society is willing to embrace new ways of doing things. In this issue of CNR, several feature stories highlight the connection between the construction industry and our city’s need to adapt and change. We hope you enjoy the issue and we invite you to reach out and share your own stories with me or with our editor, Kerry Smith. 

In this issue:

Prefab to Fast-Track Projects – The practice of pre-building large components before delivery to the jobsite is on the rise. Advantages include convenience cost-savings and one partial solution to the challenge of recruiting and retaining a qualified labor force.

Construction Management Programs in Higher Education – Colleges and universities are taking the bull by the horns to address the construction labor shortage, offering degreed and post graduate study programs in construction management, engineering and other programs. It is a forward-thinking trend that promises to be a great boon to our industry in coming years. 

Engineering to Withstand Modern Threats – Engineers are being put to the test as they face down the challenge of designing public buildings and schools that can withstand terrorist threats and the increasingly common occurrence of natural disasters.

Back to School – In the midst of an economic downturn that decimated the construction industry, we were encouraged to see funding continue for construction and expansion of colleges and universities. A successful $85 million bond referendum, passed in 2016, is providing funding for an extensive rework of Ladue High School.

Transforming Olin Library at Washington University – Sometimes, building projects are like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. Read about the challenges Alberici Constructors faced in effecting “inverted vertical expansion” as this WU landmark was transformed; literally, from the ground up.

Mike Chollet

The Perspective of History

in Columns/Perspective
Mike Chollet

In this issue, as we celebrate the 50th year of the publication of St. Louis Construction News & review, we also recognize the foresight and good works of those who came before us. When Thomas J. Finan, III set out to create a narrative on the state of the St. Louis area construction industry, he understood the necessity of providing clear, factual and unbiased information. We are proud to have done our part in telling your story of the St. Louis building community over the years and to advance the dialog fairly and with the perspective of all voices. It has been our goal to focus on the positive when reporting on the work of those who build structures and community on both sides of the river.

In addition to looking outward to the enduring symbols of St. Louis progress, we honor the early CNR staff and family who have worked so hard to bring your story to life. I have been at the helm of CNR for just over 10 years and our excellent editor, Kerry Smith has been on board for about 2 years. Her research and the telling of the CNR story has been an interesting process for both of us and we hope it will be for you.

One of the people Kerry interviewed for this story is Eldon Arteaga. Known by many for his high-altitude, breathtaking photography of the construction of the St. Louis Gateway Arch – and also recognized as Teamsters President, Jimmy Hoffa’s official photographer – was one of the St. Louis CNR founder’s dearest friends and closest colleagues. The two met in the 1960s when the young Arteaga was 29 years old. Eldon is now an entertaining chap of a certain age with a truckload of colorful stories. After our editor interviewed him for this feature she remarked on how very helpful he had been and that “he even told me a joke”. Almost too perfect.

When you see Eldon’s photographs of the building of the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, you get a strong sense of the pride and determination of the men and women who knew that they were building something of great importance that would stand in perpetuity as a testament to imagination and ingenuity, two uniquely human attributes which are the bedrock of our industry.

Fittingly, in this issue, we also feature the rebirth and repurposing of three historic St. Louis buildings from the 1920’s.

The Woodward & Tiernan Printing Company building has been rehabilitated and converted into 164 upscale lofts in St. Louis’ Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. The personality of the original Woodward & Tiernan Printing Company building, we learn, remains in Woodward Lofts in the design which carries with it a feel of offset printing that occurred during the decades of operations there.

Steelcote Lofts represents the first phase of a multi-phase strategy to rehabilitate, renovate and reenergize longstanding industrial buildings in Midtown St. Louis. A five-story, 43,541-square-foot building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was long known as the Steelcote Manufacturing Company Paint Factory, the building is undergoing a creative and elaborate transformation that began in early 2017. It is a $9 million project.

The Last Hotel is a $54 million historic rehabilitation construction project wrapping up in the former International Shoe Company Building at 1501 Washington Avenue. The 10-story edifice, erected in 1909 by St. Louis Union Station architect Theodore Link, gets its name, rightly so, from a shoemaking tool. The “last” was a hardwood or cast iron, foot-shaped mechanical form used decades ago by cobblers to repair and manufacture shoes.

One cannot help but wonder whether the people involved in the designing and building of these structures had any notion that, nearly 100 years hence, their work would be honored and conserved by future generations.

