Multi-Housing News: 6 Myths About Passive House Construction

Passive House design is booming in multifamily development. However myths about this sustainable building approach may be holding back momentum.

Originating in Germany in the late 1980s, PH is a building concept and certification standard emphasizing airtight construction, reduced thermal bridging and passive daylighting, heating and cooling. Leveraging natural elements like sunlight and strategic shading to minimize energy use, PH design can achieve significant energy savings—between 60 to 85 percent compared to typical buildings—and offer thermal comfort, affordability and healthier interiors.

Already popular in Europe, PH design is gaining ground across the U.S. where square footage in the industry has more than doubled every two years over the past decade. Amid the broad push for buildings to become more efficient, more grant and rebate opportunities are now available to help PH projects move forward. Further, cities are increasingly requiring projects to implement green initiatives and more housing authorities are scoring ‘green’ projects higher for funding awards.

Despite the positives, common misconceptions about Passive House building persist. The reality is that this industry could be a game-changer for decarbonizing multifamily while helping meet urgent housing gaps.

Myth 1: Passive House design only works for single-family homes.

The reality: Though derived from German Passivhaus, the term Passive House is applicable to various building types including multifamily and mixed-use developments so long as it includes the building envelope and efficiency features mentioned above. In fact, the world’s largest PH building is an office building—the 691-foot-tall Winthrop Center in Boston. In 2022 in New York the Sendero Verde, a 100 percent affordable apartment development, was set to be the largest PH apartment building.

Myth 2: Passive Houses are a passing fad.

The reality: Ten years ago, the U.S. was home to only a few multifamily Passive House buildings. By 2023, nearly 16,000 Passive House multifamily projects have been built or are under construction nationwide, according to The Passive House Network. While markets in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York are leading the way, Passive House design is revolutionizing sustainable multifamily construction in other states too. More municipalities are pushing green initiatives and driving climate-friendly building codes, so many projects by default need the efficiencies of PH to get through permitting.

Federal housing authorities are also helping to ensure that PH principles are here to stay. Fannie Mae’s Green building loan program offers preferential pricing on loans for multifamily properties with Passive House certification.

Moreover, the Inflation Reduction Act, 45L tax credit and Investment Tax Credit all offer potential incentives for Passive House Projects.

Myth 3: Passive House construction is another name for Net Zero building.

The reality: Passive House and Net Zero buildings are distinct concepts. Passive Houses reduce the demand on utility grids. As the power grid reaches its maximum capacity its output becomes less efficient. This means that the more buildings can reduce their own energy use, the less the grid will experience strain and lead to higher emissions.

Net Zero, on the other hand, aims to be carbon neutral: the energy consumed equals the energy produced on site. This may mean increasing onsite renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal and wind in addition to implementing PH strategies like insulation and air-tight envelopes. Net Zero may incorporate Passive House design concepts but the reverse need not be true.

Myth 4: Passive House and LEED are the same thing.

The reality: While performance-based criteria have been incorporated with later iterations, LEED and its four certification levels are rooted in a point-based system. LEED takes a broad approach to sustainable standards and includes variables like a building’s access to bike parking and proximity to transit.

Passive House is focused on building envelope construction and certification is achieved through specific performance metrics related to the control of air, thermal, radiation and moisture.

Myth 5: Passive House construction costs aren’t worth it—especially for affordable housing.

The reality: More often than not, the slightly higher construction costs (approximately 3.5 to 20 percent, according to the same source) for PH projects can lead to higher return on investment—especially in affordable housing. PH construction costs often pay for themselves in three to seven years from operational savings.

The truth is that about half of all Passive House projects under construction in the U.S. are affordable housing developments. Many residents of PH buildings enjoy utility cost savings while benefiting from improved air quality.

A 2021 building energy exchange study found that a large multifamily Passive House building saved $155,000 a year on energy costs when compared to a conventional multifamily building of the same size. And savings aren’t the only benefit. A California Air Resources Board study found that Passive House elements, such as improved building envelopes and balanced energy recovery ventilation, could reduce air pollutant infiltration by 3 to 11 times.

Myth 6: Passive House elements are a simple add-on to construction plans.

The reality: Strict energy modeling standards and compliance requirements make certified Passive House construction expertise a must. During preconstruction, early PH team onboarding and alignment are critical to help mitigate costs and impacts to the schedule. During construction, continuous testing will ensure compliance with thermal bridging, air sealing, hot water heating and other technical components.

Per example, Fifth City Commons, an all-electric affordable housing development in East Garfield Park, Ill., is pursuing Passive House certification. Four members of the project team are Certified Passive Home Builders who participate in bi-weekly Passive House coordination meetings to review project details and ensure the design and its implementation meet building certification requirements.

What is a fact is that the future is bright for expert Passive House construction.

Passive House buildings represent a powerful opportunity for multifamily leaders to improve sustainability and residential value in one concerted effort. The key to unlocking that potential begins with understanding it—one fact at a time.

This article is authored by Skender’s Brian Skender and was originally published by Multi-Housing News magazine. Brian is currently managing the construction of Fifth City Commons, a 43-unit, all-electric, Passive-House affordable housing complex and retail space on Chicago’s West Side (pictured).

Building Costs in Flux: Analyzing Inflation’s Effect on Construction Materials

In Skender’s latest economics report, we provide insights and analysis of the recent trends in construction material prices, drawing from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, to highlight significant swings from March 2020 to March 2024. The report focuses on key materials like steel, concrete, gypsum, lumber and petroleum-based products, emphasizing the volatility in prices amid global economic shifts and supply chain challenges.

Inflation has significantly impacted construction material prices over the past four years. The recent stabilization or decline in some prices suggests improved supply chains, but consistent cost increases in key materials highlight the need for strategic planning and lean building processes to optimize costs, improve efficiency and mitigate risk.

Download the full report << 

Here are the key findings:

Observations:

    • High volatility in certain materials: Overall, materials that heavily rely on petroleum and energy products exhibit high volatility, significantly impacting construction costs.
    • Recent stabilization and decline: In the past 12 months (April 2023 to March 2024), the prices for some materials stabilized or declined. Notably, refined petroleum products, lumber, steel mill products, and copper wire and cable experienced price declines, which could be attributed to stabilizing supply chains and reduced demand. Concrete products remain relatively stable, yet they consistently trend upward.
    • Consistent Price Increases in Concrete Products: Precast concrete products (+38.3%) and ready-mix concrete (+33.2%) showed steady price increases, which align with the rising costs of raw materials and labor shortages affecting the construction industry.

 

Long-Term Trends (April 2020 – March 2024):

    • Significant increases were observed in specific construction materials, such as steel mill products (+62.6%), gypsum building materials (+50.7%), and plastic construction products (+48.5%).
      • Steel mill products include hot-rolled steel, cold-rolled steel, pipes and tubes, bars and rods, and plates. Cold-rolled steel sheets are hot-rolled steel with additional processing at room temperature to create thinner sheets and improve surface finish.
      • Gypsum building materials include drywall, plaster, ceiling tiles, joint compounds and panels.
      • Plastic construction products include plastic pipes, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), insulation materials, plastic-based flooring materials, siding and panels, windows and doors made from PVC or other plastic composites, plastic roofing and gutters.
    • Refined petroleum products showed an even higher increase (+98.7%), highlighting significant volatility in oil-based products.
      • Key refined petroleum products include gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt and lubricants.
    • Other materials like copper wire and cable (+37.3%), precast concrete products (+38.3%), and ready-mix concrete (+33.2%) also saw substantial price increases.
      • Key copper wire and cable products include building wire, power cable, communications cable, magnet wire, and control and instrumentation cable.
      • Precast concrete products include panels, pipes, blocks, pavers, columns, barriers, utility structures and architectural precast concrete elements.
      • Ready-mix concrete is a mixture of cement, water, aggregates (sand, gravel or crushed stone) and sometimes additives to enhance properties like setting time, workability or durability. It is typically used for foundations, slabs, pavements and structures.

 

Short-Term Trends (April 2023 – March 2024):

    • Cold-rolled steel sheets and strips (+12.8%) and precast concrete products (+6.9%) had the highest price increases over the last year.
    • However, many construction materials experienced price decreases: refined petroleum products (-4.1%), lumber (-3.5%), steel mill products (-4.3%), copper wire and cable (-4.6%), and plastic construction products (-2.7%).

Skender Named Finalist for 2024 Indiana GC of the Year

REjournals has named Skender a finalist for its 2024 Indiana General Contractor of the Year. The honor, which recognizes outstanding construction operations and achievements in the Hoosier state, follows another recent award for Skender’s Indianapolis office.

In March 2024, Skender won the Indiana Subcontractors Association award for Project of the Year in the category of construction projects under $10 million. Skender was also a finalist for General Contractor of the Year at that ceremony.

Skender began working in Indiana in 2020 with a focus on building relationships and providing outstanding service and value. Project volume in the firm’s Indianapolis office jumped by 300% from 2022 to 2023, and 90% of its work last year came from repeat clients or referrals.

REjournals Indiana award winners will be announced on May 16.

Skender Named Finalist for Two 2024 Interior Contractor of the Year Awards

Skender has been named a finalist for Interior Contractor of the Year at the Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Skender won the prestigious award in 2022, 2018, 2016 and 2015. This year’s winners will be presented on May 1.

UPDATE 5/2/2024: Skender was awarded the 2024 Interior Contractor of the Year at last evening’s ceremony. This marks the fifth time since 2015 that Skender has won the trophy.

Also, Illinois Real Estate Journal named Skender a finalist for its Interior General Contractor of the Year Award. Skender has won the magazine’s top contractor honor in the office category each of the previous two years. The 2024 award winners will be announced on June 5.

Both awards, among the highest honors in the Chicago commercial real estate industry, are based on 2023 performance.

In 2023, Skender completed over 2.3 million square feet of interior construction, including 13 floors of LEED v4 Platinum Interiors for Salesforce at the brand new Salesforce Tower; the largest suburban buildout since 2018 for Ace Hardware, transforming 250,000 square feet at the former McDonald’s campus into a state-of-the-art headquarters for the hardware retailer; and a 110,000-square-foot “city and parks”-themed workspace for healthcare company Vizient on two floors of the historic Old Post Office.

With a strategic focus on its people and delivering the premier construction experience across all project types, Skender has earned multiple industry accolades recently, including:

// 2023 Best Places to Work (No. 4 in large companies category, 7x winner since 2013) – Crain’s Chicago Business

// 2023 General Contractor of the Year Winner (Office Construction) – Illinois Real Estate Journal

// 2023 Indiana Project of the Year Winner (Under $10 Million) – Indiana Subcontractors Association

// 2023 Indiana GC Of the Year Finalist – Indiana Subcontractors Association

// 2023 Science Project of the Year Winner (Hazel Tech) – Illinois Real Estate Journal

// 2023 Large Project of the Year Winner (Salesforce) – CoreNet REAL Awards

// 2022 General Contractor of the Year Winner (Office Construction) – Illinois Real Estate Journal

// 2022 Interior Contractor of the Year Winner (Owner Projects) – Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards

// 2022 Interior Project of the Year Winner (Walgreens Tech Center) – Chicago Building Congress

// 2022 Preservation Excellence Award Winner (Maywood Supportive Living) – Landmark Illinois

// 2022 Safety Award Winner – Great Lakes Construction Association

// 2022 Redevelopment of the Year Finalist (1100 W Fulton) – Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards

Skender Breaks Ground on Lurie Children’s New Outpatient Center in Schaumburg

Skender, as general contractor, broke ground today on a new 75,000-square-foot outpatient center for Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Lurie Children’s Outpatient, Primary Care and Infusion Center will be located at 1895 Arbor Glen Blvd, Schaumburg, Illinois. The center will offer primary care, ancillary and diagnostic services, orthotics and prosthetics, laboratory and pharmacy services, as well as an ambulatory infusion center with the capacity to expand services.

In addition to the main hospital in downtown Chicago, Lurie Children’s offers children and their families convenient access to the same expert teams of medical and surgical specialists with the same leading treatments and kid-focused technologies at 17 outpatient services locations, six primary care locations and 10 partner hospitals throughout the Chicago area. In Fiscal Year 2023 (September 1, 2022–August 31, 2023), Lurie Children’s had more than 900,000 outpatient visits.

The new outpatient center will grow Lurie Children’s footprint in the northwest suburbs and serve as a replacement to the smaller locations at Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates and Huntley. The project, with 40 exam and treatment rooms, is expected to be complete in the summer of 2025 and see its first patient in August 2025.

“The opportunity to bring critical healthcare services to the youngest and most vulnerable patients makes us extremely proud,” said Brian Kane, Vice President at Skender. “It’s another example of how healthcare that is closer to home can change lives,” he added.

The project team includes HKS as the architect, Skender as general contractor, IMEG Corp. as the structural and mechanical engineers, and V3 Companies as the civil engineers.

Skender’s Mike Matyja Named 2024 Outstanding General Contractor Project Manager by ASA Chicago

The Association of Subcontractors and Affiliates (ASA) Chicago named Skender Project Manager Mike Matyja as its 2024 Outstanding General Contractor Project Manager. The award recognizes outstanding communication, collaboration and empathy between general contractors and their trade partners.

Mike manages multifamily construction projects for Skender, which includes an extensive portfolio of affordable housing, senior living, supportive living and market-rate multifamily work. Mike has 15 years of construction experience and an architecture degree from the University of Illinois Chicago.

ASA Chicago shared that the industry trade members who nominated Mike for this award noted his hands-on approach, accessibility, responsiveness, and noteworthy success in running efficient projects.

“Our team is immensely proud of Mike and thrilled for him to receive the prestigious award for Outstanding GC Project Manager by ASA Chicago,” said Skender Senior Vice President Afshan Barshan. “This honor is a testament to Mike’s exceptional work and meticulous attention to detail, as well as his unwavering commitment to excellence and client service. We congratulate Mike on this well-deserved recognition.”

Skender’s Ashlee Pforr Discusses How Legal Workplaces are Evolving with the Times

Today’s law firms face the same challenge as other businesses across industries— how to create a space that is enticing for its employees. Previously designed primarily as a tool that demonstrated status and prestige to clients, law firms are now being more responsive to their employees’ work needs and are adapting to support new ways of working. At the Steelcase showroom at THE MART, panelists recently discussed this topic of evolving legal workplaces and what the future of legal workplace design and construction looks like.

Moderated by Keith Bujak, research principal at Steelcase, panelists were Todd Lippman, vice chairman at CBRE; Neil Schneider, design director and principal and IA Interior Architects; Ashlee Pforr, project executive at Skender; and Marty Festenstein, senior managing director at Savills.

When asked about how law firms are rethinking their spaces as leases come up for renewal, reflecting on the dramatic changes brought by COVID, Lippman highlighted the contrast between home efficiency and office productivity. He emphasized the challenge of fostering culture in a hybrid work setting, prioritizing talent over cost. Schneider echoed those sentiments, pointing out the pivotal role of the office in cultivating organizational culture and advocating for spaces that mirror the firm’s identity and strategic location choices. The panelists agreed that flexible leases are critical for today’s law firms and said that the importance lies in focusing on hybrid policies, space design and lease terms that align with business goals.

The discussion also touched on the shifting landscape of law firm locations in Chicago. Panelists highlighted the conservative nature of location choices, citing challenges in areas like Fulton Market due to court access and transportation constraints. Pforr, however, noted a gradual influx of law firms into Fulton Market that are seeking newer, tech-oriented buildings. Despite the allure of these buildings, adapting spaces to suit law firm requirements remains a challenge, panelists said, while also emphasizing the importance of aligning building choices with organizational culture.

Addressing supply chain issues and longer-term challenges in law firm design implementation, Pforr pointed out the significance of early contractor involvement and innovative procurement strategies.

Overall, law firms are pushing the boundaries and are at the forefront of technological integration, investing substantially in technologies aimed at enhancing productivity. While virtual collaboration remains a work in progress, optimism persists regarding the advent of hybrid work environments. Nonetheless, concerns still linger about preserving organizational culture and sustaining long-term relationships.

Skender Wraps Construction of The Leo, a New Multifamily Rental and Retail Tower in River North

On behalf of developer VISTA Property, Skender has completed construction on “The Leo,” a 21-story, 201,000-square-foot mixed-use multifamily tower located at 741 N. Wells Street in River North.

The new boutique luxury rental building, designed by Antunovich Associates, has 168 open-concept apartment units – including 50 studios, 101 one-bedrooms and 17 two-bedrooms – and 3,877 square feet of ground-floor retail space. Construction officially kicked off in August of 2022.

“River North is experiencing remarkable growth and we are witnessing an increasing demand for spaces that blend living, working, and recreational opportunities within the vibrant core of downtown Chicago,” said Ark Latt, Chief Development Officer at VISTA Property. “With The Leo, this team has introduced the newest luxury apartment tower that not only meets the sophisticated needs of its residents but also significantly contributes to the fabric of a strong and thriving community.”

The Leo’s apartments have luxury features, including floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping downtown views, state-of-the-art kitchen appliances, in-unit laundry, private balconies, and expansive nine-foot ceilings. Property amenities include an in-gym yoga studio, an outdoor pool with lounge area, a rooftop deck complete with a fire pit and grills, a kitchen café and a group fitness terrace. Residents also have access to a private meeting and events room, an elegant lobby entrance, a dog run and spa, EV charging stations, dedicated parking and a bike room.

“The Leo represents the phenomenal outcome of high-performing teamwork,” said Alex Panici, Vice President at Skender. “This was a truly collaborative effort and we were thrilled to be part of the team that brought this vision to life.”

The project team consisted of: VISTA Property (developer), Skender (general contractor), Antunovich Associates (architects) and Luxury Living Chicago Realty (marketing/sales). The development was financed with a first mortgage loan from Huntington Bank.

Skender Wins Indiana Project of the Year Award

Skender won the Indiana Subcontractors Association award for Project of the Year in the category of construction projects under $10 million at a ceremony in Indianapolis yesterday.

The award recognized Skender’s office buildout for the technology company Kainos in the Salesforce Tower in Indianapolis.

In addition to winning the Project of the Year award, Skender was also a finalist for General Contractor of the Year.

Skender began working in Indiana in 2020 with a focus on building relationships and providing outstanding service and value. Project volume in the firm’s Indianapolis office jumped by 300% from 2022 to 2023, and 90% of its work last year came from repeat clients or referrals.

From Vacant to Vibrant: Repurposing Retail Spaces for Healthcare

As the retail landscape continues to evolve with some well-known retailers declaring bankruptcy or streamlining their real estate portfolios, it doesn’t have to signal a loss for the surrounding community. In fact, the opposite is true. People increasingly want their healthcare brought closer to home, and with these abandoned spaces comes opportunity.

According to a report from CBS News, in 2023, retailers across the country shuttered more than 4,600 locations – an 80% increase from 2022. Leading the pack on these closures was Bed Bath & Beyond, which went bankrupt in April 2023 and subsequently closed 866 stores across all three of its brands. Discount home goods retailer Tuesday Morning filed for bankruptcy and shuttered 463 stores, Foot Locker closed 116 stores, and drugstore brands Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens closed a whopping 807 locations combined. Even big box titan Walmart wasn’t safe from the scourge of cutbacks, ultimately closing 21 stores across 12 states last year.

But from the dust of retail giants comes opportunity for healthcare systems looking to expand, grow and better embed themselves in the communities they serve. While new construction in healthcare has slowed with the rise of lending and construction costs, many healthcare companies are finding that converting vacated retail space can be an affordable alternative to building a ground-up facility, and at the same time offer patients easier, more convenient access to the healthcare services they need.

While empty retail spaces are not going to be move-in ready for medical brands, certain vacated stores can translate well into specific kinds of healthcare offerings. Things like location, footprint size, access to parking, mechanical operations, and plumbing and electrical capabilities all play a part in determining the store’s highest and best medical use.

From boutique to big box, which retailer’s abandoned spaces work best for healthcare?

BEST FOR MULTISPECIALTY CLINICS: BED, BATH AND BEYOND

With an expansive footprint that allows for ample treatment rooms, robust electrical, ventilation and plumbing systems that can be easily adapted for medical purposes, and accessible strip mall locations with ample adjacent parking, Bed Bath & Beyond stores are well positioned to accommodate multispecialty clinics. This kind of facility offers a variety of provider services, such as dental care, cosmetic dermatology, pediatrics, orthopedics or therapy in one localized space. That said, competition for shuttered Bed Bath & Beyond locations is heating up among traditional big box retailers, entertainment-focused developers and healthcare companies alike, so these spaces may be hard to come by.

BEST FOR BOUTIQUE AND SPECIALTY PRACTICES: FOOT LOCKER

Smaller retailers (less than 2,000 square feet) like Foot Locker are typically found in enclosed malls, shopping and lifestyle centers. While parking can be tight in these places, their centralized locations allow for easy consumer access and fast construction, and they can be almost turnkey for specialty practices looking for enough room to house a few exam rooms along with waiting and support space. Security, back-of-house access and high visibility for patients are also built into these spaces.

BEST FOR AMBULATORY SURGICAL CENTERS: WALMART

Walmart’s sizable footprint and abundant parking make their vacant storefronts an appealing choice for ambulatory surgery centers. The large, single-level design makes patient mobility easier, and the structure of the building enables the seamless integration of operating rooms alongside mechanical and electrical spaces needed for air handling units and backup generators.

BEST FOR URGENT CARE FACILITIES OR SMALL, MICRO-HOSPITALS: WALGREENS

Urgent care facilities must be able to accommodate clinical space, exam rooms, on-site labs and provider areas, which makes closed Walgreens locations, with a typical footprint of around 15,000 square feet, an ideal conversion. Walgreens stores are nearly always accessible, standalone facilities that enjoy high visibility, and ample parking. Additionally, they can be a suitable location for a micro-hospital that offers a small number of beds for short overnight stays, especially in rural or remote locations, which may have a Walgreens store but lack convenient access to a hospital.

The retail evolution is a normal generational shift, but this community-focused, out-of-the-box thinking is exactly what is needed to bring substantive change to the way we not only live but thrive.

Authored by Brian Kane for NAIOP. Brian is Vice President, Skender. He joined Skender in 2008 and has 15 years of industry experience leading specialized healthcare and lab sciences construction teams on various hospital, outpatient and laboratory projects. He earned an engineering degree from the University of Illinois.

Skender Wins Top Safety Award for Second Consecutive Year

The Great Lakes Construction Association (GLCA) awarded Skender the Safety Achievement Award for the second consecutive year, and the fourth time since 2016. The award recognizes outstanding safety achievements during 2023 in the category of 500,000+ worked.

Skender’s blended approach of safety, production and quality is part of its lean, human-centric project delivery. Our certified safety team develops comprehensive, job-specific safety plans, which consist of weekly project inspections, meticulous planning, predictive analysis, reporting systems and diligent coordination and communication with all stakeholders.

“Safety on our jobsites is paramount to our teams at Skender,” said Dan Torres, Safety Director for Skender. “From our trade partners to our field staff, we empower our people to focus on what matters: Producing quality work, keeping themselves and their teams safe, and getting home to their loved ones.”

With this honor, Skender has earned eight construction industry safety awards since 2013. Another measure of safety in the construction industry is the experience modification rate (EMR), which the National Council of Compensation Insurance uses to calculate the past cost of injuries and future chance of risk. Skender’s EMR is 43 percent better than the national industry average.

Bisnow: ‘I Think It Can Change Lives’: How Skender’s Lisa Latronico Is Building A Diverse Construction Workforce

The below article was first published by Bisnow on September 17, 2023.

When Lisa Latronico started as a receptionist at Chicago-based Skender Construction in 2001, she fell in love with its family-oriented, welcoming culture and decided to stick around for a while.

Over two decades later, as the company’s newly promoted chief people officer and longest-serving employee, she’s the first person to greet every new hire after they pass through reception on Day 1.

Latronico’s drive to connect with each new employee is critical for an organization leading the way in workforce diversity and employee engagement. Construction as a whole has historically struggled with diversity, particularly when it comes to women in the field. Per the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics industry snapshot, women accounted for 1.2 million of those employed in the construction industry, or just 1 in 10 workers.

Skender’s workforce tells a different story. Women make up 50% of the company’s C-suite and 26% of its leadership team, according to data submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and reviewed by Bisnow. In the Skender workforce at large, there are 17% female and 35% minority employees — both above industry averages.

“At Purdue a couple of years ago, there was this talk that females should really apply to Skender because they treat them really well over there,” Latronico said. “This came to me through the grapevine, and I thought, ‘What a great recruiting tool. Do the right thing for the employees that you have, and word will travel fast.’”

Latronico has been at the forefront of Skender’s efforts, and People and Culture Manager Colleen O’Brien said diverse recruitment efforts are baked into the company’s DNA. Attracting diverse talent starts with increasing brand recognition in the areas ripe for recruitment, targeting the right job boards and going to a swath of career fairs at different schools, she said.

“We’ve been very intentional about ensuring that we are bringing on women across the board,” O’Brien said. “Lisa has been instrumental in that. We want our recruitment to always be organic because it becomes part of who we are and not a box we have to check or a statistic we have to hit.”

The number of women on staff was immediately striking to Project Manager Lily Lawrin. Lawrin, who was hired 11 months ago, said the number of women at the company provides great bonding opportunities and chances to connect with people with similar perspectives.

“It’s definitely noticeable,” Lawrin said. “It was honestly actually one of the first things I noticed when walking around the office on my interview, and I didn’t think it was something that would sway me, but it’s a really positive thing … There’s so many women. They’re everywhere.”

The federal government is looking to emulate the success of companies like Skender to bring more women into the construction industry. In August, the federal government awarded a $1.35M grant to the Illinois Department of Labor to aid efforts to train and support the entry of more women into infrastructure and construction careers.

The grant comes as part of the Biden administration’s implementation of the $1.2T Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, expected to create 800,000 new jobs in construction.

“We may still have a long way to go in dismantling decades’ worth of barriers, but we’re making progress on building that future today,” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said in August.

In addition to breaking down barriers for women, Latronico has also spearheaded Skender’s efforts to partner with nonprofits to place individuals from underrepresented communities into roles across the company, particularly through pre-employment and pre-apprenticeship programs.

The construction industry has historically skewed heavily white, especially in management roles. Black workers constitute 12.6% of the overall U.S. workforce, but just 6.7% of construction workers, per 2023 EEOC figures, and only 5.3% of construction management positions. Hispanics are represented at double their numbers in the overall workforce, making up 34.2% of construction workers, though they are “significantly underrepresented” in higher-paying positions, according to the EEOC.

In hopes of changing that, one of Skender’s pre-apprenticeship partnerships is with Genesys Works, a program for youth from underserved communities, providing skills training and career development opportunities. The nonprofit pairs students from certain Chicago Public Schools with Skender. Those students go to school for half the day during the week, then work at the company’s office in the afternoon.

Skender has partnered with Genesys Works for several years and even hired a full-time information technology specialist to provide financial aid to help them go to college at the program’s conclusion.

“It’s been something that doesn’t happen overnight,” Latronico said. “You have to take some chances. And you have to really understand how to support people who may have no experience in construction, what is that going to look like? So lots of meetings, lots of education, lots of volunteerism, to make sure that everyone is bought into it.”

For Latronico, the impact of bringing people into the construction industry who are traditionally underrepresented in the field extends beyond the individuals themselves. These job opportunities can inject wealth into families and introduce communities to people with direct experience in a previously opaque field, she said.

To find groups of people that aren’t from a traditional pipeline of ready-made college graduates with construction-related majors, companies have to do a lot of outreach and look at other avenues to find talent, Latronico said. The untapped talent is important to the construction industry overall, she said, not just at Skender.

“I want … every contractor or even any company to be able to look to those nonprofits and help people,” Latronico said. “We all have a responsibility to do that. I really truly believe that. And I think it can change lives. I think it can change the trajectory of families.”

It’s no coincidence that Latronico is passionate about these types of programs — she came from one herself.

In Latronico’s senior year of high school, she took the train into the city every day around lunchtime and worked for a human resources department, learning how to write recruitment letters and use a computer — not as second nature in 1988 as it is today.

When presented with the opportunity to partner with Genesys Works and high school students, Latronico jumped at the chance to pay it forward.

“​​If it doesn’t work out, that’s OK,” Latronico said. “It’s a leap of faith, we have a super-strong culture, our foundation is strong. We know that we’ve got strong managers and coaches here at Skender. We’re willing to take that chance, we’re willing to take those risks. If it betters someone’s life, we’re going to do it.”

Latronico has been a part of large-scale growth as the company’s longest-tenured employee. When she joined Skender in 2001, the firm had 15 employees and $20M in gross annual revenue. This year, the company rosters 317 employees and enough projects to bring in $600M in gross annual revenue.

Chief Operating Officer Jerry Ball, who joined Skender about 18 months after Latronico, said her ability to create relationships with fellow employees is unmatched.

“Her overall leadership and relationship skills to pull all of that together has been the one single point of taking our culture from a good culture when I came 20 years ago … but then putting it on steroids and taking it to the next level where I would rival the Googles of the world,” Ball said.

It’s one thing to tout qualitative company triumphs — Skender boasts quantitative success as well. The company has earned 30 best-place-to-work awards in the last 15 years from three separate organizations, each based on comprehensive workplace evaluations and employee surveys.

Per a Gallup survey of employee engagement, 76% of the company’s workforce is “engaged.” To put that number into context, the average employee engagement in the U.S. is 32%. Skender’s figure is in line with the engagement levels at companies Gallup defines as “best-practice organizations.”

High engagement levels lead to better client results and increased revenue, Latronico said. Lower turnover is a result, too: Skender’s 2022 turnover rate was at 9.4% compared to a construction industry average of 21.4%, per an oft-cited statistic attributed to the BLS.

Start with engagement, Latronico said, and everything else will fall into place. “I always think about getting people involved in the decision-making process and really letting people have a voice,” Latronico said. “If you give employees a platform for doing that … that can go such a long way.”

That said, maintaining a high-level culture comes with challenges. In difficult situations like the height of the pandemic in 2020, Latronico stressed the importance of leading with vulnerability. Economic impacts of the pandemic led the company to close a manufacturing facility in California and shutter its San Francisco office.

Business leaders might not have all the solutions in tough circumstances, but they have to be available to answer employees’ questions and not shy away from honesty, Latronico said.

“It is not a utopia,” Latronico said. “We are not perfect. No one is, and not every day is this place where you walk in and it’s all sunshine and roses. Some days are hard and we work in a challenging industry. Try and do your best, try to communicate, reach out to people, show that you care about them and take the time to learn about what’s stressing them out or causing any kind of burnout. If you do that, I think that makes a big difference for people.”

Skender VP Brian Kane Moderates Bisnow “State of Life Sciences” Panel Discussion at Chicago Summit

How is the Chicago life science market developing to compete with the industry’s coastal hubs?

On January 23, Skender’s Brian Kane moderated a panel at the Bisnow Chicago Life Science Summit, which explored this question and discussed the past, present and future of the city’s life science market. The panel was made up of Amy Lin of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health; Dr. Suzet McKinney of Sterling Bay; Gary Pachucki of IBT Group; Rob Korslin of Harrison Street; Max Zwolan of JLL; and Singerman Real Estate’s Neil Ostrander.

While the high interest rate environment has certainly slowed life sciences development in the last couple years, signs from the Fed indicate that rates may have hit their peak. As a result, panelists predicted that deal flow in the Chicago life science market would begin moving again once leasing interest and capital picks up in larger markets like Boston, San Francisco and San Diego.

The panelists agreed that Chicago — with its comparatively low cost of living, access to public transportation and close proximity to several large universities — is well-positioned for growth in life science, so long as life science tenants are supported through their growth lifecycles by their landlords. While commercial real estate is often a somewhat transactional experience, in the life science industry, relationships really matter.

In order for life science companies to thrive in Chicago, they need 24/7 from the owners and operators of the buildings they inhabit. From providing space for growth to ensuring that access to critical power isn’t disrupted even during inclement weather, life science tenants in the city are looking for landlords who are willing and able to both understand and provide for their unique needs.

Six Skender Projects Recognized for CoreNet Chicago Awards

We are honored to announce that six Skender-built projects have been named as Project of the Year finalists at this year’s CoreNet Chicago REAL Awards, recognizing outstanding achievements and groundbreaking advancements in corporate real estate. The winners will be announced on January 17, 2024.

The Skender projects being recognized include:

// Salesforce (with IA Interior Architects)
// Vizient (with Partners by Design)
// Confidential Tech Client Event Space (with Stantec)
// VTS (with VVA Project & Cost Managers)
// HNI+Allsteel (with Partners by Design)
// Drive Capital (with Lamar Johnson Collaborative)

Skender Kicks Off 2024 With Key Leadership Promotions to Support Growth, Innovation and Client Service

Skender, one of the nation’s top building contractors, today announced six promotions among its leadership team to support the firm’s strategic goals for growth, innovation and continued operational excellence in the new year.

The promotions are as follows:

Courtney Boatwright, promoted to Creative Director, from Senior Creative Manager. Since joining Skender in 2011, Courtney has steadily embodied Skender’s core values through her internal interactions and her external deliverables alike. Her branding and design talents have long influenced and guided Skender’s marketing initiatives, and her deep impact to the brand’s bottom line has been felt companywide. In her new role as Creative Director, she will be responsible for overseeing all creative production aspects of Skender’s brand, marketing campaigns and initiatives.

Kate Calenberg, promoted to Director of Learning & Development, from Talent Development Manager. Kate joined the Skender team in 2004 and, after a decade in project management, jumped into learning and development, carefully cultivating the new hire onboarding process. Always willing to go the extra mile to mentor employees and carve out time to help collaborate and resolve issues, Kate is extremely process-oriented and works diligently to help other employees embrace those fundamentals. In her new role, she will be responsible for the effective development, direction and presentation of training and development programs for all operational employees.

Patrick Sullivan, promoted to Director of Field Operations, from Senior Superintendent, Team Leader. Since joining Skender in 2015, Patrick has been an invaluable resource in managing field activities and operations for crucial client projects, including recent large-scale buildouts for Salesforce Chicago and Bank of America. His keen insights and communication skills make him an asset in ensuring the fast and safe completion of various projects, and he is adept at executing key construction and administrative activities to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget. In his new role, he will help oversee field operations, guiding projects and teams to safe, timely, on-budget completions.

Brian Bukowski, promoted to Senior Vice President, from Vice President. Brian joined Skender in 2007 and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. Since 2021, Brian has co-led the Interiors group, focusing on driving financial success, efficient operations, and the team’s vision. Across a wide variety of client experiences in Illinois, and nationally, Brian’s focus is always client satisfaction and continuous improvement. As Senior Vice President, Brian will continue to provide strategic and operational leadership to Skender’s award-winning Interiors group.

Andy Halik, promoted to Senior Vice President, from Vice President. Andy joined Skender in 2011 and has over 18 years of experience in the construction industry. He has a knack for promoting collaboration and partnership among his colleagues, and his keen business sense and ability to nurture client relationships is truly unmatched. Alongside Brian Bukowski, Andy co-leads the Interiors group, focusing on market strategy, client service and motivating the team toward continued growth. As Senior Vice President, Andy will continue to co-lead the award-winning Interiors group with strategic vision and a commitment to growing relationships.

Brian Simons, promoted to Senior Vice President, from Vice President. Brian joined Skender in 2007 and has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. He has steadily advanced his career in operations through his personalized approach to client service and his aptitude for fostering collaboration and cohesion among his teams and colleagues. Since 2020, Brian has led Skender’s Indianapolis office, which was recently expanded and has more than doubled its workforce to support a host of new projects in the Hoosier state. As Senior Vice President, Brian will continue to lead Skender’s Indianapolis construction operations with a focus on delivering the best value for clients.

“We are delighted to kick off the new year with the promotion of these six incredible Skender leaders,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO at Skender. “Each of these talented individuals embody Skender’s deep commitment to client service, community building, operational excellence and high performance and I am excited to see what 2024 brings as they settle into their new roles.”

Grand Opening: Step Inside Chicago’s New Salesforce Office

Last week, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson joined community and business leaders to celebrate the grand opening of Salesforce Tower Chicago and Salesforce’s new workspace (the latter built by Skender).

It’s one of the most notable buildouts in recent Chicago history and we were honored to help bring the vision to reality.

The space features: Employee floors, training floors, amenity floors, terraces, full-service kitchen, barista bar, interconnecting backlit staircase, state-of-the-art conference rooms, custom wood office fronts, SNA digital media walls, biophilic living columns, custom mosaic tile art, etc.

For more details on the impressive new space, watch the video or see the news media coverage below:

// Crain’s Chicago Business
// Connect CRE
// Chicago Tribune
// Chicago Sun-Times
// CoStar
// WGN-TV
// NBC 5 Chicago
// Urbanize Chicago
// Built In Chicago

 

Skender’s 2023 Charitable Giving Provides Support for Affordable Housing, DEI, Education, Income Inequality, Medical Research and More

Skender, a leading building contractor focused on crafting social change through positive impact, continued its legacy of giving in 2023 through a wide variety of charitable donations, volunteer work and civic participation.

Since 2010, Skender has donated more than $8 million to hundreds of charities. In 2023, the firm contributed more than $400,000 to 70+ non-profit organizations, including Northwestern Medicine, IU Health Foundation, American Heart Association, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Over the Rainbow, American Cancer Society, Lurie Children’s Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Steppenwolf Theatre, Easterseals, Epilepsy Foundation, Team Bright Side and Gilda’s Club Chicago.

“Skender has long been centered around four key pillars of social responsibility,” said Lisa Latronico, Chief People Officer at Skender. “Those values include taking responsibility for our employees, our communities, our business and clients, and the environment. Our history has been shaped by our dedication to progressive philanthropy, and it gives me great pride to see the impact of the volunteer work and charitable donations our organization has made in 2023.”

Skender’s 2023 philanthropic highlights include:

ACE Mentor Scholarship: In partnership with ACE Mentor Chicago, a non-profit focused on introducing high school students to the fields of architecture, engineering and construction, Skender awarded its annual $10,000 college scholarship to Ashton Mitchell, a senior at Penn State University who is studying architectural engineering. The scholarship supports the next generation of rising industry professionals, and all ACE Mentor Program alumni are eligible.

Almost Home Kids: Traditions are a meaningful part of the culture at Skender, and each year employees work with Almost Home Kids to buy wish-list gifts and spread holiday joy to families and children dealing with medical complexities.

ASPIRE Monument: In August 2023, Skender unveiled ASPIRE, a new community monument located at 6701 S Wentworth Avenue in Chicago’s historic Englewood neighborhood. This remarkable installation, standing 25 feet tall and crafted by local art activist Maxwell Emcays, commemorates the legacy of the site, formerly home to Kennedy-King College. The artwork celebrates those who foster the academic aspirations of local students and the promise of the area’s future generations to achieve their highest potential.

City of Hope: Skender’s own charity band, the Square Feets (featuring Dan Ulbricht and Courtney Boatwright from Skender, plus other industry friends), once again jammed out at the House of Blues for City of Hope’s 2023 Reach Social benefiting cancer care and research. The event attracted 800 people and raised $228,000.

Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT): Skender continues to provide support to CWIT by participating in their mock interview event for women who are seeking opportunities in the trades. Skender also donated personal protective equipment for the CWIT shop classes.

Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program: Skender believes in fostering relationships with non-profits and schools that provide apprenticeship opportunities to their students, especially in cases when this helps to lessen the financial burden for students who could not otherwise afford a college prep experience. In 2023, Skender was proud to offer two students from Cristo Rey High School in Pilsen apprenticeships in the Workplace Culture and Accounting departments.

Feed My Starving Children: Skender employees attended an event with Feed My Starving Children, which helped to pack 100,000 meals to be distributed around the world.

Genesys Works: For the sixth consecutive year, Skender partnered with the nonprofit Genesys Works to provide pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities.

Greater Chicago Food Depository: Skender hosted two events at the Greater Chicago Food Depository in 2023: An all-company volunteer event and a meal packing day where employees packed enough pasta to provide nearly 10,000 meals for people all across Chicagoland.

Habitat for Humanity: In service to Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program, Skender raised nearly $50,000 in 2023 for the global nonprofit housing organization. Additionally, Skender hosted a large Women Build fundraiser event with a performance from the Square Feets and joined three Habitat for Humanity build day events in Chicago and Indianapolis, in which Skender team members volunteered to build homes for families in need of housing.

Joseph E. Gary Elementary School (PK-8) Career and College Days: Skender employees participated in separate College and Career Days at Gary Elementary School, providing insight about construction-related college programs, work experiences and career paths for junior high students. Skender helped students learn about all aspects of the construction business – project management, safety, technology, finance, culture, and marketing.

Memory Rock for Alzheimer’s Association: In another incredible performance, the Square Feets participated in the Memory Rock for Alzheimer’s Association event, helping to raise more than $100,000 for Alzheimer’s research.

Music Will: The Square Feets helped raise over $140,000 while performing at the Music Will Benefit Chicago to support music education in Chicago Public Schools.

Revolution Workshop: To raise awareness about job opportunities in commercial and multi-unit residential construction, Skender hosted a series of Revolution Workshops at multiple jobsites, which allowed participants to shadow workers and see how specific jobs function. As a result, Skender was able to hire a graduate from the Revolution Workshop program, who is currently in a pre-apprenticeship program with the Carpenter’s Union. Additionally, Skender regularly participates in interview days for Revolution Workshop cohorts to prepare them for real-life interviews upon graduation. As part of its DEI goals, Skender annually will sponsor a graduate from RW, a Chicago trade school or other non-profit organization for membership in the Carpenter’s, Laborer’s, or Painter’s union.

The Special Olympics: In February, Skender participated in an annual chair hockey tournament benefiting the Special Olympics.

Women in Construction: Skender is dedicated to providing opportunities for employment, growth and advancement to women in the construction industry. Through the efforts of Chief People Officer Lisa Latronico and Skender’s People & Culture team, women make up 50% of the company’s C-suite and 26% of its leadership team. In the Skender workforce at large, there are 17% female and 35% minority employees.

Fulton Street Cos. and Skender Break Ground on 409,000-square-foot Office Building at 919 W Fulton Street in Chicago

Skender joined developer Fulton Street Companies and community leaders today to celebrate the groundbreaking of 919 W Fulton Street, a new 11-story mixed-use office development in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood. The 409,000-square-foot project marks Chicago’s first major new office development to commence construction in over a year.

The building’s notable tenants will include Chicago-based real estate investor Harrison Street Real Estate Capital and a first-floor restaurant from the Gibsons Restaurant Group.

“Today’s groundbreaking event is a win for Chicago,” said Alex Najem, Founder and CEO of Fulton Street Companies. “We have assembled the very best organizations and companies, led by exceptional people, to remind the world that we can – and will – continue to build in downtown Chicago. Shanna Khan is the definition of exceptional people, and 919 W Fulton would not be possible if not for her belief in the project, her vision as the chief design officer and commitment as the lead equity investor with SNK Capital. As such, Fulton Street is grateful for Shanna, the leadership of Alderman  and Vice Mayor Burnett, our tenants and all of our partners for making this ambitious and remarkable development a reality for our great city.”

The groundbreaking symbolizes Chicago’s strength and robust character, and the new office building will rise as a testament to the city’s enduring strength and vitality.

When completed in 2025, 919 W Fulton will feature expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor terraces on all sides, a rooftop with a lounge and bar, several coworking and conference spaces, fitness center with full locker rooms, and a full-depth, nearly football field-sized basement for 65-stall parking, ComEd vault and mechanicals.

The project pays great attention to air quality, material selection, energy efficiency, wellness and environmental impact, and is pursuing WELL and LEED Silver certifications. With two lobbies—one on Sangamon and one corridor connecting access between Fulton and Lake streets—the address of the finished building will be 217 N Sangamon.

“The Fulton Market neighborhood is a Chicago treasure,” said Shanna Khan, Founder and President, SNK Capital, the lead equity investment partner for the project. “The energy and vibrancy are evident the moment you arrive and, once you’ve visited, it becomes a destination. That’s why I’m passionate about 919 W Fulton. For all that Fulton Street already offers, maybe its greatest asset is its potential. Today, with 919 W Fulton, we are no longer talking about what’s possible … we’re making it happen.”

Skender will be bringing in all new utilities and connecting the new parking garage to the adjacent, existing lower-level parking structure at 210 N Peoria. The basement will feature a sophisticated, full-perimeter earth retention system to structurally support the excavation. Given its location adjacent to the El tracks, the project also required close coordination with the Chicago Transit Authority.

“This development has been more than four years in the making,” said Alex Panici, Vice President, Skender. “We are thrilled to get to work bringing this beautiful development to fruition. The office building with high-end finishes and curated amenities is what today’s companies want. Our team is proud to bring this prominent office building to the nation’s fastest-growing urban office submarket.”

Financial backing for the project was secured through strategic partnerships with Bank of the Ozarks and Manulife with development services by Fulton Street Companies and JDL Development, and SNK Capital assuming the pivotal role as the lead equity investment partner. Skender is serving as general contractor; FitzGerald Associates Architects is the architect of record with Morris Adjimi Architects providing the initial design; Thornton Tomasetti is the structural engineer; Eriksson is the civil engineer; Syska Hennessy Group is the MEP/FP engineer; and site design group, ltd. is the landscape architect.

Skender Completes Interior Buildout on West Loop Office for Fetch

// New bespoke space fuses Chicago’s heritage and modernity to meet diverse employee work styles //

Skender has completed the interior buildout of a new Chicago office for Fetch, the nation’s No. 1 rewards app and leading consumer-engagement platform, founded in Madison, Wisconsin.