When you go to work in the morning, think about the future. There’s a very good chance that the population of the twenty-second century will still appreciate your work. Everyone who builds St. Louis can be very proud of this incredible legacy.

Sometimes the Toughest Questions Open Doors to Success

in Columns/Perspective

When my daughter Anna was 13, she came to her mother and I with a heavy ask. She wanted to go to Ecuador with some classmates in a school-related trip where they would work and study in a rain-forest preserve. She was barely a teen and it was the late ‘90s when the “semester abroad” concept was a little less of a thing, so our initial reaction was not what she had hoped.

Eventually, we acquiesced. She had a great time, but she returned with a grand scheme tucked neatly up her sleeve. We would learn much later that our very observant daughter had noticed some of the students working at the preserve were staying longer than her group, and a helpful staff member explained that when she was sixteen she would be eligible for that privilege. Anna tucked that bit of information away, and just prior to her 16th birthday she came to us with her plan fully intact. Airline schedules and fare costs, ground travel plans, information about the established rainforest study facility, and on and on. Armed with facts and determined to go, she convinced her mother and I that this could work. What we didn’t know is that her abundance of planning time had allowed her to build in some less-structured but more anxiety invoking side trips that were (perhaps) intentionally obscured in the itinerary she provided before she left. Ultimately, her trip was a success, as was our subsequent family discussion about her youthful take on permission versus forgiveness.

From that trip, many others have followed: A mission trip to a Haitian clinic. Two months in Costa Rico to brush up on her medical Spanish, a solo medical research trip to a remote fishing village in Malaysia. A trip to Uganda where she upped the ante by taking her younger brother, Peter, with her. Like any younger brother worth his salt, he has taken full advantage of the parental skids greased by his sister. To date, his adventures include spending most of a summer backpacking in Europe, a trip to Vietnam and regular trips to feed his growing passion for rock climbing.

Observing Anna’s love of travel, her mother regularly expressed her fear that one or both of her children would end up living in some remote backwater, out of reach and visiting St. Louis far less than a potential future grandmother might like, but at least for now that is not the case.

Peter is a Lead Consultant in his ninth year with Cerner Corporation in Kansas City and, as you may have guessed by now, my daughter became a physician. Anna is married to a wonderful gentleman she met in med school in New Orleans, and they both practice Family Medicine at a teaching hospital in Memphis. The perfect American success story, with roots that extend well beyond the US.

My son-in-law was born and raised in Houston, Texas. He is a die-hard Cowboys and Texans fan. (Maybe next year, dude). His parents, lovely people both, were born in Bangladesh and came to the US for college. They remained and became citizens. His father worked for NASA and his mother became a college professor and real estate investor.

My daughter and her family are the living example of the new face of America. And while I can admit to being biased by the arrival of my first granddaughter, Sarabi Louise, I would say things are looking pretty rosy.

In this issue, one of our features explores the issue of diversity in the construction industry. As it turns out, St. Louis is in the odd position of lagging in the building rebound from the ’08 economic downturn relative to other major US cities, and at the same time we are struggling to field enough skilled workers to fill current and future construction needs.

Clearly our outreach needs to be expanded. A lot.

The St. Louis – Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council is one organization with a laser focus on creating opportunities for minorities and women in the construction industry. Director of Training and Workforce Development, John Gaal, EdD, says the Carpenters are launching a new initiative in 2019 that should fulfill the diversity objective and provide a second chance at work and life for many, including prisoners who have served their sentences. In 2019, the union will begin a carpentry program within the Missouri prison system. He and his organization are not alone in the quest to reach out to people of all gender, ethnic and other diverse backgrounds to consider the benefits of a career in the construction industry. Others include:

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • The IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 1
  • The St. Louis Chapter of NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association)
  • The Construction Career Development Initiative (CCDI) founded by Clayco in 2015
  • MOKAN CCAC (Missouri-Kansas/St. Louis Construction Contractors Assistance Center)
  • The Associated General Contractors of Missouri

These fine associations and many, many others are looking into the future and seeing that change is essential to maintaining America’s status as the greatest country on earth.

Sadly, at this writing, the US government is shut down in an impasse concerning the future of immigration in America. One argument is that immigration has literally built our country. An equally robust point of view says that changing world conditions require a new look at the rules and regulations. Fair enough.

Our country will somehow bump its way through this quagmire and come out better for it. Just remember, sometimes future successes start with a heavy ask.

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