The 20,000+-square-foot workspace spans the top three floors at 609 W. Randolph, a new West Loop office building completed in 2022 and built by Skender as general contractor. The finished space features 60 open-concept workstations, three café areas, three all-gender restrooms, 19 conference rooms, 17 phone rooms and a game room outfitted with arcade machines and a pool table.

To meet Fetch’s need for an all-hands space, two of the conference rooms can be combined through the use of an operable partition, then further combined with the neighboring café via the rollup of two glass doors, creating one large integrated area for all-company meetings and events. Additionally, the AV systems in the all-hands space are set up to function seamlessly as both individual rooms and as one cohesive room, a complex programming process that required the company to have its own AV network.

“This move gives Fetch ample room to grow and stretch out,” said Brian Eddy, Project Manager at Skender. “Our team seamlessly embraced the challenges presented by the simultaneous construction on three separate floors as well as the complexities of the AV system setup. Fetch employees now have a modern new office that caters to many kinds of work styles.”

“As a remote-first hybrid company, Fetch empowers employees to design flexible work arrangements tailored to their role, and we’ve structured our operations to maximize collaboration across virtual and in-person environments,” said Rachel Olchowka, Chief People Officer at Fetch. “Physical office space plays a key role in our work and culture by serving as a hub where employees can come together to foster innovation, strengthen connections, and bring our shared values to life.”

Construction started in March 2023 and wrapped up on time in July. In addition to Skender’s role as general contractor, the project team consisted of architect BOX Studios; Lumen Workplace acted as owner’s representative; the engineering and LV engineering was completed by Cosentini and Engineering Plus respectively; CBRE acted as broker.

“We very deliberately chose this boutique setting as the starting point for us to craft a space that embodies our organization’s unique identity and reflects Chicago’s rich heritage,” Olchowka added. “Thanks to Skender, this vibrant new office will help us continue embracing diverse ways of working and fostering inclusivity. We are thrilled to call it our new home and have it serve as the backdrop to our limitless creativity and continued growth.”

Skender Completes Interior Construction on 50,000-SF Office for AIT Worldwide Logistics in Itasca, IL

Skender recently completed construction on an expansive demolition and three-floor buildout for AIT Worldwide Logistics at Two Pierce Place in the Hamilton Lakes Business Park located in Northwest Suburban Itasca, IL. Skender kicked off construction on the two-phase project in February 2023, and completed the project in 22 weeks total (6 weeks of demolition and slab infill,16 weeks of construction).

AIT, a global supply chain solutions company, is occupying floors 20, 21 and 25 within the 25-floor, 494,000-square-foot Class A office tower. The buildout included 210 workstations, 43 enclosed offices, 9 conference rooms, a boardroom, a 2,000-square-foot café with meal prep and seating, a dedicated reception area, and game room, along with several collaboration areas built throughout the floors to boost communication among teammates. The executive floor is a world-class environment designed to support strategic planning and integrated management of AIT’s global initiatives, while providing hospitable surroundings to welcome customers, partners and other visitors.

“This modern, highly visible location is a true manifestation of our global brand, and it provides our corporate staff with both the space and resources they need to best support our customers and teammates around the world,” said Vaughn Moore, Chairman and CEO, AIT Worldwide Logistics.

“One unique element of this project was the removal and infill of an existing staircase, which involved cutting out the stair stringers, adding structural steel beams and a metal pan deck and filling the opening left by the staircase with concrete,” said Brian Eddy, Project Manager at Skender. “We also completely replaced the HVAC equipment and ultimately finished the project ahead of schedule and under budget.”

Skender also completed work on the base building restrooms while leading AIT’s tenant buildout project.

In addition to Skender, which served as general contractor, key participants on this project included: Partners by Design, architect; RLE, owner’s rep; and Advance Consulting Group, engineer.

Skender has recently completed several high-profile buildout projects at suburban and downtown properties for some of the most recognized corporate names. In Oak Brook, Skender built Ace Hardware’s new headquarters at the former McDonald’s corporate campus (the largest suburban buildout since 2018), as well as flagship Chicago offices for Salesforce, Milwaukee Tool, Walgreens and PepsiCo.

Skender Wraps Up Construction of Ace Hardware’s New HQ in Oak Brook, Illinois

The Largest Suburban Build-out Since 2018, the 250,000-SF Project Transformed the Former McDonald’s Corporate Campus into a Modern Workplace for Hardware Retailer

Skender has announced the completion of the 250,000-square-foot build-out of Ace Hardware Corporation’s new headquarters. The project, located at 2915 Jorie Boulevard in Oak Brook, has transformed the main building on the former McDonald’s corporate campus into a vibrant, modern, amenity-filled workplace for the hardware retailer. Construction began on February 16, 2023 and was officially completed on schedule on September 18, 2023. Ace Hardware’s first day of business in the new space was September 25, 2023, and the company held a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 10, 2023.

The Ace Hardware project team includes Skender as general contractor, CBRE Design Collective as architect and Environmental Systems Design as engineer.

The new Ace headquarters consists of open workstations, 150 conference rooms, 12 cafes/pantries and a variety of collaboration spaces and amenities. Originally built in the 1970s and designed by Dirk Lohan, grandson of famed architect Mies van der Rohe, the former McDonald’s campus consists of three Brutalist-style buildings occupying more than 80 acres in Oak Brook. The campus has been empty since 2019, when the fast food giant moved its headquarters to downtown Chicago.

The renovation has repurposed many of the main building’s original architectural elements, including a large atrium in the center that connects the rest of the building, and skywells that allow ample natural light to flow throughout the space. Demountable office and conference fronts were installed, which in addition to being more sustainable and economical than drywall, create functional, soundproof and visually private interior office spaces. They also enable faster construction and provide flexibility for reconfiguration options in the future.

The project team ran all electrical and low-voltage cabling under the entire second, third and fourth floors, which are built on an existing six-inch raised-floor system. To combat external supply chain challenges, Skender worked with Ace Hardware to procure materials earlier than usual and leveraging flexible phasing and work sequencing to further streamline the construction schedule. In addition to Skender’s work on the main building, the landlord converted the first floor of the parking garage into an amenity suite that includes a fitness center, conference center, multi-purpose room, and large cafeteria and dining center with commercial kitchen.

“We’ve worked very closely with Ace from the early pre-construction, budgeting and design phase all the way through completion,” said Tom Walsh, Project Manager at Skender. “The Ace team was always welcomed on site, and as a result, we were able to make adjustments early in the process to ensure their satisfaction. We were able to see first-hand their excitement grow with each construction milestone.”

Watch the video tour of the completed Ace Hardware HQ project:

Skender Completes Construction on Bettinardi Golf’s New Retail Location in Oak Brook

The nearly 7,000-square-foot state-of-the-art retail and performance center will be the go-to hub for putter and wedge fittings in the Chicagoland area.

Skender recently completed construction on Studio B, an immersive shopping and performance center for golf retailer Bettinardi Golf located at 1225 W. 22nd St in Oak Brook, Illinois.

The new, 6,877-square-foot facility is located on the ground floor of a two-tower office complex, adjacent to Michael Jordan’s restaurant. It supplements the retailer’s Tinley Park corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility and features a large boutique shopping area, two private putter fitting bays, custom wedge fitting bay, ample space for events and workshops, and The Hive, a high-end, appointment-only retail space featuring a collection of the rarest Bettinardi products never to hit market.

In addition to building out the new wedge fitting bay, the private putter fitting bays and The Hive shop to provide customers with a deeper customization experience, Skender also created a lounge area with a pantry and constructed two tech-forward branded video walls over the course of the 12-week build.

“The high-end nature of this project meant our team was laser-focused on detail and end-user experience, which made it both challenging and incredibly fun to work on,” said Jacob Boyle, Senior Project Manager at Skender. “The space now provides Bettinardi customers and guests with an intimate and elevated space where they can shop, socialize and host events.

Construction started in May 2023 and wrapped up on time in August. In addition to Skender’s role as general contractor, the project team consisted of architect RGLA and Cresa, which acted as commercial broker and owner’s representative.

Skender Named One of Chicago’s Best Places to Work by Crain’s

Skender has been named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Crain’s Chicago Business for the sixth consecutive year. Of the 100 finalists, Skender ranked No. 4 in the large companies category and No. 13 overall.

Each year Crain’s and an independent research firm determine the best places to work through a comprehensive evaluation and employee assessment of experiences and perspectives. Workplace policies, practices, demographics, benefits and culture are part of the evaluation.

With a focus on collaboration, high-performing teams and process efficiency, this is the seventh time in a decade that Skender has earned the prestigious Crain’s recognition; and makes 29 best-place-to-work awards (by three unique organizations) since 2008.

Collaboration is central to Skender’s character: from our commitment to building meaningful client relationships to our valued trade partnerships to our belief that every voice in our company has value. The result is a truly refreshing project experience for our clients, our partners and our employees.

Skender-built Maywood Supportive Living Wins 2023 Landmarks Illinois Award for Exceptional Preservation

Landmarks Illinois today announced that Maywood Supportive Living is a winner of its 2023 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award, honoring exceptional preservation efforts.

Maywood Supportive Living is a 100-unit, 133,000-square-foot, all-inclusive assisted living facility for low-income seniors. Celadon Partners led the preservation and revitalization of the long-vacant facility.

Over the course of construction, Skender stripped the historic building down to its structure to add modern amenities while taking great care to preserve and restore its natural architectural detail. Built in several different phases between 1929 and 1965, the building features a unique mix of Tudor-Revival and modernist styles. The restoration process included refurbishing the wood trim, stucco and brick facades to their former glory, installing new windows, revamping the first-floor lobby to highlight the original terrazzo floors, replacing the roof, restoring the commercial kitchen and dining area and converting 100 rooms into supportive living units, complete with kitchenettes.

Watch a short documentary on the building of Maywood Supportive Living.

This is the second Skender project to win the prestigious Landmarks Illinois award in five years. In 2018, the historic rehabilitation and office-to-residential conversion of Elgin Tower won the same preservation award for adaptive reuse.

Skender, Sterling Bay, and Lamar Johnson Collaborative Celebrate the Unveiling of Aspire Monument

Skender, alongside Chicago real estate development firm Sterling Bay, and design firm Lamar Johnson Collaborative (LJC), today unveiled ASPIRE, a new community monument located in Chicago’s historic Englewood neighborhood at 6701 S Wentworth Avenue. This remarkable installation, standing 25 feet tall and crafted by local art activist Maxwell Emcays, commemorates the legacy of the site, formerly home to Kennedy-King College. The artwork celebrates those who foster the academic aspirations of local students, and the promise of its future generations to achieve their highest potential.

Commissioned by Sterling Bay with construction and architectural design support from Skender and LJC, ASPIRE stands as a symbol of hope, inspiration, and achievement, capturing the indomitable spirit of all Englewood students who dream big. Environmental Systems Design (ESD) provided electrical and structural engineering support.

“ASPIRE was curated to celebrate the virtuosity of Englewood’s scholars and to highlight the transformative impact that education has on shaping brilliant futures,” said Keiana Barrett, Chief Diversity & Engagement Officer at Sterling Bay and longtime Englewood resident.

“With this monument, and the community-forward development plans we will soon announce for this site, we hope to strengthen the legacy of enterprise and collective growth in Englewood, while providing inspiration and inclusion to its residents for years to come.”

For over 18 months, the three firms and Emcays conducted several in-person meetings with neighborhood stakeholders to solicit feedback on various themes to inspire the artwork. Over the course of these discussions, it was agreed that capturing the spirit of achievement and ambition to foster pride and unity amongst local youth would be a meaningful message to memorialize. “My passion and hope for Englewood inspired the creation of this piece,” said Emcays. “It is a visual reference for the limitless potential of the community.”

Emcays was introduced to Sterling Bay by Andre and Francis Guichard, owners of the renowned Gallery Guichard in Bronzeville. “The Englewood monument by Maxwell Emcays is a powerful symbol that unites the community and inspires individuals to embrace shared values, cultural diversity, and a sense of historical continuity,” said Andre and Francis Guichard. “It can serve as a catalyst for positive change, fostering unity, understanding, and personal growth among community members and visitors alike.”

The base of the installation features an embedded time capsule, which houses artifacts chosen by Englewood community organizations, illustrating the character of the neighborhood. “The 6th Ward is the ward of innovation, equity, and advocacy,” said Alderman William E. Hall. “This statue is a reminder of where we came from, and a beacon of hope for the future.”

The collaboration between Sterling Bay, Skender, LJC, and Maxwell Emcays exemplifies the power of corporate-community partnerships in supporting local arts and culture. “Englewood’s schools and its dedicated teachers have educated incredibly talented students over many generations, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of countless young people born and raised in this neighborhood,” said Alex Panici, Vice President at Skender. “We hope that by memorializing the achievements of students of the past, future generations are reminded of what’s possible with the power of education.”

Lamar Johnson, Founder & Executive Chairman of LJC, adds, “This memorial expresses the vitality, energy, and aspirations of the Englewood community. We are incredibly proud to be a part of this creative team and see this memorial shine day and night.”

Skender Awards Annual Scholarship to Support Next Generation of Rising Industry Professionals

Skender recently awarded its annual $10,000 college scholarship to Ashton Mitchell, a senior at Penn State University, studying architectural engineering.

In 2022, Skender launched its scholarship program in partnership with ACE Mentor Chicago, a non-profit focused on introducing high school students to the fields of architecture, engineering and construction. The scholarship supports the next generation of rising industry professionals, and all ACE Mentor Program alumni are eligible.

Skender’s inaugural scholarship recipient was Alondra Santos, then a rising senior at the University of Illinois Chicago majoring in civil engineering. After graduating, Santos joined Skender’s healthcare construction team as a project engineer.

More information about the scholarship is available at https://acementorchicago.org/

Skender Breaks Ground on Fifth City Commons Affordable Housing Complex in East Garfield Park

Skender joined Mayor Brandon Johnson and several other community leaders yesterday to celebrate the groundbreaking of Fifth City Commons, a 43-unit affordable housing complex and retail space set to transform 1.5 acres on Chicago’s West Side, which have been vacant for decades.

Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) was selected by the City of Chicago in 2019 to develop the vacant space as part of the global C40 Reinventing Cities competition for designing highly sustainable developments on urban sites.

As general contractor, Skender will bring to life a three-story, mixed-use building offering innovative, affordable, sustainable one-, two- and three-bedroom rental units for East Garfield Park residents who make between 30% and 80% of the area median income. The project will include community rooms, a resident terrace and fitness room, three laundry rooms and on-site management offices.

“Fifth City Commons and the City of Chicago, with its commitment to and investment in sustainable affordable housing, transportation, and energy efficiency will demonstrate the impact cities and the built environment can have on climate change,” said Mayor Johnson. “More than 100 years after Chicago showed the world how to design and build skyscrapers, today we are poised to lead the way in the development of sustainable affordable housing. As Mayor, and as a West Sider – I could not be more excited.”

The complex will be all-electric, with sustainable features such as triple pane windows and air sealing to lower the building’s energy needs in accordance with Passive House principles. Two-thirds of all its energy needs will be supplied by rooftop solar panels. The property will also have mature landscaping, EV charging stations, extensive bicycle parking, and on-site composting.

“It is a privilege to work on the construction of such a sustainable development with POAH and the community,” said Joe Pecoraro, Project Executive at Skender. “We are excited to see the positive impact this building will have on the West Side.”

The City of Chicago provided the bulk of the financing for the development in the form of Tax Increment Financing and HOME investment Partnership Program assistance, sales tax bonds, 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and tax-exempt bonds.

Skender will serve as general contractor in a joint-venture partnership with Ashlaur Construction; architects Perkins + Will and Nia; and engineering firms dbHMS, Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Omni Ecosystems and TERRA Engineering.

Skender Announces Key C-Suite and Senior Workforce Promotions To Support Premier Client Service, Drive Further Growth

Skender, one of the nation’s top building contractors, today announced multiple C-suite and senior workforce promotions. This evolution in the firm’s leadership was strategically planned to support Skender’s premier construction services, nurture its existing culture of operational excellence, and provide its team of top talent with a wide range of opportunities to advance in their careers.

Promotions are as follows:

Lisa Latronico, promoted to Chief People Officer, from VP of People and Culture. Lisa joined Skender in 2001 and has overseen the HR function since 2006. An advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, under her watch Skender has boosted its representation of women in the company to 25%, well above the industry average of 11%. Under Lisa’s leadership, Skender has earned 29 “best place to work” awards from three different awarding organizations. In 2020, she was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of Chicagoland’s “Notable Leaders in HR,” an annual list that recognizes HR leaders who have made a significant impact within the local business community. In her new role as Chief People Officer, Lisa will be focused on maintaining the company’s award-winning culture, introducing learning programs that align with company growth, and finding and hiring the industry’s top talent.

Stacy Laughlin, promoted to Chief Financial Officer, from Controller. Stacy joined Skender in 2012. Over the last 11 years, she has built a cohesive finance and accounting team, helped to introduce and integrate forward-looking financial technology such as Procore and Power BI, enhanced the budgeting process and advanced the company’s financing capabilities. In her role as Chief Financial Officer, Stacy will be responsible for overseeing the financial and technology teams and providing strategic leadership to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies, while also managing the preparation of financial statements, audits and tax reports.

Jerry Ball, promoted to Chief Operating Officer, from Chief Financial Officer. Since joining Skender in 2003, Jerry has been a key member of the company’s executive leadership team, directing financial, risk management, administrative and operational initiatives. In his new role as Chief Operating Officer, Jerry will be focused on cultivating a people-first, “one-Skender” mindset, providing employees with training, mentorship and coaching, building client relationships, enabling cross-market synergies and providing everyone in the company with the tools and resources for optimal performance.

Clint Siebert, promoted to Director of Technology, from IT Manager. In his eight years at Skender, Clint has taken the company almost entirely into the cloud while at the same time growing and mentoring a team of IT professionals. His deep understanding of the needs of the business and how technology can help position Skender as a solutions-driven firm has enabled the company to stay in front of security matters, create a scalable infrastructure, and provide innovative connectivity and access to all Skender jobsites and offices. In his new role as Director of Technology, Clint will manage and direct the company’s IT and construction technology operations, ensuring the department continues to provide efficient and effective technical support service across all verticals and corporate teams.

Ryan Cotter, promoted to Preconstruction Executive, from Senior Preconstruction Manager. Since joining the firm in 2016, Ryan has proven himself to be a true collaborator with Skender’s developers, architects, engineers, consultants and trade partners, and has helped to create a comprehensive vision for the firm’s preconstruction services. In his new role as Preconstruction Executive, Ryan will be further expanding the preconstruction team and enhancing the firm’s estimating and preconstruction services, as well as leading client relations to strategize the estimating of projects company wide.

“Skender’s excellence as a company is due to the unparalleled talent and dedication of the people who work here,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO at Skender. “These strategic updates not only reward the hard work of these five individuals, but they also open up exciting new opportunities for the broader Skender team and enable our corporate departments to continue working in sync to deliver the premier construction experience our clients have come to expect. I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to them all!”

Skender Completes “Evolution of an Icon” Construction, Part of Ambitious Repositioning Project at THE MART

Skender recently completed construction on an expansive, centralized tenant amenity space and upgraded public corridors in one of Chicago’s most iconic buildings, THE MART (formerly Merchandise Mart). The bold repositioning initiative, coined “Evolution of an Icon” by building owner Vornado Realty Trust, features dramatic improvements to four key areas on the historic building’s second floor: a 29,000-square-foot circulation area, a 21,000-square-foot conference center, a 23,000-square-foot fitness center and a cozy, 2,000-square-foot private tenant lounge.

“This was four unique projects in one, with complex mechanical, electrical and plumbing work in a historic, occupied building,” said Rob Shilney, Senior Project Manager at Skender. “The architectural landmark is home to one of the largest office buildings in the world with significant foot traffic, so proactive planning, safety and communication were critical success factors. I am incredibly proud of the project team for expertly managing construction and delivering such a beautifully revitalized space on a very tight timeline.”

In the circulation area, which connects the building’s north and south lobbies and the CTA “El” train stop on the second floor, Skender added new Terrazzo flooring, metal portals and drywall soffits. New lounge seating – sourced from design showrooms at THE MART – was also installed to create a welcoming environment that echoes the building’s Art Deco roots.

The new conference center is composed of 15 state-of-the-art meeting rooms, accommodating 1 to 300 people, including a large flexible programming space that features Skyfold partitions, foldable glass walls, four 163-inch LED screen walls and high-end stone, millwork throughout. Located off the second-floor corridor, the conference center also has a relaxing workspace with phone booths, lounge seating, a pantry and a satellite service area for catered events.

The new, 23,000-square-foot fitness center was built with a golf simulator, high-end locker rooms with tech-forward features like infrared saunas, a spin-cycle room, a mind-body room and soundproof flooring to ensure no sound disturbance in the interior design showrooms below. Additional amenities in the health club include a small retail area and room for a future juice bar.

Overlooking the river is the new tenant-exclusive, speakeasy-inspired lounge with two large pendant chandeliers, high-end millwork and a unique bar combining metal, wood and stone materials.

The project team consisted of owner Vornado Realty Trust, architect Gensler, engineer IMEG Corp., and Skender as general contractor.

Crain’s Chicago Business: Q&A on Repositioning Downtown Buildings and Spaces

Challenging circumstances often present opportunities for significant change. In the wake of the pandemic and its seismic impact on work and lifestyle trends, Chicago’s central business district is struggling with historically high office and retail vacancies. The situation gives developers and landlords incentive to reimagine older buildings with modern workers and residents in mind.

As real estate owners strive to realize the potential of their assets by (re)developing new and functional spaces, many questions arise about the unique challenges that lie ahead in this next stage of Chicago’s evolution. Three experts in repositioning buildings (Andy Halik, Vice President at Skender; Patrick Kearney, Managing Director at AmTrust RE; and Chris Pemberton, AIA, Principal and President at SCB) share their insights with Crain’s.

With the high vacancy in the Loop office market, adaptive reuse of old buildings or spaces is necessary. What are the biggest challenges in historic property renovation?

Patrick Kearney: The Loop was originally envisioned and still serves as the center of commerce, culture, and government within the City of Chicago. However, the Loop has struggled to retain office tenancy in an era that now requires a vibrant 24-7, mixed-use urban setting. The biggest challenges surrounding large-scale office to residential conversion in the Loop are the significant cost of conversion relative to achievable rents and lack of existing 24-7 vibrancy.

It’s a chicken and egg dilemma in that exciting retail/entertainment offerings will drive residential demand while a critical mass of residential drives the emergence of new retail concepts. The City of Chicago realizes this dilemma and has responded by creating incentives to encourage both residential conversion as well as the creation of new retail/entertainment concepts. To create a truly vibrant Loop, it will require joint commitment from the City as well as building owners and businesses.

Chris Pemberton: First of all, I have to take a moment to mention that the leadership exemplified by the LaSalle Street Reimagined IFP is crucial to making this type of neighborhood revitalization feasible, given the very real financial barriers. But from a purely architectural perspective, one of the greatest design challenges for adaptive reuse of the kind that we’re working on in the LaSalle Street corridor is geometry. Often, the space configuration of these older office buildings doesn’t lend itself easily to conversion to residential. The floor plates can be so deep that it takes creative thinking to reconfigure that kind of area into desirable living spaces: bringing natural light in, for example – and in Chicago in particular, meeting requirements for operable windows in all bedrooms and living rooms. An example of this kind of creative design is our work on Tribune Tower, which had a similarly large footprint to the LaSalle Street office towers. There, to bring in natural light and fresh air, we carved out a courtyard that also provides residents with a beautiful and unique amenity space. At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that office buildings are designed for a completely different kind of activity than residential buildings. It’s a huge challenge to convert them, but it’s rewarding to give them a second life.

Andy Halik: Preservation and restoration can be challenging when it comes to adaptive reuse in the Loop. These older buildings have features that don’t always fit into modern compliance/zoning regulations or tenant comfort expectations. Historic properties are typically not designed to accommodate modern accessibility standards, and their plumbing, electrical, HVAC and other infrastructure often need costly and specialized upgrades. A lot of careful planning is required to hit the right balance between incorporating modern materials and the technology tenants expect and maintaining a building’s character. While this can be expensive, especially given the likelihood of running into structural obstacles in historic buildings, when done correctly it’s extremely rewarding.

From a design perspective, how should we achieve balance between modern and historic when repositioning the Loop?

Pemberton: Some of the buildings in the Loop are already recognized as historic landmarks. These stately old buildings bring character and visual interest to the streetscape, as they often incorporate notable datum lines, upper-level setbacks, and variations of window designs and stringcourse elements that help create a sense of proportionality and human scale from the street. From a design perspective, it’s crucial that new construction responds to these elements of massing and form, to maintain a respectful and harmonious interaction between modern and historic, to enhance the urban fabric.

Halik: On the plus side, some of the older Loop office buildings have much bigger, grander lobbies than existing residential buildings—a real opportunity when considering conversion. However, beyond the lobbies, we tend to see smaller windows, less space for socializing and less natural lighting than new builds. For office buildings that are staying office buildings but need modernization, we are seeing the addition of more outdoor amenities and retail and restaurant tenants to create a residential/hospitality feel for corporate employees. For example, a recent Skender project at 225 W. Wacker Drive renovated the historic building’s lower lobby, fourth-floor amenity space and roof deck using modern design elements. The upgraded amenity space features operable Skyfold partitions for flexible conferencing options; biophilia and plantings; high-end audio/visual technology; and commissioned art incorporating elements from the Chicago River, which pays homage to the building’s riverway backdrop.

Kearney: A major draw of the Loop is its historic architecture, ornamental details and large communal spaces that lend themselves perfectly to creating a unique and authentic feeling neighborhood. Repositioning efforts such as The Robey in Wicker Park have proved instrumental in creating a centerpiece within an already established community.

We, along with our development partner (Riverside) believe the 135 S LaSalle (Field Building) repositioning project will serve as one of these centerpieces in an evolving Loop neighborhood. Preserving authenticity through the restoration of historic elements is a key factor of the project and will ensure its relevance for the next 100 years. Our goal is to layer in both functional and aspirational spaces that support the modern live-work-play environment. Grand existing spaces within 135 S LaSalle and other historical LaSalle Street buildings serve as ideal backdrops for creating successful destination-oriented retail and entertainment offerings catering to tourists, residents and office workers.

Google made a high-profile decision to purchase the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago’s Loop. What sort of challenges will Google and other nearby landlords face when bringing a modern, functional appeal to a unique property?

Halik: Google’s situation is different than other nearby landlords in that the company’s core business is technology, not real estate. As a tech company, Google’s real estate decisions are less speculative than other landlords’ because they set the policy for where and when their employees are working, and their motivations may justify a greater investment when considering improvements to the base building. Building owners who are looking to lease entire buildings in the central Loop to multiple tenants with different needs and objectives have to delicately consider ROI when making decisions on where and how much to invest.

Ideally, Google’s revitalization of the Thompson Center will bring some much-needed activity back to that neighborhood in the same way their move to Fulton Market has transformed that area, but there’s a lot of work that they are going to have to do to bring it up to their standards for a global HQ. It’s a unique older building with inefficient single-pane glass, the HVAC system needs a complete overhaul, and the elevators provide part of the building’s character but are extremely outdated. The lobby and plaza, while in need of investment as well, provide a significant opportunity to engage the public and create energy for the surrounding neighborhood.

What building amenities or uses can bring the most life back to the LaSalle Street corridor, long known as the heart of banking and financial markets?

Halik: Building owners should consider creating a mix of amenities and uses for their spaces that can serve the needs of a diverse group of people and businesses. The most attractive buildings on the market right now feature common workspaces and amenities that replace the need for each tenant to build their own large conference and training rooms, provide a place to work or take a break outdoors, and create an environment that feels more like a trendy neighborhood coffee bar than a traditional office. New retail and dining options, outdoor parks, public plazas, fitness and yoga studios would all give workers a reason to choose coming to the office and remain downtown instead of staying home or leaving early. There is so much history in the LaSalle Street corridor, it just needs to be enhanced by the amenities that employees and employers are looking for in today’s market—amenities that are available in Fulton Market and are starting to become available in buildings along Wacker Drive and the river. If buildings in the LaSalle corridor follow this blueprint for a new age, that area could have a similar growth trajectory to Fulton Market.

Kearney: A combination of both service and destination-oriented retail is essential to support the daily lives of residents, while also drawing people to LaSalle Street on nights and weekends. While a neighborhood grocery option is vital, offering dynamic food, beverage, and entertainment options is paramount in attracting residents and ultimately enticing office tenants to return to the area.

Creative new retail concepts, public art and outdoor dining options will help LaSalle Street reinvent itself. Expansion of public markets, art shows, and holiday events will generate more traffic beyond typical work hours. Vehicular traffic is important to retain on LaSalle Street in some form, but there are several strategic infrastructure improvements that can be implemented. The abundance of nearby hotels, which were severely impacted by the lack of business travel during the pandemic, will be advantageous in promoting more tourism to the Loop as new retail and entertainment options come online.

Pemberton: At SCB, we have a lot of experience designing successful mixed-use urban districts, from creating district masterplans to then delivering buildings in a district we master planned. Through our experience, we’ve learned that to truly revitalize a neighborhood, we have to think beyond individual building amenities to the broader question of public realm benefit. I would say the three most important elements to this are: 1) Incorporating a range of retail spaces that vary in size and volume, attuned to what people want in their neighborhood, to support an increase in new residents to the area and serve their needs; 2) providing outdoor spaces for residents alongside access to thoughtfully designed spaces that are open to the public; and 3) creating a district plan to incentivize initial retailers while the neighborhood is initially being populated. This last piece is out of our hands as architects. But on the first two points, you have a great example of how so much of good architecture is invisible: we also need to design all the back-of-house servicing areas and parking to support retail and public spaces. These elements are essential to the functionality of the district. They need to work, yet be unobtrusive. And they are especially challenging to incorporate into historic structures.

Two Skender Projects Earn “Coolest Offices” Honor from Crain’s Chicago Business

This week, Crain’s Chicago Business announced its selection of the coolest offices in Chicagoland. Two Skender-built projects earned recognition:

HAVI: Skender recently completed interior construction of the new headquarters for supply chain management firm HAVI. The space spans the top four floors of 345 N Morgan – an office building that also earned standalone recognition for being one of Chicago’s “Coolest Offices” by Crain’s (details below). HAVI’s workspace features custom millwork with a mix of wood and metals, Allsteel demountable office fronts with wood doors, striking lighting and branding elements, a town hall space with a custom concrete gas fireplace, pantries on each floor, lab and video editing areas, a mix of huddle and conference rooms, and substantial audiovisual features.

The project team included Savills as project manager, Partners by Design as architect, Syska Hennessy as engineer, Henricksen as the furniture dealer, and Skender as general contractor.

345 N Morgan: In October 2022, Skender completed new construction of the hospitality-infused office and retail development for Sterling Bay. The 200,000-square-foot building, located in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, was intentionally designed for a lifestyle work environment with amenities and workspaces built for flexibility. The amenity-rich building includes private outdoor terraces on each floor, a 5,000-square-foot roof deck with sweeping views of the Chicago skyline, a conservatory bar and lounge with a double-sided fireplace, a full-service fitness center, a coworking library and several high-tech conference spaces to meet the evolving needs of an increasingly virtual workforce.

The project team, which swiftly completed the building in just 13 months, included Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, JLL Construction and Skender.

Skender Wins General Contractor of the Year Award for Second Consecutive Year

For the second consecutive year, Skender was named the General Contractor of the Year (Office) at the Illinois Commercial Real Estate Awards, hosted by REjournals. Skender’s workforce diversity, industry expertise, and achievements in new construction and interiors during the previous calendar year were recognized.

Skender’s 2022 accomplishments include:

>> Completing the substantial renovation of 3500 Lacey in Downers Grove, IL
>> Starting Phase II of Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Nourish Project
>> Giving back with volunteering and charitable contributions to education, health and affordable housing
>> Completing Torrence Place, a three-story, mixed-use affordable housing and health clinic development in Lansing, IL
>> Completing the award-winning 345 N Morgan, a new hospitality-infused office and retail development by Sterling Bay
>> Completing the 133,000-SF redevelopment of a 93-year-old historic property in Maywood
>> Breaking ground on 741 N Wells (The Leo), a 201,000-SF multifamily rental and retail tower in River North
>> Completing the award-winning lab and workspace for Hazel Technologies in Fulton Market
>> Breaking ground on a 250,000-SF medical office building in downtown Indianapolis
>> Completing Milwaukee Tool’s Chicago office in the historic Old Post Office
>> Completing Vista Property’s 609 W Randolph office building in West Loop
>> Completing the new workspaces for Equity LifeStyle, CCC Intelligent Solutions and Sloan
>> Completing Mustacchi Manor, a three-story, 16-unit supportive living apartment community in Matteson, IL

In addition to back-to-back General Contractor of the Year (Office) honors, Skender won Science Project of the Year for Hazel Technologies.

Skender Starts Renovation of Two 17-Story Apartment Buildings on Chicago’s West Side

Skender and its joint venture partner, Blackwood Group, have started the extensive renovation of two west-side senior living apartment buildings for the Chicago Housing Authority and Michaels Development. As occupied rehab construction, the project team is coordinating and carefully sequencing the work to ensure safe, smooth delivery with minimal interference with resident lives.

Irene McCoy Gaines Apartments. Located at 3700 W Congress Parkway in East Garfield Park, the 17-story, 150-unit property was built in 1964 and is undergoing substantial renovations to all units, including the updated HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems. New amenity spaces, such as a redesigned dining and community room, an exterior courtyard, and upgraded laundry spaces will be added.

Albany Terrace Apartments. Located at 3030 W 21st Place in South Lawndale, the 17-story, 350-unit senior complex was built in 1974 and is also undergoing a significant rehabilitation to upgrade resident units, amenity common spaces, and HVAC systems. Electrical and plumbing systems will also be replaced, and an additional elevator will be installed to meet residents’ needs.

New flooring, paint, LED lights, and kitchens and baths, including air conditioning and thermostats, will be installed in all units at both buildings. In addition, internet connectivity and Wi-Fi will be upgraded in all common areas and units.

Skender and Blackwood Group are collaborating with CHA and Michaels Development as well as Canopy / architecture + design on this project. Work is expected to be complete in the second half of 2024.

Pictured: Albany Terrace Apartments (top and second), Irene McCoy Gaines Apartments (bottom and third)

Skender Completes Construction of Avant Headquarters in Merchandise Mart

Skender recently completed construction on the new 81,000-square-foot Avant headquarters in the Merchandise Mart. The financial technology company’s office features open workstations, multiple cafés, and a mix of collaboration, conferencing and focus spaces, including a large hub / town hall area. The new workspace doubles Avant’s presence in Chicago and provides for flexibility and growth.

Following an aggressive 16-week schedule, Skender completed the project on time and under budget. Avant relocated from 222 N LaSalle St. and began operating from the new headquarters in January 2023.

The project team included CBRE as tenant representative, Gensler as architect, Syska Hennessy Group as engineer and Skender as general contractor. In the past decade, Skender has built out and renovated approximately 2 million square feet of workspace at theMart and is currently working with owner Vornado Realty Trust on the iconic property’s ambitious repositioning initiative.

Skender Completes Buildout of Northwestern Medicine Pain and Spine Center in Bloomingdale, Illinois

Skender recently completed the buildout of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Pain and Spine Health Bloomingdale. The multidisciplinary clinic is located at 245 Gary Avenue and provides collaborative medical office space for pain medicine specialists, neurosurgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists and advanced practice nurses.

The 12,000-square-foot project was comprised of a comprehensive renovation of the first floor including new imaging equipment, patient care areas, and physical therapy specialty spaces.

Along with the clinical buildout, the building underwent significant infrastructure upgrades including new electrical service and transformer, as well as multiple crane lifts to replace four rooftop mechanical units on a highly condensed schedule to limit impacts to existing tenants.

“Teamwork is critical, especially when it comes to healthcare construction,” said Brian Kane, Vice President at Skender. The construction firm has collaborated with Northwestern Medicine on more than 200 projects since 2008. “This project, like so many others, was a success thanks to proactive planning, true collaboration and regular communication among all players.”

Skender Expands Indiana Office and Workforce to Support Construction Projects Throughout Hoosier State

With a focus on creating maximum value for clients, Skender’s Indiana construction activity spans healthcare, municipal, office and industrial sectors

A whirlwind of growth and relationship building is driving a significant expansion into Indiana for Skender to the tune of more than one million square feet of healthcare, office and government construction projects. Skender recently moved into a larger Indiana office, located in the Keystone area of North Indianapolis, and more than doubled its workforce in the state to support a host of new projects under construction and in the planning stages. The move marked a prominent milestone for the firm, which has spent the last 60 years building a reputation for construction distinction in Illinois—and now is poised to do the same in Indiana.

Skender’s presence in the region began prior to the pandemic in early 2020 when Indiana University Health (IU Health), one of the country’s largest healthcare institutions, brought Skender in to assist with significant expansion and upgrades to IU Health facilities in Indianapolis and around the state. The IU Health projects ranged from new construction to simple cosmetic updates and had the potential to shape whole neighborhoods in key Indiana markets like Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Bloomington, bringing communities to the forefront with improved access to healthcare.

Brian Simons, a Skender veteran and Purdue University alumni, relocated to central Indiana to head up location operations, with a focus on expanding relationships with clients, architects, brokers, and trade partners. Simons recruited talented local professionals to enhance resources and relationships, and in less than 24 months, the team grew to 11 construction professionals. Skender is now positioned with more than one million square feet of construction experience across Indiana, and the firm’s Indiana office is projecting more than 400% revenue growth in 2023 with projects spanning healthcare, municipal, office and industrial sectors.

Skender’s recent and active work with IU Health includes the following projects:

 >> Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center. Skender joined the F.A. Wilhelm team to build the new IU Health Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center near the campus of Indiana University. The state-of-the-art, 620,000-square-foot complex, which opened in December 2021, consists of in-patient and out-patient clinical services, and 115,000 square feet for academic instruction.

>> Capitol View Medical Office. Skender is partnering with Meyer Najem Construction on a new five-story, 250,000-SF medical office building that is part of IU Health’s expansion across downtown Indianapolis. With expected completion in summer 2023, the LEED Silver certified project will be a shining example of sustainability features and high-energy performance.

>> West Hospital Clinics. Skender managed the renovation of IU Health West Hospital’s Outpatient Clinic and the expansion of its Infusion Clinic in Avon, Indiana, a near-west suburb of Indianapolis. The Outpatient Clinic was previously occupied by a third-party outpatient operator and IU Health integrated it into their network. The Infusion Clinic project included the renovation of an existing infusion clinic, adding new infusion bays, adding a compounding pharmacy and modernizing all finishes. It opened in late 2022.

>> Saxony CT Replacement. Skender managed the replacement of the CT Equipment at IU Health’s Saxony campus in Fishers, a northeast suburb of Indianapolis. This project required the construction and activation of a mobile CT unit to enable the replacement of the permanent interior CT equipment. The project was completed ahead of the aggressive December 2022 deadline set forth by the hospital.

In addition to its work with IU Health, Skender has also been building a reputation in Indiana that has landed the construction firm additional projects, which help to strengthen community by providing better access to healthcare and government services:

>> Adult & Child Health. Skender will soon start the interior buildout of a 40,000-square-foot clinic and office for this nonprofit healthcare provider.

>> Aspire Indiana Health Clinic. A nonprofit healthcare provider now has a new full-service clinic on northeast side of Indianapolis, serving an urgent need for acute care in the area.

>> Jane Pauley Community Health Centers. Four health center projects ongoing or completed by Skender are now providing medical and mental health services in Central Indiana. The timing couldn’t be better. The centers have reported a doubling in the number of patients who need behavioral health services since COVID hit the U.S.

>> Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center Renovations. Skender is underway on a multi-phase renovation of the existing Hamilton County Judicial Center, which includes the addition of multiple courtrooms and support spaces. The recently completed first phase at the Judicial Center included the opening of two new magistrate courtrooms and support spaces.

>> Greenwood Healthcare Center Expansions. Skender is under construction on three separate medical clinic/office expansions in Greenwood, allowing enhanced services for a community in need. Expected completion in March 2023.

“I’m humbled by our growth and opportunities in the great state of Indiana,” said Brian Simons, Vice President at Skender. “It takes a village and we couldn’t have made it this far without our clients, partners and talented Indianapolis team, who offer strong market expertise, personal connections and tailored solutions to all sectors and industries. The future is bright and I’m excited to increase our impact on the communities in which we serve.”

Photo: Progress on our IU Health Capitol View Medical Office Building project

Skender Starts Construction of Ace Hardware’s New Headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois

The Largest Suburban Build-out Since 2018, the 250,000-SF Project Will Transform Former McDonald’s Corporate Campus Into Modern Workplace for Hardware Retailer

Skender has started construction on the 250,000-square-foot build-out of Ace Hardware Corporation’s new headquarters. The project, located at 2915 Jorie Blvd., will transform the main building on the former McDonald’s corporate campus into a vibrant, modern, amenity-filled workplace for the hardware retailer.

The project will consist of open workstations, 150 conference rooms, 12 cafes/pantries and a variety of collaboration spaces and amenities. Originally built in the 1970s and designed by Dirk Lohan, grandson of famed architect Mies van der Rohe, the former McDonald’s campus consists of three Brutalist-style buildings occupying more than 80 acres in Oak Brook. The campus has been empty since 2019, when the fast food giant moved its headquarters to downtown Chicago.

“We are excited to be working with Skender to modernize this iconic campus to serve the needs of our growing business,” said Kane Calamari, SVP and Chief Human Resources Officer at Ace Hardware. “Once complete, the new office will bring all of our employees together in one building to better collaborate and serve our shareholders for many years to come.”

The renovation will reuse and retain many of the main building’s original architectural elements, including a large atrium in the center that connects the rest of the building and skywells that allow ample natural light to flow throughout the space. The project team will be installing demountable office and conference fronts, which in addition to being more sustainable and economical than drywall, create functional, soundproof and visually private interior office spaces. They also enable faster construction and provide flexibility for reconfiguration options in the future.

The Skender team will be running all electrical and low-voltage cabling under the entire second, third and fourth floors, which are built on an existing six-inch raised-floor system. To combat external supply chain challenges, Skender is working with Ace Hardware to procure materials earlier than usual and leveraging flexible phasing and work sequencing to further streamline the construction schedule. In addition to Skender’s work on the main building, the landlord will be converting the first floor of the parking garage into an amenity suite that includes a fitness center, conference center, multi-purpose room, and large cafeteria and dining center with commercial kitchen.

“We are delighted to partner with Ace Hardware on the restoration and revitalization of this beautiful space,” said Tom Walsh, Project Manager at Skender. “These buildings were designed to blend in with the area’s natural features with future expansion and evolution in mind, and it’s great to be able to update an existing structure to fit the needs of a modern workforce.”

The project began construction in February 2023 with an anticipated completion date in mid-to-late 2023. The Ace Hardware project team consists of Skender as general contractor, architect CBRE Design Collective and engineer Environmental Systems Design, Inc.

Watch the video of demolition kicking off the Ace Hardware HQ construction project:
https://youtu.be/sjM54ba5UXE

Skender Wins Top Safety Award

Skender recently won the Safety Achievement Award from the Great Lakes Construction Association (GLCA). The award recognizes outstanding safety achievements during 2022 in the category of 500,000+ hours worked. This is the third time Skender has earned GLCA’s top safety award since 2016 and totals seven construction safety awards won since 2013.

Skender’s blended approach of safety, production and quality is part of its Lean, human-centric project delivery. Our certified safety team develops comprehensive, job-specific safety plans, which consist of weekly project inspections, meticulous planning, predictive analysis, reporting systems and diligent coordination and communication with all stakeholders. Another measure of safety in the construction industry is the experience modification rate (EMR), which the National Council of Compensation Insurance uses to calculate the past cost of injuries and future chance of risk. Skender’s EMR is 43 percent better than the national industry average.

Construction Tops Out at 741 North Wells, a 21-Story Multifamily Rental and Retail Tower in River North

Developer VISTA Property and its general contractor, Skender, recently reached the final height at 741 N Wells Street, a new mixed-use multifamily rental building in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Designed by Antunovich Associates, the 21-story, 201,000-square-foot development will include 168 apartment units, communal tenant amenities and an elegant building lobby. Located prominently at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Wells Street, 741 N Wells is one of the latest new developments going up in River North.

“We are thrilled to be adding another beautiful mixed-use property to one of the city’s most vibrant and lively areas,” said Ark Latt, Chief Development Officer, VISTA Property. “Our thanks goes out to the teams at Skender and Antunovich Associates for their hard work throughout this process, and to the 2nd Ward alderman and community for their ongoing partnership and collaboration.”

The multifamily building will include 50 studios, 101 one-bedrooms and 17 two-bedrooms, as well as a rooftop terrace with pool, meeting facilities, exercise area, bicycle storage and parking for roughly 50 vehicles. The building will include expansive floor-to-ceiling windows on all facades, along with exceptional 9-foot ceiling heights offering unique views for all residents.

“It has been a pleasure to work alongside VISTA and Antonovich Associates again,” said Lauren Bauer, Senior Project Manager, Skender. “This topping out is a celebration for our trade partners. They work incredibly hard to deliver a quality building and keep the project on track.”

VISTA Property financed the project with a first mortgage loan from Huntington Bank, and has also engaged Luxury Living Chicago Realty, downtown Chicago’s premier marketing, consulting and residential leasing brokerage firm.

The project team consists of: VISTA Property (developer), Skender (general contractor), Antunovich Associates (architects) and Luxury Living Chicago Realty (marketing/sales).

Skender Completes Complex Landlord Construction Project at 225 W. Wacker Drive

Extensive upgrades throughout the West Loop office tower bring luxury, function and a tribute to the Chicago River  

Skender today announced the completion of a landlord capital improvement project at 225 W. Wacker Drive in Chicago, a 31-story, trophy-class office tower located in Chicago’s West Loop submarket, fronting the Chicago River. The 651,000-square-foot building is owned by San Francisco-based Spear Street Capital, who hired Skender as general contractor to concurrently manage three different construction projects at the property. Valerio Dewalt Train is the architect of record and New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) is the designer.

Skender began the process of renovating the building’s lower lobby and Franklin Street entrance, fourth-floor amenity space and roof deck in summer 2021. Substantial construction wrapped up in November 2022, and the revitalized building is an example of how Chicago’s downtown office towers can evolve to accommodate a more hybrid workforce.

The first completed phase was the building’s dedicated tenant amenity floor. The reenergized amenity space features operable Skyfold partitions for flexible conferencing options; lush botanicals and plantings; high-end audio/visual offerings; and commissioned art incorporating minerals from the Chicago River, which pays homage to the building’s striking riverway backdrop. Custom architectural millwork gives the space a warm and luxurious feel that invites tenants in to work, chat or rest.

Connected to the fourth-floor interior space is a completely redesigned open-air terrace with gardens. The Skender team overcame weather-related challenges to install extensive plantings and vegetation while also ensuring proper water filtration and drainage, a complex undertaking for urban roof decks. To execute the stunning design, Skender successfully tied into the existing building for visual continuity, punched openings for curtainwall, removed stone to add a new membrane, and redesigned the vestibule area for better interior temperature control.

For the redesigned building lobby, the Skender team was able to expertly navigate a complex construction process while keeping the space fully functioning for office tenants, and high-end materials are now taking center stage.

“The project team was committed to using high-end stone from Italy, which despite supply chain and shipping challenges, was well worth the extra time to install,” said Tim Rogers, Project Executive at Skender. “It’s just stunning and really creates a sense of arrival. It incorporates horizontal graining to represent the Chicago River, and the backlit onyx stone gives the turnstiles a sense of fresh luxury.”

For the flooring, wood was added for warmth and light, and an overhead slab was cut in one section to achieve double-ceiling height. On the exterior, there is a brand-new curtainwall on the Wacker Drive side, and a refreshed entrance on the Franklin Street side. An arresting new light fixture and reception desk serve as memorable welcoming points for visitors and tenants alike.

Skender worked hard to strike the right balance of speed, cost effectiveness and agility, and together with Valerio Dewalt Train Architects, the team was able to find solutions to every issue encountered by making decisions through collaboration and communication. Despite extra supply chain challenges related to the highly custom materials, Skender was delighted to complete the entire three-part project of seamless construction without disruption to tenants over the course of 16 months.

Cushman & Wakefield served as management and owner’s representative on this project. OEHME, VAN SWEDEN (OvS) served as the landscape architects of the rooftop terrace. Syska Hennessy Group served as MEP engineer.

To learn more about 225 W Wacker Drive, visit: https://www.225westwacker.com/

Skender Adds Four Shareholders, Announces Five Executive and Project Management Promotions

Skender today announced the appointment of four new shareholders along with five executive and project management promotions. Skender is a privately held, leadership-owned building construction firm dedicated to providing employees with ample opportunity for advancement and success in their careers.

The new Skender shareholders are as follows:

Brian Kane, also promoted to Vice President, from Project Executive. Brian Kane joined Skender in 2008 as a Project Engineer and has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry. As Vice President, Brian will continue to lead Skender’s specialized healthcare and life sciences construction teams on various hospital, outpatient and laboratory projects. He has completed numerous projects on behalf of Northwestern Medicine, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Loyola Medicine, NorthShore and others. Brian earned a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois.

Alex Panici, also promoted to Vice President, from Project Executive. Alex joined Skender in 2016 as Project Manager and has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry. As Vice President, Alex will continue to lead new construction office, hotel and high-rise residential project teams. He recently led ground-up construction projects in the Chicago CBD including 345 N. Morgan, an 11-story office building in Fulton Market and 609 W Randolph, a 15-story office project in the West Loop. His team is currently leading construction at 741 N Wells, a 21-story mixed-use residential building in River North. Alex earned a degree in construction management from Illinois State University.

Dan Stefka, Field Operations Manager. Dan Stefka has more than 35 years of construction-related experience. He joined Skender in 2013 as a job site foreman. As Field Operations Manager, Dan is responsible for scheduling workforce, equipment and logistics and ensuring overall safety of the site.

Dan Torres, CHST, STS-C, Safety Director. Dan Torres has 20 years of construction experience, including 14 years as a commercial union carpenter and 15 years as safety professional. Dan is a certified fall protection inspector, first-aid CPR trainer and OSHA outreach trainer and holds multiple certifications from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals.

The four new shareholders join existing shareholders Justin Brown, Jerry Ball, Dan Marijan, Afshan Barshan, Clay Edwards, Lisa Latronico, Brian Simons, Brian Bukowski, Joe Pecoraro, Tim Rogers, Andy Halik, Todd Andrlik, Dan Ulbricht, Ashlee Pforr, John Estes, Pete Conlin, Patrick Sullivan, Luke DeTolve, Brian Ribordy, Jeff Krause, and Stacy Laughlin. All shareholders were appointed based on their outstanding leadership, client service, work ethic, loyalty, ability to be team players and devotion to Skender’s core values.

Additional Skender promotions are as follows:

Lauren Bauer, promoted to Senior Project Manager, from Project Manager. Lauren joined Skender in 2019 as a Project Manager and has over a decade of experience in the construction industry. Lauren’s role as Senior Project Manager involves preconstruction, job-start planning and management of commercial ground-up projects in the City of Chicago. Her team recently completed construction of 609 W Randolph in the West Loop. She is currently managing construction at 741 N Wells, a 21-story mixed-use residential building in River North. Lauren earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Taylor Betthauser, promoted to Project Manager, from Project Engineer. Taylor joined Skender in 2018 and has five years of experience in the construction industry. In her new position as Project Manager, Taylor is responsible for managing the day-to-day details of construction projects including scheduling, change orders, invoicing and progress reports. She has helped deliver numerous healthcare construction projects for Northwestern Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital. She has also worked on tenant interiors projects such as LinkedIn and Brookfield Properties. Taylor earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Ben Miltzow, promoted to Director of Self-Perform, Carpentry, from Manager. Ben joined Skender in 2019 and has more than 20 years of experience in the construction industry. In his role, Ben oversees Skender’s in-house carpentry capabilities, working with Skender project teams and clients to effectively schedule and estimate carpentry services while managing projects, coordinating trades and ensuring the highest levels of quality.

“I am grateful for the hard work each of these individuals have put in over this past year to meet the complex and evolving needs of our clients and our business, especially given the unprecedented nature of our current industry environment,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO, Skender. “Our team at Skender is truly top tier and it’s been incredibly gratifying to watch these smart and talented people develop into powerful and effective leaders.”

Skender Completes Comprehensive Repositioning Project at 3500 Lacey in Downers Grove

Extensive lobby and amenity updates bring upgraded sophistication to former Sara Lee headquarters

Skender today announced the completion of a landlord capital improvement project at 3500 Lacey, located at the convergence of Interstates 355 and 88 in Downers Grove, Illinois. The former Sara Lee headquarters was built in 1992 and was purchased by KORE Investments in 2019. In May 2022, Skender began renovating the 622,600-square-foot building’s lower lobby, main lobby and fitness center. The revitalized building is an example of how Chicago’s suburban offices can evolve to compete with their downtown counterparts.

Skender served as general contractor for this project, working with OKW Architects to create a fresh and updated space for 3500 Lacey tenants to enjoy. The striking office building is also home to the Esplanade Lakes Ballroom, a wedding venue operated by DoubleTree. Adding to project complexity, the office building lobby was used on weekends as a cocktail area. Skender was able to successfully coordinate construction to allow these events to go on as planned and without disruption. Skender used scissor lifts rather than scaffolding to allow for discrete construction and was able to keep the lobby aesthetically pleasing during weekends.

“This was a substantial remodel project and truly an amazing construction journey with Skender,” said Anne Esterquest, Vice President of Operations at KORE Investments. “3500 Lacey is a trophy office tower and these enhancements, along with our technology integrations, add substantial value for our existing first-class tenant experience. We couldn’t be more delighted with how things turned out. The investment fully embodies KORE’s people-centric values and community-affirming culture.”

In the building’s primary lobby, Skender worked with structural engineers to add two new primary light fixtures to the 68’ ceilings, totaling nearly 2,000 pounds. The new lighting provides a welcoming aesthetic at the new reception deck and accompanying colorful seating options. Portions of the wood paneling and wall stone were swapped out for a modern black and metal design that highlights the lobby’s existing Terrazzo flooring.

A bar area serving morning coffee and pastries and evening happy hour drinks was built, along with library-style desks for hybrid work, and plants were added throughout the building to enhance the feel of the space. The building’s custom app provides tenants with important building information and updates as well as an order-ahead system that syncs with the new coffee bar for grab-and-go food and beverages.

On the lower level, Skender upgraded the area that serves as a connection to amenities and the wedding venue. Skender worked with a specialist to stain the complex existing wood floors and added plantings. A state-of-the-art fitness center including showers and lockers is also complete.

“In the face of global supply chain constraints and inflation, Skender worked hard to find the right balance of speed and cost effectiveness and, together with OKW Architects, we were able to provide solutions to every issue we encountered and made decisions together as a team,” said Tim Rogers, Project Executive at Skender. Skender frequently partners with building owners and their property management teams for major asset repositioning projects and a full range of landlord construction services. In 2022, the firm won Interior Contractor of the Year for owner projects at the Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards.

JLL served as management and owner’s representative on this project.

To learn more about 3500 Lacey, visit https://koreinvest.com/properties/lacey/

Skender Starts Phase II of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s Nourish Project

The second phase of the food bank’s expansion project will help to address the root causes of hunger across Chicago and Cook County

Skender has started construction on a 37,000-square-foot expansion of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a food bank on Chicago’s Southwest side that provides food for families and individuals at risk of food insecurity while advancing a mission to end hunger. The new structure at 4100 W Ann Lurie Place will add onto the food bank’s existing two-story warehouse and office.

To aid in the Food Depository’s goal to produce and distribute 2.5 million prepared meals annually to community members, Phase II of the Nourish Project will expand the light industrial facility to include a commercial kitchen for meal preparation and packaging, and a demonstration kitchen for nutrition education. The project also includes 11.5 acres of site work with parking for volunteers, guests and fleet, as well as space for growing fresh produce in the future.

“The Greater Chicago Food Depository is excited to move forward with Skender on this transformational project,” said Kate Maehr, Executive Director and CEO of the Food Depository. “This expansion of our facility will directly result in more healthy prepared meals for our neighbors at increased risk of hunger, including older adults, people with disabilities, individuals with medical conditions, and other households. We look forward to the day the first meals are produced in our new commercial kitchen and delivered to households across our community. This is a vital step in our mission to end hunger.”

The Food Depository completed Phase I of the Nourish Project in 2019, which expanded cold storage, upgraded the existing warehouse, and created new and renovated spaces for their volunteer program. The first phase renovations have been essential throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as demand for food assistance soared to record levels.

As the need for prepared meals is projected to increase dramatically, Phase II will allow the Food Depository to reach target populations who have experienced unique barriers to food access during the pandemic, now and in the future. The new phase will also include a community partnership strategy that aims to increase the total number of healthy meals distributed by purchasing meals from local minority and women-owned businesses and community organizations.

“The Greater Chicago Food Depository has been a beacon of hope since its founding more than 40 years ago,” said Justin Brown, President & CEO, Skender. “This expansion will enable the organization to provide 10,000 healthy meals every day while serving as a catalyst for economic impact through essential partnerships with women- and minority-owned businesses. It’s an honor to serve as general contractor on a project that will positively impact the lives of so many in our community.”

The Nourish Project is driven by a $75 million capital campaign. Phase II of the project is expected to reach completion in early 2024. Partners by Design is the project architect.

To learn more about the Nourish Project, visit: https://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/get-involved/give/nourish/

Skender Gives Back in 2022 with Volunteering and Charitable Contributions to Education, Health and Affordable Housing

Skender, a building contractor with a long history of giving back to the community, continued its philanthropic legacy in 2022 by supporting dozens of non-profit organizations through volunteering, charitable giving and civic participation.

“Doing good and giving back matters deeply to our team,” said Justin Brown, President & CEO at Skender. “We are driven to make real change through our ongoing community-building and philanthropic initiatives, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see the positive impact that our contributions can have on those in need.”

Recognizing its responsibility to the world and striving to build a legacy of integrity, Skender focuses its philanthropic efforts on four pillars of social responsibility: People, communities, business and clients, and the environment. Skender concentrates much of its charitable giving on supporting education, health and affordable housing initiatives. Since 2010, Skender has donated nearly $8 million to 300-plus nonprofit organizations.

Skender’s 2022 philanthropic highlights include:

Habitat for Humanity: As part of Habitat for Humanity Chicago’s Women Build program, Skender raised more than $30,000 for the global nonprofit housing organization. Skender team members volunteered at multiple Habitat for Humanity build days throughout the Chicagoland area, helping to build homes for families in need of affordable housing. In 2022, Skender’s Ashlee Pforr was named to Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity’s Board of Directors.

ACE Mentor Chicago: In 2022, Skender launched a scholarship program in partnership with ACE Mentor Chicago, a non-profit focused on introducing high school students to the fields of architecture, engineering and construction. The $10,000 scholarship supports the next generation of rising industry professionals. Skender’s inaugural scholarship recipient was Alondra Santos, a senior at the University of Illinois Chicago who is majoring in civil engineering. In addition to the scholarship, Skender’s Brian Bukowski served on ACE’s Fundraising Host Committee.

City of Hope: Skender’s Dan Ulbricht and his band, the Square Feets, performed at the 25th Anniversary REACH Social to raise money for the treatment of cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Dan, a guitarist and vocalist, started performing at charitable fundraisers 20 years ago, and since then has helped bring the industry together to raise millions for City of Hope, Alzheimer’s Association, Music Will, Federation of Women Contractors, and many more.

National Alliance on Mental Illinois (NAMI) Chicago: After five hours of competitive bracket play, Skender won Bisnow’s 3×3 charity basketball tournament, resulting in $35,000 in winnings going to the NAMI’s Chicago Office, one of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organizations dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Genesys Works: For the fifth consecutive year, Skender partnered with nonprofit Genesys Works to provide pathways to career success for high school students in underserved communities.

Almost Home Kids: Traditions are a meaningful part of the culture at Skender and each year our employees—er, elves—work with Almost Home Kids to buy wish-list gifts and spread holiday joy to families and children dealing with medical complexities.

Skender is shaped by progressive philanthropy, a focus on people and vibrant community-building initiatives. Our history of compassion includes charitable contributions to these 300-plus organizations.

 

Skender Completes Construction of Mixed-Use Development Connecting Housing and Healthcare in Lansing, Illinois

The Joint Venture with Ashlaur Construction Brings Accessible Housing and Healthcare for Veterans and People with Disabilities

Skender, in conjunction with joint venture partner Ashlaur Construction, recently completed the new construction of Torrence Place, a three-story, mixed-use affordable housing and health clinic development at 2320 Thornton-Lansing Road in Lansing, Ill. Developed by Full Circle Communities, this project provides 48 accessible and adaptable units with a focus on veterans and people with disabilities. The finished building includes a 3,600-square-foot health clinic and pharmacy on the ground floor operated by Christian Community Health Center.

Additional resident amenities include a community lounge and patio, a library, a computer lab, on-site laundry, storage lockers, a fitness center and on-site supportive services. The earth-toned exterior and timber frame structure underscore the building’s quality and sustainability. Torrence Place is certified as an Enterprise Green Communities Building for its high sustainable standards and intent to reduce environmental impact and improve resident health. The building features eco-friendly paint, coatings, plumbing fixtures, lighting, heating equipment and appliances.

“When you put together a team with a common mission to strengthen the community, the results speak for themselves,” said Joe Pecoraro, Project Executive at Skender. “The addition of a health clinic added an extra layer of purpose that heightened our passion for this project. We built more than a housing development; we built a sense of belonging, wellness and comfort.”

The project team included Full Circle Communities, Christian Community Health Center, Skender, Ashlaur Construction, architect Cordogan, Clark & Associates and CAGE Civil Engineering. Torrence Place opened its doors to residents in late October 2022.

Five Skender Projects Earn “Coolest Office” Recognition by Crain’s Chicago Business

This week, Crain’s Chicago Business announced its selection of the coolest offices and coolest singular features that stand out from other workplaces. Five Skender projects earned recognition.

Coolest Offices: TrueBlue
TrueBlue’s 80,000-square-foot headquarters was built out in the redeveloped Old Post Office. The office’s coolest feature, according to Crain’s, is a massive ceiling installation, or architectural cloud, which doubles as a sound dampener and defining focal point. Other highlighted attributes include the lobby’s “unmistakably laid-back vibe with its cognac-colored leather chairs and floor-to-ceiling steel frame panels,” as well as brick, wood, leather and steel features throughout.

Best Staircase: CCC Intelligent Solutions
CCC Intelligent Solutions’ radiused staircase is a stunning centerpiece in their new headquarters at 167 N Green Street in the Fulton Market neighborhood. The distinctive stairs connect the ninth and eighth floors of the 140,000-square-foot workspace, which was designed and built to support the company’s growth and innovative culture.

Best Rooftop Space: Hazel Technologies
Hazel Technologies was one of the first tenants to move into 320 N. Sangamon Street, a new 13-story office building in Fulton Market with impressive rooftop views. The two-story, 54,000-square-foot lab and office build-out was one of Chicago’s first office-to-lab conversions with several infrastructure customizations, specialty equipment and finishes.

Best Custom Mural: Stream Realty Partners
Stream Realty’s mural is a kaleidoscope of patterns, hand-painted by Chicago artist Kate Lewis.

Best Game Room: iManage
iManage’s game room features board games, video games, pingpong and countertop taps. “The geometric lights on the slatted ceiling add a playful touch” to this fun, collaborative work environment.

“The personality of our clients shines through their workspaces,” said Andy Halik, Vice President, Skender. “We’re grateful for the work, the partnerships, the recognition and all the hard work that made these offices remarkable.” Click here for the full list by Crain’s Chicago Business.

 

 

Skender’s Joe Pecoraro discusses multifamily building trends at Bisnow conference

On October 6, 2022, Skender Project Executive Joe Pecoraro was invited to speak on a panel at the Bisnow Multifamily Annual Conference (BMAC), which brought together leaders from across the commercial real estate industry to discuss the current state of the multifamily market in the greater Chicagoland area. Held at the stately Loews Chicago Hotel off Navy Pier, the conference featured discussions on new technology and innovation, design trends, financing options and the challenges of construction in the current economic and international environment.

Pecoraro was featured as a participant on a panel called ‘Forward Thinking Development, Design & Construction,’ which focused on how top firms are building, designing and delivering product in the different regions of the Chicagoland area post-COVID.

The panel was moderated by Thomas Roszak of Thomas Roszak Architecture and, in addition to Pecoraro, included panelists such as: James Letchinger, Founder and CEO of JDL; Phillip Beckham III, Principal at P3 Markets; Aaron Galvin, CEO of Luxury Living Chicago Realty; Jeffrey Zogby, Vice President, Chicago at Project Management Advisors; and John Lynch, Executive Director at Oak Park Economic Development.

The conversation began with a lightning round, in which each panelist described their role at their respective companies and the multifamily amenity they are most excited about. While the other panelists mentioned features like indoor-outdoor facilities, public transit access and communal space, Pecoraro declared his favorite multifamily amenity to be “a great construction budget,” which got more than a few hearty chuckles from the crowd in the Loews ballroom.

Next up, the panel discussed the Chicagoland neighborhoods where they’re seeing the most activity and opportunity for future projects. Several panelists pointed to the Fulton Market and West Loop area, which has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and is in many ways the current “favorite child” when it comes to real estate development in the city.

“There are about 25,000 units in the later stages of development in downtown Chicago,” said Aaron Galvin of Luxury Living Chicago Realty. “12,000 of those are in the West Loop or Fulton Market area, and that doesn’t even include some of the most recent announcements that are just now being conceptualized.”

The group examined how the West Loop’s recent boom in multifamily construction was made possible because of the area’s previous growth in office and retail. As a result, rents in the area have gone up considerably, and these are only going to get higher as taller buildings in the neighborhood are erected and can offer view premiums. Other areas noted by the panel as prime for expansion were the Southside Chicago neighborhood Bronzeville, the River North, Gold Coast and Old Town markets, and the northern suburbs of Elmhurst, Skokie and Wilmette.

While rents and wages are still on a healthy incline, moderator Thomas Roszak noted that many of the challenges felt by CRE professionals over the course of the pandemic remain, which Pecoraro agreed with from a construction standpoint.

Pecoraro said his team at Skender used to make two to three phone calls and one site visit to make sure long-lead-time materials arrived on time, but that same process can now take 10 or more phone calls and multiple site visits, as supply chain issues and material costs have driven up lead times for essential materials. Beckham and Galvin agreed, pointing specifically to glass as a material that’s seen some major hold-ups on an international scale.

While there are certainly roadblocks on the horizon in the form of supply chain issues, rate hikes and worker shortages, the panel ended with optimism about the future of Chicago’s real estate market.

“Ultimately, Chicago is a great city,” said Galvin. “There’s a lot of growth here in terms of jobs, and no city has had more Millennial growth since 2010. I expect this will continue with Gen Z down the line.”

Skender Completes Construction of 345 N Morgan, a New Office and Retail Development by Sterling Bay

Lifestyle Workforce Design Drives the Development to 85% Pre-Leased

Skender today announced the completion of the new 200,000-square-foot boutique office and retail building located at 345 N. Morgan in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood. Skender acted as general contractor in the construction of the new building, which was developed by Sterling Bay. The building was intentionally designed for a lifestyle work environment with amenities and workspaces built for flexibility. The building is already 85% leased with tenants expected to start occupying in March 2023.

New tenants of 345 N Morgan can completely customize their workplace experience and inspire a dynamic, modern workforce. The amenity-rich building includes private outdoor terraces on each floor, a 5,000-square-foot roof deck with sweeping views of the Chicago skyline, a conservatory bar and lounge with a double-sided fireplace, a full-service fitness center, a coworking library and several high-tech conference spaces to meet the evolving needs of an increasingly virtual workforce.

Designed by Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, 345 N Morgan offers timeless style, unbounded potential and an environmentally friendly design. The building is seeking LEED certification, and its floor-to-ceiling windows will provide tenants with abundant natural lighting and views of one of the city’s most vibrant and dynamic areas. The design aesthetic also includes arched windows and welded metal accents as a tasteful nod to the neighborhood’s manufacturing past.

“The Skender team was proud to work with Sterling Bay, JLL Construction and Eckenhoff Saunders Architects on this beautiful building,” said Justin Brown, President & CEO, Skender. “So much hard work, effort and collaborative communication went into the completion of this project, and we are excited for this new Fulton Market cornerstone to become a home away from home for all the tenants who will soon be moving in and making the space their own.”

The building was swiftly completed in just 13 months. “Our aggressive schedule, especially through global supply shortages, was possible thanks to a decisive owner, high-performing project team, amazing trade partners and persistent communication,” said Marty Barrett, Senior Project Manager, Skender.

Skender is also building out five floors of tenant interiors at the property, including four floors for supply chain management firm HAVI Group and one floor for office furniture designer/manufacturer Allsteel.

To learn more about 345 N Morgan, visit: https://sterlingbay.com/properties/345-north-morgan/

Skender Completes Redevelopment of 93-Year-Old Historic Property in Maywood

The 100-Unit Maywood Supportive Living Project Provides Affordable Housing for Low-income Seniors

Skender today announced the completion of its latest adaptive re-use project, Maywood Supportive Living, a 133,000-square-foot all-inclusive assisted living facility for low-income seniors located at 316 Randolph St. in Maywood, Illinois. To create the 100-unit supportive care center, developer Celadon Partners hired Skender as general contractor to transform the former Central Baptist Home, which has been on the State of Illinois’ National Register of Historic Places since 2017.

Over the course of construction, Skender stripped the historic building down to its structure to add modern amenities while taking great care to preserve and restore its natural architectural detail. Built in several different phases between 1929 and 1965, the building features a unique mix of Tudor-Revival and modernist styles. Skender’s restoration process included refurbishing the wood trim, stucco and brick facades to their former glory, installing new windows, revamping the first-floor lobby to highlight the original terrazzo floors, replacing the roof, restoring the commercial kitchen and dining area and converting 100 rooms into supportive living units, complete with kitchenettes.

“Skender is a true strategic partner, a problem solver and exactly the collaborator we needed to take on a complex redevelopment project like this,” said Scott Henry, Principal, Celadon Partners. “With their team’s depth of experience and out-of-the-box thinking, they proactively brought solutions that positively impacted the team, the project and the community.”

Residents of Maywood Supportive Living can enjoy a wide variety of supportive services and amenities designed to promote personal comfort and peace of mind. The restored building features an in-house beauty salon, a wellness clinic, a laundry room, a general store, a recreation area and lots of lounge areas where inhabitants can relax and socialize with one another. As a supportive living facility, Maywood is an affordable community for older adults living independently who may need financial assistance and on-site nursing support services.

“It’s been a great collaboration with Celadon and an exciting journey to watch our high-performing team breathe new life into such a grand, historic and distinctive space,” said Afshan Barshan, Senior Vice President at Skender. “We are thrilled to see residents begin to move in and enjoy all the amenities.”

In addition to managing the construction, Skender provided design-build mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection services on this project. Design was provided by Gleason Architects. Financing was arranged by NDC Corporate Equity Fund, KeyBank, US Bank, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

The redevelopment process began in June 2021 and took just 14 months to completion. Residents began moving into Maywood Supportive Living August 31, 2022.

 

Skender Breaks Ground on 741 North Wells, a 201,000-SF Multifamily Rental and Retail Tower in River North

Developer VISTA Property and its general contractor, Skender, broke ground today on 741 N Wells Street, a new mixed-use multifamily rental building in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Designed by Antunovich Associates, the 21-story, 201,000-square-foot development will include 168 apartment units, communal tenant amenities and an elegant building lobby. Located prominently at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Wells Street, 741 N Wells is one of the latest new developments going up in River North.

“River North is booming. People want to live and work in dynamic live-work-play neighborhoods that form the heart of downtown Chicago,” said Ark Latt, Chief Development Officer, VISTA Property. “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Ald. Brian Hopkins and the entire 2nd Ward to contribute a real estate asset that supports and enhances a strong community.”

The multifamily building will include 50 studios, 101 one-bedrooms and 17 two-bedrooms, as well as a rooftop terrace with pool, meeting facilities, exercise area, bicycle storage and parking for roughly 50 vehicles. The building will include expansive floor-to-ceiling windows on all facades, along with exceptional 9-foot ceiling heights offering unique views for all residents.

“I am incredibly proud of our team and the hard work that has gone into planning and coordinating this project before any shovels hit the ground,” said Justin Brown, President & CEO, Skender. “We’re thrilled to be working with VISTA Property and Antunovich again. This is going to be another impressive building for the neighborhood.”

VISTA Property financed the project with a first mortgage loan from Huntington Bank, and has also engaged Luxury Living Chicago Realty, downtown Chicago’s premier marketing, consulting and residential leasing brokerage firm.

“We are excited to help execute VISTA Property’s first large-scale multifamily property in Chicago,” said Aaron Galvin, CEO of Luxury Living. “Having collaborated with VISTA, Antunovich and Skender throughout the development process, we are confident this property will set a new standard for boutique luxury rentals in River North.”

The team of VISTA Property (developer), Skender (general contractor) and Antunovich Associates (architects) recently completed 609 W. Randolph, a 15-story boutique Class A commercial office building serving as a gateway to Fulton Market.

Skender Wins Bisnow’s Inaugural Tournament of Champions 3-on-3 Charity Basketball Competition

After five hours of competitive bracket play, Skender earned the top spot at Bisnow’s first annual Tournament of Champions 3-on-3 charity basketball competition. Skender’s team went undefeated with $35,000 in winnings going to the team’s chosen charity, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago. Ticket proceeds were donated to C.H.A.M.P.S. Male Mentoring Program. The tournament was played on the penthouse basketball court at 167 Green Street in Fulton Market.

Skender Wins 2022 General Contractor of the Year Award

Skender was named the General Contractor of the Year (Office) at the 2022 Illinois Commercial Real Estate Awards, hosted by REjournals on July 13. Nearly 1,000 industry professionals attended the award ceremony. Skender’s workforce diversity, industry expertise, and achievements in new construction and interiors during the calendar year 2021 were recognized.

In January 2021, Skender broke ground on 609 W. Randolph, a 15-story office building in the West Loop for Vista Property. Designed for health and sustainability, the property is built for WELL and LEED certifications.

In February, Skender completed 200,000 SF of interior construction for Walgreens in the Old Post Office. Skender has led more than 600,000 SF of interior construction in this historic redevelopment.

In March, Skender collaborated with developer Fulton St. Companies and tenant Herman Miller to complete 1100 W. Fulton, a five-story, 45,000-SF office and retail redevelopment that included significant historical masonry preservation. Skender delivered a custom Fulton Market office building in just 12 months, under budget.

Also in March, Skender completed the 536,000-SF Bank of America office buildout at 110 N. Wacker. The 17-story project was one of the largest interior projects in recent Chicago history.

In June, Skender began the historic redevelopment of Maywood Supportive Living, a five-story, 133,000-SF project at 316 Randolph Street in Maywood.  The existing building—built in two phases beginning in 1929— has long sat vacant. With architectural details intact, the redevelopment will provide 100 units of affordable, supportive living housing with substantial in-house healthcare and nursing amenities.

In August, Skender broke ground on 345 N. Morgan, a 200,000-SF office and retail building for Sterling Bay in Fulton Market. The project will include private outdoor terraces, a 5,000-SF roof deck, a coworking library and a conservatory lounge.

Skender’s 2021 projects included life science and lab construction. In November, Skender started on the 54,000-SF office-to-lab conversion at 320 N. Sangamon in Fulton Market.

In addition to this General Contractor of the Year (Office) honor, Skender recently won Interior Contractor of the Year (Owner Projects) at the Greater Chicago Food Depository Commercial Real Estate Awards.

Skender Announces Management Promotions

Today, Skender announced management promotions for six rising leaders at the Chicago-based commercial construction firm. Skender would like to congratulate the following on their recent promotions:

Marty Barrett, Senior Project Manager. Marty joined Skender in 2017 and has 12 years of experience in the construction industry. Marty has worked on over 2.5 million square feet of projects throughout his career, including some of Chicago’s most notable healthcare and commercial projects. He earned a degree in civil engineering from Marquette University.

Tony Scott, Senior Project Manager. Tony joined Skender in 2015 and has nine years of experience managing day-to-day activity of interior construction projects throughout Chicagoland. Tony has been involved in more than 1 million square feet of projects. He earned a degree in building construction technology from Purdue University.

Kelly Allen, Project Manager. Kelly joined Skender in 2020 and has seven years of experience in the construction industry. An integral part of her project teams, Kelly is currently dedicated to a high-profile, 485,000-square-foot interior construction project in Chicago. She earned a degree in civil and environmental engineering from Villanova University.

Jack Bauschelt, Project Manager. Jack joined Skender in 2017 and has eight years of experience in the construction industry. Recently, Jack has been a key part of Skender’s Indianapolis team, working closely on projects for Indiana University Health, such as the new regional academic health center in Bloomington and the Capitol View medical office building in downtown Indianapolis. He earned a degree in business administration and management from Purdue University.

Zuli Cortes, Project Manager. Zuli joined Skender in 2019 and has 11 years of interior construction experience. Most recently, Zuli was part of the teams that delivered a 32,000-square-foot renovation for a Chicago-based law firm, and new amenity space at 225 W Wacker. He earned a degree in construction engineering and management from Marquette University.

Colleen O’Brien, People & Culture Manager. Colleen joined Skender in 2013 and has advanced through several project- and people-oriented roles. She is instrumental in many Skender programs such as internships, talent acquisition, process automation, Lean Coffee, and high-performing teams training. She earned degrees in communications and psychology from the University of Illinois Chicago.

“These are collaborative and hardworking leaders who guide our high-performing teams to deliver quality and value-driven projects for our clients,” said Lisa Latronico, Vice President of People & Culture, Skender. “We congratulate Marty, Tony, Kelly, Jack, Zuli and Colleen for their exceptional work as we strive to deliver the premier construction experience.”

Skender Launches Scholarship, Recognizes First Recipient

We proudly introduce our first-ever ACE+Skender scholarship recipient, Alondra. She is a rising senior at the University of Illinois Chicago, majoring in civil engineering and helping pave the way for more women seeking careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

Skender partnered with ACE Mentor Chicago to offer an annual $10,000 scholarship to support the next generation of rising industry professionals and align with our ongoing efforts to attract more women to construction. Three cheers for Alondra!

Crain’s Chicago Business: Roundtable on Life Sciences

With thriving neighborhoods and more affordable real estate, Chicago is emerging as a life sciences hub.

Investment in life sciences was at an all-time high in 2021. As a result, demand is quickly growing for research and development space in Chicago which is emerging as a major life sciences market. Three experts in commercial real estate development, design and construction, shared their insights with Crain’s Content Studio on the trends that are shaping the future of life sciences in Chicago.

Life sciences companies are rapidly evolving, and they need spaces that can accommodate that. What factors most influence the commercial real estate, design and construction decisions companies face?

Andy Halik: Labs typically need more technically sophisticated structures with more complex mechanical systems—particularly power and HVAC—than a typical office building. Structurally, they’ll need more risers and shafts; the good news is, if the building doesn’t have these structural needs, they can usually be installed to accommodate the lab-specific needs. Access to adequate power is critical. Life sciences tenants use an average of seven times more electricity than office tenants, because their lab and systems like HVAC, exhaust and electrical load systems need more finely tuned environments.

Suzet McKinney: To meet the evolving needs of life sciences tenants, real estate developers serving the sector must broaden their vision beyond merely functional, purpose-built laboratory facilities of decades past. That journey begins with a collaborative relationship between the developer and the life sciences tenant to ensure an adequate understanding of the needs of life sciences companies, not just for their current business needs, but also for their growth needs as well. Some of the unique building needs for life sciences companies include a flexible lab footprint and space design to accommodate workflow, efficiency, size of equipment, and traffic flow throughout the lab, as well as proximity between labs and offices. Human-centered architecture and amenities are important because, at the end of the day, buildings and laboratories don’t make scientific breakthroughs–scientists do. By creating lab environments where research and the exchange of ideas is easy, enjoyable and seamless, we increase occupant satisfaction and set the stage for innovation.

Brett Taylor: Fundamentally, there are a few building requirements that are unique to life science tenants to accommodate their lab needs. The structural grid for a lab building consists of 11-foot modules, a time-tested and universal approach that takes lab bench width and other attributes into account. Floor-to-floor height is 1-1.5 feet higher than a typical office building to accommodate additional building service requirements. Additionally, some lab tenants may install sensitive equipment that require low building vibration, therefore the structural system may need to be modified to accommodate those specific requirements. Collaboration space is critical. As such, lab buildings typically have higher collaboration / amenity ratios than typical spec offices, especially multi-purpose areas that are often used for hosting lectures and other industry presentations.

What factors are driving the industry’s interest in Chicago?

McKinney: Most of the key demand drivers that make for a successful life sciences market already exist in Chicago. Namely, top-tier research universities and healthcare institutions, STEM talent, National Institutes of Health funding and venture capital funding. However, Chicago has never had sufficient lab space to keep entrepreneurs and their companies here. At Sterling Bay, we’ve recognized the damage this exodus has done to our economy for decades. We think by providing quality lab spaces and full life sciences ecosystems, we can stop the bleeding to the coasts and the departure of talented scientists and entrepreneurs that come out of the universities here. Our government has awakened to this fact as well. We now have a more cohesive effort that is centered around the goal of growing Chicago’s life sciences ecosystem and raising the city as a major life sciences market.

Halik: There are two main factors driving this industry’s growth. One is an increase in Chicago-area universities and local incubators developing young talent and providing them with pathways and resources to start companies. The idea of setting down roots in Chicago is appealing to this talent pool. The second main factor is the pandemic-related needs for more life sciences research. Both factors are resulting in demand for more specialized lab space in Chicago. Higher vacancy rates in traditional office space have also caused many building owners to consider converting office space to lab space.

Taylor: There’s a desire to invest in Chicago for lab space because it is an emerging market compared to coastal cities where the industry is more established. At the same time, many adjacent industries, including tech, education and health have large presences in Chicago. The talent and important points of connection are already here. There are opportunities to build synergy with nearby universities and hospitals, and that creates huge benefits. We’re seeing life sciences buildings being designed for various users who require a mix of dry labs, wet labs and office space. These new buildings are dynamic enough to accept a variety of users, which is another reason why the Chicago market is so desirable. Many life sciences companies are used to having to adapt an existing building to a lab use rather than working with a developer who can accommodate their specific needs.

The full Q&A continues at Crain’s Chicago Business.

Skender Nearing Completion of Renovation and Expansion at Indiana University Health West Hospital Clinics

Skender, serving as construction manager, is advancing on the renovation of Indiana University Health (IU Health) West Hospital’s Outpatient Clinic and expansion for its Infusion Clinic at 1111 Ronald Reagan Parkway in Avon, Indiana, a near-west suburb of Indianapolis. Employees of IU Health West Hospital recently participated in a ceremonial wall signing to celebrate the start of final construction stages.

The Outpatient Clinic was previously occupied by a third-party outpatient operator and IU Health is integrating it into their network. The Infusion Clinic project includes the renovation of an existing infusion clinic, adding new infusion bays, adding a compounding pharmacy and modernizing all finishes. By increasing the infusion bay capacity by 40%, the clinic will allow IU Health to continue serving patients requiring intravenous methods of receiving medicine. The compounding pharmacy will allow IU Health’s pharmacists to tailor medications to patients’ unique needs onsite.

Work on the clinic started mid-April. The Outpatient Clinic is scheduled to be open in July while the Infusion Clinic will be ready for operations in August, with the compounding pharmacy active later in the fall. Skender is collaborating with architect ArcDesign, interior designer Four Point Design and MEP engineer BSA LifeStructures.

Skender Completes Interior Office Renovation for Law Firm Ice Miller in Chicago’s Loop

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed the gut renovation for the Chicago office of law firm Ice Miller LLP. The newly renovated 34,000-square-foot office spans two floors in 200 W. Madison. The workspace features a monument staircase that connects the floors, demonstrates the collaborative nature of the firm and its new office, and serves as a gathering spot for employees.

Ice Miller’s modernized workspace focuses on accommodating the law firm’s growth with more open desks, offices and collaborative, small-group destinations throughout. The flexible workplace now includes a reception area that can open up to accommodate large gatherings and a café off the staircase connecting floors 35 and 36. Another modern feature of the new office is an open ceiling, which increases room height and spaciousness.

“When embarking on this overhaul of our office space, we wanted to plan for flexibility and growth, as well as create opportunities for our employees to naturally bump into each other, leading to collaboration that might not otherwise happen,” said John Burke, Office Managing Partner, Ice Miller. “Skender understood this goal and built our space to perfectly support our team.”

“Many law firms are building office spaces to cultivate a culture of equality and teamwork, and the physical space can certainly support these objectives,” said Mike Muehring, Senior Project Manager, Skender. “Our team has extensive experience with delivering workplaces with feature staircases, collaborative spaces and cafés that encourage team building, and we’re incredibly proud to have brought this kind of space to life for Ice Miller.”

Skender collaborated with architect NELSON Worldwide and engineer Kent Consulting Engineers (KCE) to complete Ice Miller’s office renovation.

Skender Completes Construction of Lab and Office for Hazel Technologies at 320 N. Sangamon in Chicago’s Fulton Market

Skender recently completed construction on the interior build-out of the two-story, 54,000-square-foot lab and office space for Hazel Technologies, a USDA-funded technology company developing solutions to extend the shelf life of fresh produce. Hazel is one of the first tenants to move into 320 N. Sangamon Street, the new 13-story Fulton Market office building developed by Tishman Speyer and Mark Goodman & Associates. Hazel selected space at 320 N. Sangamon, which was planned and built as an office building with ground-floor restaurant and retail, because of the location and building amenities, providing an opportunity to convert brand-new office space for lab usage.

As developers and building owners begin offering options in Chicago to convert office space into lab space for life sciences firms, Hazel’s move into 320 N. Sangamon represents one of the first completed conversions in the city. For many life sciences companies growing in Chicago, repurposing space for lab needs in an urban office building provides employees with an amenity-forward, accessible and turnkey experience.

“The new space gives Hazel Tech a phenomenal foundation for today and tomorrow’s innovative projects that will revolutionize the supply chain and drive a step-change in food waste reduction,” commented Adam Preslar, CTO and co-founder of Hazel Technologies. “We combine facilities for molecular biology, postharvest agronomy, biochemistry, and materials science into an integrated space for maximum cross-pollination between our top-tier scientific teams.”

Amidst the unprecedented supply chain crisis and ongoing volatility with building materials costs, this project required careful coordination to procure and install both standard construction materials as well as special lab equipment in time for move-in. Hazel’s lab space required several infrastructure customizations, such as new air handling, general exhaust and fume exhaust, new boilers, and uninterrupted power supply generators with capacity to manage all the lab equipment and technology. Specialty equipment and finishes include fume hoods, snorkel hoods, negatively pressured lab spaces, and acid- and solvent-resistant finishes.

“The ability to convert two floors of 320 N. Sangamon was the perfect solution for Hazel Technologies’ condensed schedule and complex technical needs. A truly creative approach was needed to make the conversion possible, and capitalizing on in-place restaurant infrastructure was a key differentiator,” said Jason Utah, Senior Project Manager, Skender. “Our team’s proactive planning and project management allowed us to overcome volatile lead time issues by employing early procurement packages for lab and mechanical equipment to deliver the labs and offices on time.”

Hazel is moving from its current location at University Technology Park at Illinois Tech in Bronzeville to accommodate its plans to double its local workforce to approximately 100 people in 2022. The build-out includes space for open research laboratory and lab support, as well as 10,000 square feet of administrative and office space and 5,000 square feet of collaboration space, including several sizes of meeting rooms, huddle rooms, and prep and tasting rooms.

Skender collaborated with developers Tishman Speyer and Mark Goodman & Associates, tenant representative CBRE, architect Perkins & Will and engineer Cosentini Associates on this project.

Skender Wins 2022 Interior Contractor of the Year Award

Last Thursday, May 19, Skender was named the 2022 Interior Contractor of the Year (Owner Projects) at the 34th Annual Chicago Commercial Real Estate Awards.

The awards are considered the top honors in the Chicago commercial real estate industry and the dinner event is the largest annual fundraiser for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Skender was a finalist in three categories and its 2022 trophy made four Interior Contractor of the Year awards in the last eight years.

Among the Skender projects highlighting its landlord work was 43,000 square feet of spec suites in the Old Post Office. That project included 11 divisible office suites plus an accompanying amenity space with two conference rooms, a reading room and a library. The space featured unique historic touches, including mosaic tiles as well as salvaged doors from Old Post Office storage that were reworked and reinstalled along the corridor of the space.

In addition to the Chicago Real Estate Awards, Skender recently earned 2022 Interior Build-out of the Year by the Chicago Building Congress for its construction of Walgreens’ new tech hub office at the Old Post Office. Skender has built more than 600,000 square feet of workspace in the redeveloped Old Post Office at 433 West Van Buren.

 

Skender Completes Construction of Sloan’s New Showroom and Office in Fulton Market

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on the flagship showroom and office space for Sloan, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial plumbing systems.

Located at 333 N Green St in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, the project serves as Sloan’s largest showroom in North America. It features custom millwork, operable sliding glass doors and product displays showcasing Sloan’s touch-free, sustainable and aesthetic product offerings. The open office consists of Falkbuilt demountable partitions, which enclose perimeter private offices.

Skender collaborated with architect Lamar Johnson Collaborative, project manager CBRE, and engineer Syska Hennessy.

More project news and photos: Building Design & Construction

Skender Project Wins 2022 Interior Build-out Award

Walgreens’ new tech hub office at the Old Post Office Chicago recently won the 2022 Interior Build-out Award from the Chicago Building Congress. The project team included Skender as the general contractor; Mace as owner’s representatives; Stantec Inc. as architect and engineering firm; and the Walgreens construction and architecture departments.

The new Walgreens Technology Center of Excellence is a 200,000-square-foot, open-office workspace in the redeveloped Old Post Office at 433 West Van Buren. The office, which was finished during the COVID-19 pandemic, is home to hundreds of employees, including e-commerce, mobile, pharmacy technology and digital team members as well as Walgreens Boots Alliance Information Technology personnel.

The expansive office spans multiple levels and buildings of the Old Post Office development and features a signature staircase, open and private offices, collaboration and conferencing spaces, data rooms, and kitchen and lounge spaces.

Click here to learn more about the project.

REBusiness: Skender Begins Structural Construction of 250,000 SF Medical Office Building for Indiana University Health

INDIANAPOLIS — Skender, working with Meyer Najem Construction, has begun structural construction of the new Indiana University Health (IU Health) Capitol View medical office building and parking garage in downtown Indianapolis. The project consists of a 250,000-square-foot medical office building and a 310,000-square-foot parking structure with 939 parking spaces. A pedestrian bridge connects the building to the parking structure.

The project has been under construction since November and is now entering the structural phase of construction. Structural construction refers to components of the building that are essential to its stability such as foundations, floors, walls or beams. Completion is slated for summer 2023. The project team includes architect atelierRISTING, civil engineer Circle Design and structural engineer Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve. The team is pursuing LEED Silver certification for the property.

Source: REBusinessOnline

Skender Begins Structural Construction for Indiana University Health Capitol View in Downtown Indianapolis

Skender, a leading construction firm based in Chicago and Indianapolis, announces its work with Meyer Najem Construction on the new Indiana University Health (IU Health) Capitol View medical office building and parking garage. IU Health is currently undergoing a major transformation and expansion within its downtown Indianapolis medical campus. The new facility is located on two city blocks bordered by Capitol Avenue on the west, Muskingum Street on the east, 14th Street on the south and 16th Street on the north.

The project consists of a new 250,000-square-foot medical office building (MOB) and 310,000-square-foot precast concrete parking structure that has 939 parking spaces, connected with a pedestrian bridge. The structural steel MOB will be finished with an appealing façade blend of curtain wall, metal panels, masonry and Indiana limestone. The project team is pursuing LEED Silver certification due to the property’s numerous sustainability features and high energy performance.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with IU Health to deliver the best healthcare experiences for patients in Indianapolis,” said Brian Simons, Vice President, Skender. “This urban infill site has been a topic of intense scrutiny for more than a decade, and now, the promise of revitalization to the surrounding neighborhood is a reality. The project requires skillful coordination with public transit and heavy urban traffic, and our entire construction delivery team is rising to the occasion to ensure streamlined project execution with minimal neighborhood disruption.”

The project has been under construction since November 2021 and is now beginning the structural phase of construction with anticipated delivery in summer 2023. Skender is on the core construction delivery team with contractor Meyer Najem, architect atelierRISTING, MEP and civil engineer Circle Design, structural engineer Lynch, Harrison & Brumleve (LHB), and a team of dedicated trade partners.

Skender Completes Construction of Milwaukee Tool’s Chicago Office in Historic Old Post Office

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on an engineering design and innovation space for leading jobsite solutions developer Milwaukee Tool in Chicago’s Old Post Office. The 70,000-square-foot space is located on the third floor of the south building and encompasses 10,000 square feet of research and development lab space and 60,000 square feet of open and private offices. The office space includes a large collaboration space called the Beehive, as well as a training room and multiple medium-sized conference rooms. The firm’s first engineering office outside of Wisconsin signifies its growth efforts to attract the top Midwestern technical talent.

The lab space provides room for the company’s engineers to develop innovative ways to solve problems that make the brand’s end users safer and more productive. It includes a sound-controlled testing room for use-cycle testing on batteries and power tools, as well as thermochambers for longevity and lifecycle testing. In such a historic building, the McGuire engineering team secured a variance request with the City of Chicago so Milwaukee Tool could house special pieces of equipment in the lab to give them the capabilities for this to be a state-of-the-art facility.

To meet Milwaukee Tool’s immediate space needs, Skender split the project into two separate permits to expedite the lab space for the team of engineers who needed access to the lab as soon as possible. The construction team was able to navigate through the ongoing supply chain crisis to deliver the entire space in 20 weeks – with an expedited turnover in 12 weeks for the lab space overlapping with the 16-week build-out for the office space.

“As Chicago’s lab sciences sector continues to expand, this project demonstrates the complexities in the sector and the required collaboration to bring them to life,” said Jacob Boyle, Senior Project Manager, Skender. “Our building team’s seamless coordination with Milwaukee Tool allowed us to deliver the space as quickly as they needed it.”

Skender collaborated with owner’s rep JLL, architects Nelson and SPS and engineering firm McGuire to build Milwaukee Tool’s Chicago headquarters. Skender has also entered into an official partnership with Milwaukee Tool to streamline access to its power tools and products on future projects in the midst of a supply chain pinch.

REJournals: Skender completes construction on Vista Property’s 609 W. Randolph, a next-generation office building

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on 609 W. Randolph, an innovative boutique office building in Chicago’s West Loop.

The 15-story building offers over 100,000 square feet of office space, as well as a tenant lounge, conference and meeting areas and a rooftop terrace on the top floor. The exterior building design combines the history of the neighborhood with an eye toward the area’s revival, featuring brick masonry as the primary finish around the whole building and a glass exterior on the east façade.

The penthouse lounge and terrace boast city and rivers views and provide a casual, nonrestrictive work environment for tenants to enjoy an alternative option for working, socializing or hosting clients. 609 W. Randolph includes other amenities such as the wellness studio, a 24-seat executive conference room, mixed-use communal space, secure bicycle parking, private shower rooms, and reservable meeting spaces.

As wellness has become a major focus for building owners and tenants alike, 609 W. Randolph is designed for health and sustainability, with WELL and LEED certifications and features including high-performance air filters, motion-sensor restroom fixtures, and touchless, automatic doors.

Skender and Vista Property collaborated with architects Antunovich Associates (base building) and Partners by Design (spec suites) as well as leasing broker CBRE.

Skender Named a Finalist for Three Prestigious Industry Awards

Skender is thrilled to be a finalist for three awards at this year’s Greater Chicago Food Depository Commercial Real Estate Awards — both Interior Contractor of the Year categories for owner projects and tenant projects as well as the Redevelopment of the Year category.

Skender delivered on its promise of incomparable results and maximum value across a broad range of interiors and new construction projects in 2021. During a period of continued uncertainty around pandemic and supply chain disruption, Skender continued to provide reliable, responsive and effective counsel to clients, including developers, owners and tenants across multiple sectors. The 1100 W Fulton project, up for Redevelopment of the Year, featured the best of all construction worlds — new construction, historic preservation and cutting-edge interiors. The collaboration with developer Fulton St. Companies and Herman Miller delivered a custom, five-story office and retail building ahead of schedule and under budget.

Every step of the building process is collaborative and we are grateful for all those who helped make our 2021 construction projects a reality.

Skender Completes Construction on Vista Property’s 609 W. Randolph, a Next-Generation Office Building

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on 609 W. Randolph, an innovative boutique office building in Chicago’s West Loop. The 15-story building offers over 100,000 square feet of office space, as well as a tenant lounge, conference and meeting areas and a rooftop terrace on the top floor. The exterior building design combines the history of the neighborhood with an eye toward the area’s revival, featuring brick masonry as the primary finish around the whole building and a glass exterior on the east façade.

The penthouse lounge and terrace boast city and river views and provide a casual, nonrestrictive work environment for tenants to enjoy an alternative option for working, socializing or hosting clients. 609 W. Randolph includes other amenities such as the wellness studio, a 24-seat executive conference room, mixed-use communal space, secure bicycle parking, private shower rooms, and flexible, reservable meeting spaces.

“609 W. Randolph is one of many buildings to come online in the West Loop lately, but its unique mix of historic design and future-focused amenities puts it above the rest,” said Alex Panici, Project Executive, Skender. “Our team is proud to deliver this one-of-a-kind office building to usher in a new era of the workplace.”

As wellness has become a major focus for building owners and tenants alike, 609 W. Randolph is designed for health and sustainability, with WELL and LEED certifications and features including high-performance air filters, motion-sensor restroom fixtures, and touchless, automatic doors.

“Skender was the ideal construction partner. It truly was a Class-A collaboration,” said Ark Latt, Chief Development Officer, Vista Property. “With top-notch amenities, an emphasis on wellness and an accessible, dynamic neighborhood, 609 W. Randolph is in an ideal, walkable spot for employees to live, work and play in the future of the city. This best-in-boutique-class office offers flexible and responsive workspaces, creating the office destination of choice.”

Skender and Vista Property collaborated with architects Antunovich Associates (base building) and Partners by Design (spec suites) as well as leasing broker CBRE.

Skender Completes Construction for Equity LifeStyle Properties

Skender recently completed the office interior build-out for Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) at 2 N. Riverside in Chicago’s West Loop Gate, along the Chicago River. This renovation updated ELS’ 65,000-square-foot office across two-and-a-half floors and added a new roof deck to deliver an enhanced workplace experience for its employees.

The renovated office space includes a mix of conference rooms, private offices, collaboration areas, as well as cafés and pantries. An interconnecting staircase connects the two main floors, and exposed ceilings lend an open office feel to the space. The new roof deck provides desirable outdoor space for employees to work or socialize during the day.

“Just as Equity LifeStyle Properties provides high-quality resorts and living communities for its clients and residents, they succeeded in applying the same pride in their assets and customer experience to their office space, which provides a collaborative state-of-the-art employee experience, modern design and an excess of natural light,” said Tony Scott, Project Manager, Skender. “Our team worked diligently to mitigate supply chain issues and delivered this office renovation with minimal timeline disruption.”

Skender collaborated with architect Partners by Design, MEP engineer McGuire Engineers, structural engineer Structural Shop, technology engineer Engineering Plus, broker and owner’s representative CBRE, and branded environment and signage designer Spark Chicago. Through this design collaboration, ELS not only tells their story but celebrates their values and focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as sustainability.

“We are excited to announce that ELS has also achieved LEED Gold certified,” Scott said. “Working to pursue LEED was an important focus for the ELS team as LEED has a positive impact on each person, their individual environment, and our planet.”

Skender Hires Three Senior Professionals to Support Continued Growth

Skender, one of the nation’s top building contractors, announced the hiring of three industry veterans to support its continued growth: Eric Fiket, Jen Haub and Andy Reinhard. Skender welcomes them in the following roles: 

Eric Fiket, Senior Project Manager. Eric brings 16 years of industry experience and joins Skender from Linn-Mathes, following roles at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Eckenhoff Saunders Architects and FitzGerald Associates Architects. As senior project manager, he is responsible for planning and delivering new construction projects with Skender’s commercial projects team. Eric earned a degree in architectural studies from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Jen Haub, Assistant Controller. Jen brings 20 years of accounting experience and joins Skender from Pepper Construction, following roles at Ragnar Benson Construction and RSM McGladrey. In this role, she works with Skender’s finance and accounting team to maintain records, prepare financial reports, and ensure accuracy across accounts and projects. Jen earned a master’s degree in accounting from Northern Illinois University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Central College.

Andy Reinhard, Senior Estimator. Andy brings 17 years of industry experience and previously held estimating roles at Shawmut Design and Construction, and Leopardo Companies. As senior estimator on the commercial team, he guides new construction projects through the planning, design and execution phases, supporting project budgeting, bidding, scheduling, constructability, logistics and value analysis. Andy earned a degree in civil engineering and construction management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Our firm has been growing significantly over the past few months with exciting opportunities and projects across all markets,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO, Skender. “We’re excited to welcome Andy, Jen and Eric to team Skender as we remain laser-focused on providing an unrivaled building experience from preconstruction through construction and delivery.”

Skender Completes Construction of New Fulton Market Headquarters for CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc.

Skender recently completed the interior build-out of the new headquarters for CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc., a leading SaaS platform for the P&C insurance economy. Located at 167 N. Green Street in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood, the new headquarters was designed and built to support the tech leader’s growth and foster the company’s strong culture of innovation and collaboration.

The space includes a radiused stairwell, a stair opening and platform that connects the ninth-floor reception space to the eighth-floor town hall and customer experience area. On the eighth floor, an entry area allows visibility into a design center, providing a view into the technology that helps to power CCC’s advanced AI solutions, and open work areas lend a neighborhood vibe to the space, and private offices double as conference rooms when not in use.

CCC’s customer experience area features collaborative lounge space, breakout niches and booths, lit branding, and wood wall and ceiling coverings. This client-facing space also features branding components that were finished with specialty automotive paint as a nod to industries that CCC’s technology supports.

“Our team worked to create a space to serve as a design center for CCC reflective of its commitment to innovation, collaboration and culture,” said Tyler Knox, Project Manager, Skender. “That thoughtful work and careful coordination allow CCC to kick off the new year with a space ready to support world-class employee and customer experiences.”

Skender collaborated with architect Partners by Design, MEP/FP engineer Salas O’Brien, structural engineer Epstein, AV & technology designer Waveguide, branding designer Spark, and owner’s representative Cushman & Wakefield.

Could your building help meet soaring demand for lab space?

Lab sciences is one of the most talked-about sectors in real estate right now – but how can a traditional office building owner court these companies as tenants? By understanding what lab sciences leaders look for in potential lab and office space, commercial real estate owners can determine whether their buildings might be prime candidates for this dynamic market.

Today’s lab sciences firms are booming across the spectrum, from record-breaking investment in life sciences to unprecedented technological breakthroughs in materials science and electrical engineering. Add in intensifying talent wars and extreme pressure to get innovative products faster to market than ever before, and it’s no wonder there’s extreme competition for quality space.

At the same time, the great work-from-home experiment of the last 20+ months inspired professional services firms to rethink their footprints. As tenant demand shifts from familiar faces to new ones, many building owners are asking what it might take to convert, say, a Class A office building into a desirable lab space.

The answer depends on a variety of factors, including location, structure and more – but it may be more feasible than you think.

Five Ways to Win Lab Sciences Tenants

How can you break out of the decades-long mold of owning a conventional office property? A little creative thinking – backed by engineering insight – goes a long way.

Consider the following on your journey to a scientific-tenant-friendly building:

1. Get up to speed on prospective lab sciences tenants.

If you’re not already familiar with the various lab sciences categories, now’s the time to learn some basics.

Wet labs work with biological matter and therefore have stringent requirements for air filtration, plumbing, equipment, waste disposal, life safety and fire protection. But dry labs, which focus more on applied and computational mathematical research, can more easily plug into existing real estate.

Many different types of lab sciences needs exist, from dialysis samples to small electronics manufacturing, to general labs akin to your old high school chem lab. Startups are also bringing new momentum to the market – and unique space needs, such as access to flexible lab space, as well as more meeting-oriented office space.

2. Understand the role of your building’s location.

Professional services and other office-anchored work need locations that will appeal to staff as well as the clients and customers they serve. In life sciences, however, it’s more important to have the right functioning space than to offer a convenient location for customers.

That said, location is key to recruitment and retention for your prospective tenants. For those reasons they’ll favor real estate options in a bustling market, preferably near universities or medical campuses, and where life sciences innovators may be able to rub shoulders with others on the street. However, still keep an eye on locations that are attractive in the market more generally; for example, Skender is building out a company’s research and development lab space in an office building in an exciting neighborhood.

You’ll also need to ensure any lab science facility needs won’t disturb neighbors in, say, a residential area. Lab work that disposes of chemical load via the exhaust fans shouldn’t be near an apartment building with porches, for example. So, before taking on a tenant, consider how their particular work would affect any neighboring areas.

3. Evaluate your building structure to learn what it can handle.

Can your building accommodate the intensive systems that lab sciences firms require? Labs typically need more technically sophisticated structures with more complex mechanical systems. Structurally, they’ll need more risers and shafts than an office building would.

Access to adequate power is also critical. Life sciences tenants use an average of seven times more electricity than office tenants because their equipment and systems need more finely tuned environments, from air conditioning and fans to exhaust and electrical load systems.

Conduct a feasibility study with a mechanical and electrical engineer to determine your best course of action when such tenants come knocking.

4. Remember the human experience for talent.

Amid the war for talent, lab sciences tenants want buildings that prioritize convenience and offer flexible layouts. So, for example, these tenants might look favorably on secure parking lots and/or showers and locker rooms for their bike-to-work contingent.

Within the workspace, they also tend to value flexible design that facilitates collaboration and engagement, with easy access to shared spaces as well as comfortable, inviting break rooms where employees can catch a breath.

5. Provide private access to non-public-facing infrastructure. 

Avert awkward elevator moments by keeping orange biohazard-labeled materials out of common elevators. Because they work with specialized equipment and sensitive chemicals, lab sciences tenants need a private way to get in and out of their space without running into other tenants. This often includes a loading dock, a dedicated service elevator, and private storage areas.

Are You Ready to Capitalize on This Growing Market?

Demand for quality lab sciences space is only expected to rise. By adapting existing space to accommodate their specific needs, building owners can reposition their portfolios for a more resilient future.

This article is authored by Skender’s Jeff Janicek and Jason Utah. It was originally published by NAIOP.

Skender Completes Construction on 16-Unit Supportive Living Apartment Community in Matteson, Illinois

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on Mustacchi Manor, a three-story, 16-unit supportive living apartment community for non-profit developer Over the Rainbow Association (OTR) in Matteson, Illinois.

The building, designed by Weese Langley Weese Architects, provides affordable housing and independent living solutions for individuals with physical disabilities. The units include roll-in showers, pull-under sinks, accessible appliances and lower switches, outlets, windows and door handles. It joins a three-development campus on 10 acres of land in Matteson.

Since 2015, Over the Rainbow, Weese Langley Weese and Skender have collaborated on four properties, totaling more than 100 units.

Skender Announces Executive and Senior Management Promotions

Today, Skender announced executive and senior management promotions for three rising leaders at the Chicago-based commercial construction firm. Skender would like to congratulate the following on their recent promotions:

Jeff Reist, Project Executive. Jeff joined Skender in 2015 and has 16 years of experience in the construction industry, including multifamily, adaptive reuse, historic restoration, hospitality and other commercial projects. Jeff has demonstrated a remarkable ability to foster a team-building environment, as he consistently coaches others to achieve their highest potential. He is a great adopter of Lean practices, a steadfast and tactical project manager, and he is continuously focused on team and overall company improvement.

Lauren Torres, Project Executive. Lauren joined Skender in 2013 and has 13 years in the construction industry, including some of Chicago’s most notable corporate interiors projects. Lauren has epitomized a strong and balanced work ethic as she has steadily built meaningful relationships both internally and externally. She has grown as a leader through mentorship and continues to pay it forward by mentoring her teammates and demonstrating an intrinsic drive to help others succeed.

Jacob Boyle, Senior Project Manager. Jacob joined Skender in 2016 and has 12 years of experience in the construction industry, including corporate interiors, healthcare, mission critical and life sciences projects. Jacob’s forward-thinking, out-of-the-box approach to project management has been a refreshing and vital addition to the Skender team. Jacob demonstrates his ability to persevere through adversity, eagerly and effortlessly taking on every opportunity.

“The leaders at Skender are ushering our teams forward into a new year of delivering high-quality, value-driven projects for our clients across the Midwest,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO, Skender. “We congratulate Jeff, Lauren and Jacob, who exemplify the kind of collaborative, hardworking leadership we strive for that provides clients a premier building experience.”

Multi-Housing News: Occupied Rehab: A Solution for Affordable Construction Challenges

Skender’s Joe Pecoraro shares a solution for dealing with uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor.

Making the numbers work for financing affordable housing construction was a challenge even prior to the pandemic—and now the compounding factors of construction material delays, rising material costs and labor shortages are making it even more difficult. New ground-up construction needs solid financial data to secure financing, and the uncertainty of the supply chain and labor market means developers are facing protracted due diligence periods before they even begin work. The bottom line: it is taking longer to get much-needed affordable housing units into the marketplace at a time when the demand is greater than ever.

At the same time, much of the existing stock of affordable housing in the U.S. isn’t meeting the standards of safety, sustainability and disability accessibility required of new construction. Equally of concern, it’s not meeting our shared mission in the affordable housing industry of providing dignified and high-quality homes to our neighbors who most need them.

One option that helps to solve this problem, while not taking affordable multifamily stock off the already depleted market, is occupied rehabilitation. An occupied rehab program allows affordable housing developers to take advantage of the rehabilitation tax credit to make necessary updates to existing or recently acquired housing stock, while the building remains occupied.

How Occupied Rehab Works

During the renovation, residents are moved out temporarily (usually for a period of one to two weeks) to a hotel or a vacant unit in the building. They return to newly rehabbed apartments that not only have a fresh look, but also are ADA-compliant, have updated kitchens, bathrooms, mechanicals, and appliances, and are more energy efficient—all important components of the rehabilitation program.

Using Lean construction methods, which emphasize the reduction of inefficiencies, redundancies and waste, contractors can keep projects on budget for owners and complete them with minimum disruption to residents. Groups of units are worked on in a phased approach, and each subsequent phase is further streamlined as lessons learned are applied from earlier units in real time, such as knowledge of the building’s existing mechanical and electrical features and accommodations that may have to be made to bring energy-efficient appliances into the apartment.

Improvements can be relatively small in cost—especially compared to ground-up construction—but have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of residents. For example, plumbing work done during the rehabilitation has allowed residents to take hot showers for the first time in months. Other updates can improve the longevity of the building and reduce its environmental impact. Many older buildings need to upgrade their elevator systems and points of entry and exit for safety and accessibility concerns.

In addition to upgrading individual units, occupied rehab projects can include common areas. Renovating areas such as a cafeteria/multipurpose room, common restrooms or a fitness center, further provides opportunities for the residents to enjoy an improved living experience.

Why is now the right time to consider occupied rehab?

Lawmakers increasingly support raising affordable housing fund. Earlier this year, the 4 percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) was fixed at a true 4 percent rate, a boon for affordable housing investors. More recently, the “Build Back Better” legislation, which has so far passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, includes several provisions to expand and improve the LIHTC program.

While the bill’s details are still being debated in the Senate, housing tax credits could increase by up to 40 percent, and the package will include significant funding for affordable housing, including $65 billion for public housing repairs and preservation.

Most of the work done in occupied rehab can be financed through a combination of 4 percent tax credits, 9 percent tax credits, and other programs such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones. With new federal commitment to bolstering these programs, developers should take a look at which buildings in their current portfolio could benefit from an occupied rehab project.

Occupied rehab can be a win-win for owners of affordable housing multifamily buildings as well as their residents. The renovation process treats residents with respect, giving them safer and better places to live, while not disrupting or displacing them for a long period. It allows developers to take advantage of tax-credit programs to bring their buildings up to standards in shorter time frames and without affecting occupancy rates. In this time of uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor, occupied rehab is a way to make affordable housing construction work.


Joe Pecoraro, project executive, Skender, is a leading adopter of Lean construction techniques and has helped shape Skender’s Lean-focused culture since joining the company in 2005. Pecoraro oversees Skender’s multi-unit housing team, and his expertise has helped deliver a wide range of successful multifamily residential, affordable housing and senior living projects.

This article was originally published by Multi-Housing News.

Skender Expands Operations in Indiana, Hires Jamie Nieves as Local Business Development Leader

Skender is pleased to announce the expansion of its Indiana presence and the hiring of Jamie Nieves, a seasoned economic and business development professional and Indiana native. As vice president of business relationships, Nieves will work with Brian Simons, vice president, who heads Skender’s Indianapolis office and oversees construction teams. Skender began work in Indiana in early 2020 and has been involved in the construction of significant healthcare, retail and office projects totaling over 1 million square feet throughout the state.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jamie to team Skender. Her experience creating partnerships in both the private and public sector to benefit communities in the region, as well as her robust background in civil engineering and infrastructure, will be incredibly valuable as we expand our work in Indiana,” said Simons, who graduated from Purdue in 2003.

About Jamie Nieves

Nieves joins Skender from Indianapolis-based DBE/MBE engineering consulting firm Shrewsberry & Associates, where she was director of business development. Prior to moving back to her home state of Indiana, Nieves was business development manager at engineering firm ECS Southeast in North Carolina and held senior economic development roles at the Kentucky Association for Economic Development and Northern Kentucky Tri-ED. As a leader in business retention and expansion, she has secured more than $86M in capital investment for Midwest communities and hundreds of jobs throughout the communities she has served.

Nieves holds bachelor’s degrees in marketing and finance from Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and she began her career in the architecture, construction and engineering industry with Gibraltar Design in Indianapolis.

“I was drawn by Skender’s focus on long-term relationship-building and creative, collaborative problem-solving,” said Nieves. “I am looking forward to building on both my personal Indiana roots, as well as the high-quality work Skender has already completed with its partners here. Through our work, we can benefit communities throughout Indiana.”

Skender’s Work in Indiana

Skender is a leading national construction firm with strong Midwestern roots and award-winning new construction and renovation projects in healthcare, lab sciences, office, multifamily, mixed-use and other building types. In Indiana, Skender has completed or is in process on multiple projects including:

IU Health Bloomington Hospital
Bloomington, Indiana

Skender partnered with F.A. Wilhelm to build the new IU Health Bloomington Regional Academic Health Center on the campus of Indiana University. The state-of-the-art complex, which opened in December 2021, includes 620,000 square feet for in-patient and out-patient clinical services, and 115,000 square feet for academic instruction.

IU Health Capital Projects
Indianapolis, Indiana

Skender has been engaged in the planning and construction of capital and infrastructure projects with IU Health, and the team anticipates construction to commence in 2022.

Allen Crossings
Fort Wayne, Indiana

In partnership with Echo Development, Skender will begin construction on a multi-unit, 11-acre retail development near the Parkview Hospital campus in northwest Fort Wayne in spring 2022.

Aspire Indiana Health Clinic
Indianapolis, Indiana

Skender has commenced the demolition and renovation of an existing clinical space to create a new full-service clinic for the nonprofit healthcare provider to serve the northeast side of Indianapolis.

Construction Tops Out at 345 N. Morgan in Chicago’s Fulton Market

Skender recently reached the final height at 345 N. Morgan, a 233,000-square-foot, 11-story ground-up boutique office and retail building. The new development, known as THREE FOUR FIVE, is located in Fulton Market, on one of the neighborhood’s most dynamic blocks. The topping-out ceremony signifies the end of the structural phase of construction as the project team works toward the building’s completion and anticipated opening in fall 2022.

The office and retail building will feature sleek, modern finishes, high ceilings and arched windows, and welded metal accents, drawing on the neighborhood’s industrial past. Amenities will include private outdoor terraces, a 5,000-square-foot roof deck with sweeping views, a conservatory bar & lounge with a double-sided fireplace, a full-service fitness center, a coworking library and several high-tech conference spaces to meet the needs of today’s hybrid workforce.

Skender is collaborating with developer and owner Sterling Bay and Eckenhoff Saunders Architects on this project.

Watch the event video below.

Occupied Rehab: A Solution for Affordable Construction Challenges

In this time of uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor, Joe Pecoraro of Skender, shares a solution.

Joe Pecoraro

Making the numbers work for financing affordable housing construction was a challenge even prior to the pandemic—and now the compounding factors of construction material delays, rising material costs and labor shortages are making it even more difficult. New ground-up construction needs solid financial data to secure financing, and the uncertainty of the supply chain and labor market means developers are facing protracted due diligence periods before they even begin work. The bottom line: it is taking longer to get much-needed affordable housing units into the marketplace at a time when the demand is greater than ever.

At the same time, much of the existing stock of affordable housing in the U.S. isn’t meeting the standards of safety, sustainability and disability accessibility required of new construction. Equally of concern, it’s not meeting our shared mission in the affordable housing industry of providing dignified and high-quality homes to our neighbors who most need them.

One option that helps to solve this problem, while not taking affordable multifamily stock off the already depleted market, is occupied rehabilitation. An occupied rehab program allows affordable housing developers to take advantage of the rehabilitation tax credit to make necessary updates to existing or recently acquired housing stock, while the building remains occupied.

How Occupied Rehab Works

During the renovation, residents are moved out temporarily (usually for a period of one to two weeks) to a hotel or a vacant unit in the building. They return to newly rehabbed apartments that not only have a fresh look, but also are ADA-compliant, have updated kitchens, bathrooms, mechanicals, and appliances, and are more energy efficient—all important components of the rehabilitation program.

Using Lean construction methods, which emphasize the reduction of inefficiencies, redundancies and waste, contractors can keep projects on budget for owners and complete them with minimum disruption to residents. Groups of units are worked on in a phased approach, and each subsequent phase is further streamlined as lessons learned are applied from earlier units in real time, such as knowledge of the building’s existing mechanical and electrical features and accommodations that may have to be made to bring energy-efficient appliances into the apartment.

Improvements can be relatively small in cost—especially compared to ground-up construction—but have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of residents. For example, plumbing work done during the rehabilitation has allowed residents to take hot showers for the first time in months. Other updates can improve the longevity of the building and reduce its environmental impact. Many older buildings need to upgrade their elevator systems and points of entry and exit for safety and accessibility concerns.

In addition to upgrading individual units, occupied rehab projects can include common areas. Renovating areas such as a cafeteria/multipurpose room, common restrooms or a fitness center, further provides opportunities for the residents to enjoy an improved living experience.

Why is now the right time to consider occupied rehab?

Lawmakers increasingly support raising affordable housing fund. Earlier this year, the 4 percent low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) was fixed at a true 4 percent rate, a boon for affordable housing investors. More recently, the “Build Back Better” legislation, which has so far passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, includes several provisions to expand and improve the LIHTC program.

While the bill’s details are still being debated in the Senate, housing tax credits could increase by up to 40 percent, and the package will include significant funding for affordable housing, including $65 billion for public housing repairs and preservation.

Most of the work done in occupied rehab can be financed through a combination of 4 percent tax credits, 9 percent tax credits, and other programs such as Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zones. With new federal commitment to bolstering these programs, developers should take a look at which buildings in their current portfolio could benefit from an occupied rehab project.

Occupied rehab can be a win-win for owners of affordable housing multifamily buildings as well as their residents. The renovation process treats residents with respect, giving them safer and better places to live, while not disrupting or displacing them for a long period. It allows developers to take advantage of tax-credit programs to bring their buildings up to standards in shorter time frames and without affecting occupancy rates. In this time of uncertainty in costs, schedules and labor, occupied rehab is a way to make affordable housing construction work.

This article is authored by Skender’s Joe Pecoraro. It was originally published by Multi-Housing News magazine.

Skender Completes Interior Construction of Global Headquarters for Chemical Manufacturer in Northbrook, Illinois  

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed interior construction on the three-and-a-half-floor, 87,000-square-foot corporate office for Stepan Company, a global chemical manufacturer, at 1101 Skokie Blvd in Northbrook, Illinois. The office, which serves as Stepan’s global headquarters, reflects the company’s respectful and stimulating workplace culture and will support the organization’s efforts to attract and retain top industry talent.

The new office build-out includes a learning and development suite with a training room separated by operable partitions, cafes on each floor, a board room with high-end finishes, a fitness center, an IT Genius bar, a library space and state-of-the-art audio-visual technology.

“Our new headquarters embodies sustainability and reflects our values with spaces designed for collaboration, well-being and flexibility.  We are excited to have this beautiful new environment to safely support our customers and grow Stepan Company,” said Janet A. Catlett, Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer.

Skender collaborated with Avison Young and architect and engineer CannonDesign on this project. Stepan expects to receive LEED Silver certification on the build-out early in 2022.

“Despite ongoing supply chain constraints, our team was able to remain agile and create new critical paths around these challenges,” said Jacob Boyle, Sr. Project Manager, Skender. “The leaders at Stepan and our collaborators at CannonDesign made quick, thoughtful decisions to navigate these disruptions, ultimately resulting in minimal impact.”

Skender Completes New Spec Suites in Old Post Office

Skender recently completed the interior build-out for 43,000 square feet of spec suites in the North building of the historic Old Post Office in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. The 11 divisible office suites provide lease options ranging from 1,000 to 7,000 square feet, as well as an accompanying amenity space with two conference rooms, a reading room and a library.

As with most of the space in the redeveloped Old Post Office, these spec suites feature unique historic touches, including mosaic tiles as well as salvaged doors from building storage that were reworked and reinstalled along the corridor of the space. Additionally, the space has ornate metal screen design features, wainscot paneling, specialty ceilings, custom millwork built-ins and a fireplace in the library space.

“Our knowledge of the building and detail-oriented team were critical success factors in delivering these high-quality spec suites for the owner, 601W Companies,” said Lauren Torres, Senior Project Manager and Team Leader, Skender. “It was a great collaboration and a fantastic result.”

Skender worked closely with building owner 601W Companies, architect Partners by Design, and project manager JLL.

Construction Starts on 50,000-SF Laboratory and Office Workspace at 320 N. Sangamon in Chicago’s Fulton Market

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently started construction on the interior build-out of the two-story, 50,000-square-foot lab and office space for Hazel Technologies, a USDA-funded technology company developing solutions to extend the shelf life of fresh produce. With an anticipated completion in early spring 2022, Hazel will be one of the first two tenants to move into at 320 N. Sangamon, the new 13-story Fulton Market office building developed by Tishman Speyer and Mark Goodman & Associates.

Hazel will move from its current location at University Technology Park at Illinois Tech in Bronzeville to expand its footprint as it accommodates its plans to double its local workforce to 70 people in the coming year. The build-out includes space for open research laboratory and lab support, as well as 10,000 square feet of administrative and office space and 5,000 square feet of collaboration space, including several sizes of meeting rooms, huddle rooms, and prep and tasting rooms.

Converting office space into lab space requires extra attention to detail within infrastructure customizations, such as new air handling, general exhaust and fume exhaust, new boilers, and uninterrupted power supply generators with capacity to manage all the lab equipment and technology. Multiple specialized space types are found within the lab space, including a pilot lab, dry lab, sensory lab, wet lab, engineering lab and innovation lab. Specialty equipment and finishes include 10 fume hoods, four snorkel hoods, negatively pressured lab spaces, and acid- and solvent-resistant finishes. The lab support space will include square footage for research and equipment.

“This year, we’ve seen an influx of growing lab sciences firms seeking out the conversion of office space in the city for their lab space needs,” said Jason Utah, Senior Project Manager, Skender. “Our team is excited to bring this kind of complex conversion to life for Hazel Technologies in one of Fulton Market’s newest, amenity-forward buildings at 320 N. Sangamon.”

Skender collaborated with developers Tishman Speyer and Mark Goodman & Associates, tenant representative CBRE, architect Perkins & Will and engineer Cosentini Associates on this project.

Construction Starts on Affordable Housing for Veterans and People with Disabilities in Lansing, Illinois

Skender, along with its joint-venture partner Ashlaur Construction, recently broke ground on Torrence Place, a three-story, mixed-use affordable housing and health clinic project for affordable housing developer Full Circle Communities at 2320 Thornton-Lansing Road in Lansing. The wood-framed building will have 48 affordable, accessible units for veterans and people with disabilities, as well as a 3,500-square-foot health clinic on the ground floor operated by Christian Community Health Center.

Torrence Place will also include space for property management office space, supportive service space and residential amenities including a fitness area, computer lab and community area with a communal kitchen.

The project team, including Full Circle Communities, Skender, Ashlaur Construction, architect Cordogan, Clark & Associates, and CAGE Civil Engineering, ceremoniously broke ground at the project site on October 22. Torrence Place will also include building features that will qualify it to receive certification through Enterprise Green Communities.

WSJ: Builders Hunt for Alternatives to Materials in Short Supply

Shortages of key construction materials are forcing some builders and contractors to turn to substitutes and hunt for alternative suppliers as they rush to meet high demand for new housing.

Construction companies are looking for replacements and new sources for everything from wood paneling to ceiling joists to pipes, saying that potentially higher costs and added complications to design and construction can be preferable to putting a project on hold for months while waiting for planned supplies.

Supply shortages stem from a series of supply-chain disruptions hitting industries around the world this year, from port congestion in Asia and the U.S. to labor shortages at factories. Heavy storms in Texas and Louisiana have also slowed production of some building materials, while semiconductor shortfalls have made appliances harder to secure.

Read the full article, which includes commentary by Skender’s Andy Halik, at the WSJ.

Skender Completes Renovation on 101-Unit Seniors Housing Facility in South Chicago

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on Salud Center, a 101-unit, 140,000-square-foot senior residential building in South Chicago at 3039 E. 91st Street. The facility provides affordable housing for low-income seniors and is operated by the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and Claretian Associates, a nonprofit housing developer and community services provider based in South Chicago.

As occupied rehab construction, Skender and POAH coordinated the temporary relocation of the families and seniors living in the building while individual units were renovated. Occupied rehab requires careful construction sequencing and logistics to ensure safe, smooth delivery and minimal interference with residents’ lives. Working in five-day construction cycles, Skender turned around six units per week at Salud Center, including new flooring, lighting and plumbing trim in unit bathrooms and kitchens.

In addition to the individual unit renovations, Skender also renovated the common areas, including cafeteria/multipurpose room, restrooms, a fitness center, and office space for Claretian Associates, which will run some of its operations out of the building. Skender also completed a full upgrade of the boiler room equipment, replacement of the façade exterior insulation finishing system, and a new thermoplastic polyolefin roof.

Skender collaborated with developers and co-owners POAH and Claretian Associates, as well as architects Architrave, Ltd. (commercial and office) and Canopy Architecture & Design (residential) on this project. Over the past decade, Skender has completed nearly 2,000 units of occupied rehab projects for several clients, including POAH, Preservation Partners, Vitus Group and Catholic Charities.

Skender Completes Construction on 16-Unit Affordable Housing Building in Wilmette

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on Cleland Place, a three-story, 16-unit affordable housing development at 1925 Wilmette Ave. in Wilmette. The new development will provide affordable housing for working families, seniors and veterans and will be operated by the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation (HODC). The project is named for Jean Cleland, a long-time Wilmette resident and founding member of the HODC, as well as an advocate for civil rights and affordable housing in the North Shore.

Completed within a 10-month timeframe, the Skender team managed the construction of this project in a tight, logistically challenging jobsite with minimal disruption to the surrounding community. The building features one- and two-bedroom units and amenities including a laundry room, elevator, covered parking and resident-driven social activities.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for Cleland Place took place on Thursday, August 26, to signify the opening of the facility. “I’m so excited that Cleland Place is now open for residents, and to see my Grandma Jean’s values and passion for affordable housing live on in Wilmette,” said Kelsey Cleland, Program Director at The Goldie Initiative and granddaughter of Jean Cleland.

Skender collaborated with developer Housing Opportunity Development Corporation and architect Cordogan Clark & Associates on this project. Skender has recently completed several affordable and supportive housing facilities throughout Chicago and its suburbs, including Sarah’s on Sheridan Supportive Housing Facility in Uptown, The Residences of Crystal Lake in Crystal Lake, and Woodlawn Station in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Podcast: IN Construction Influencers with Nate Lelle

This weeks guest is Brian Simons, Project Executive and Vice President, Indiana. Brian works with teams in Chicago and Indianapolis areas to build and manage healthcare and interior construction projects. Regularly managing new construction, build-outs, renovations, upgrades and modernizations for hospitals, healthcare systems and corporations.

At Skender, we build lasting relationships, create meaningful experiences and help our clients achieve groundbreaking results. We do this through high-performing teams who are obsessed with delivering the premier construction experience. Skender is a full-service building contractor with specialized new construction and renovation capabilities in all major sectors, including commercial, multifamily and healthcare.  Guided by efficiency, anchored by value and driven by results – our customers repeatedly rave about the way we work and our ability to deliver extraordinary results. Faster, smarter, leaner, stronger.

While the bulk of our work is in the Midwest, we also have extensive experience managing projects in other states. Our multi-state capabilities are enhanced by our national partner network.

Listen to the podcast episode here.

Skender Breaks Ground on 345 N Morgan, a 200,000-SF office and retail building in Fulton Market

Skender and Sterling Bay hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at 345 N Morgan this morning with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar and project architect Eckenhoff Saunders Architects. This groundbreaking marks the start of construction on the 200,000-square-foot boutique office and retail building located in Fulton Market.

“Sterling Bay began pre-development on 345 N Morgan many months before COVID-19 was on anyone’s radar. In fact, we were ready to begin digging at the site in early March 2020, just days before everything – including this particular project – came to a swift halt,” said Andy Gloor, CEO, Sterling Bay. “Today, after navigating over a year’s worth of pandemic-related challenges, we are proud to break ground on this state-of-the-art development that will build on Fulton Market’s reputation as a premier destination to collaborate and do business in Chicago.”

Acquired by Sterling Bay in 2014, 345 N Morgan is a speculative development that will offer future tenants open, customizable floor plates for maximum flexibility and collaboration in an unbeatable location. Designed by Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, the space features sleek, modern finishes, soaring ceilings, arched windows, and welded metal accents, drawing on the neighborhood’s industrial past. Amenities include private outdoor terraces, a 5K-square-foot roof deck with sweeping views, a conservatory bar & lounge with a double-sided fireplace, a full-service fitness center, a coworking library and several high-tech conference spaces to meet the needs of today’s virtual world.

In addition to offering tenants a completely customizable workplace experience, 345 N Morgan will also complete construction in just 13 months, significantly faster than comparable developments of a similar size, allowing future tenants to move into their new office space as early as September 2022.

“Skender is proud to be a part of the team that will bring 345 N Morgan to completion on an accelerated timeline. COVID-19 has caused countless development delays and disruptions across Chicago, but this project will deliver in just over a year – that’s a significant accomplishment even by pre-pandemic standards,” said Justin Brown, President & CEO, Skender. “We understand the high level of integration that this project demands and are committed to executing the seamless, collaborative and efficient process for which Skender is known.”

As part of its commitment to expand opportunities for minority-owned firms, Skender has formed a joint venture partnership and JLL Construction, a local certified minority-owned business, in the development of this project. JLL Construction is headquartered on the west side of Chicago and, like Skender, has an extensive portfolio of projects in the Fulton Market area. As development progresses, 345 N Morgan will meet the city’s standards for M/WBE engagement at the 26/6 participation level.

Six Ways to Mitigate Construction Material Costs

Across all property types, both ground-up and renovation projects are facing the dual challenges of price volatility and scarcity of supplies.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported staggering spikes in construction material prices between May 2020 and May 2021: increases of 146% for refined petroleum products such as diesel fuel and asphalt base, 114% for lumber and wood products, 107% for cold-rolled steel sheets used for metal studs, and 39% for copper wire and cable. In mid-June, lumber futures for July delivery were down 42% from their record high reached in early May.

Across all property types, both ground-up and renovation projects are facing the dual challenges of price volatility and scarcity of supplies. And with general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers unable to guarantee pricing of materials more than a few weeks out, many are shifting the risk associated with price uncertainty to owners and developers. Mitigating these risks can be challenging, but the following tactics can help alleviate the effects on a project’s bottom line:

1. Assemble the team early.

At Skender, we’ve found that combining project teams sooner rather than later can significantly increase speed-to-revenue. When architects and contractors collaborate early in the process, either in a design-build or design-assist delivery method, schedules can proceed more quickly, and expensive, time-consuming redesigns can be avoided. For example: in a ground-up project, a smart design choice regarding the location of the major vertical circulation (i.e., stairs and elevators) can result in significant cost savings.

2. Invest in Lean Construction.

To achieve greater stability, reliability, efficiency, and flexibility, owners and developers should leverage Lean construction principles and tactics. In addition to navigating material shortages, a Lean builder such as Skender can help maximize ROI by conducting ongoing research, monitoring economic trends, and providing counsel on lifetime costs, environmental impact, inflation, and other factors. A builder with a Lean approach specializes in optimizing projects for efficiency and reducing waste during all stages of construction — both of which can help mitigate risks associated with rising material costs.

3. Amend budgets.

Historically, material cost increases have slightly exceeded the rate of general inflation (3-5%); in the current environment, PMA advises owners and developers to consider escalation contingencies of 10-15% per year. Predicting exactly when material prices will stabilize is impossible, but establishing strategic budget reserves, contingencies, and reinvestment plans can help owners and developers manage risk.

One budgeting approach Skender’s teams have employed involves building a strategic buffer and establishing a timeline for reassessing risk, then gradually releasing reserved funds back into the project as economic conditions improve. For a project with a $15 million budget, aim to spend $14.5 million, and systematically release the balance as appropriate. Converting surplus contingency adds real value and can enable developers and building owners to secure wish-list items, from upgraded finish materials to appliances and landscaping.

4. Explore alternative or unconventional materials.

At both PMA and Skender, we are firm believers that expanding materials options for every component of a building, from the foundation and superstructure to the various systems and interior building materials, can help control costs. Pre-cast concrete, ready-mix concrete, DensGlass, zip-board, and alternative wood species can all be useful substitutes for materials that are over budget or difficult to procure. For wood-framed projects, prefabricated wall panels and framing systems can limit material waste, decrease labor costs, and potentially expedite project schedules.

Now more than ever, owners and developers should be challenging architects and engineers to exercise their creativity and incorporate unconventional materials in their designs, as well as ensure that extending the list of acceptable substitutes does not compromise on safety, quality, durability or functionality.

5. Procure materials well in advance.

In addition to exploring alternative materials, both our firms suggest procuring materials in advance whenever possible to mitigate risks around pricing and availability. Buying materials earlier typically results in cost savings and greater decision-making power about other factors later in the project. It mitigates unknown exposure to shortages and can ensure access to materials when needed. Some owners and developers have made the decision to purchase materials directly, believing it will avoid markup costs. But going that route also eliminates a variety of services and introduces a higher level of risk, so it’s not something to undertake without examining the full picture.

6. Manage contracts and partner with contractors.

Developers and owners should be mindful of how material price volatility can affect both new and existing agreements. At PMA, we emphasize the importance of fully understanding any material cost escalation clauses. Often, force majeure clauses will be modified to allow for recovery of costs (not just time extensions) for catastrophic events, which can lead to cost escalation. Developers should also avoid contracts with open-ended allowances for material costs. In the current environment, partnering with contractors and suppliers to set an indexed price point with a cap, with an agreement to share in the savings or overages up to the cap, is a more appropriate approach to mitigating risk. This approach also allows for owner participation in any upside as prices stabilize.

Last but not least, owners and developers should keep in mind that steep increases in material costs may lead to subcontractor defaults or bankruptcies. Staying abreast of subcontractors’ and material suppliers’ financial health is critical to minimizing project disruption, even when construction agreements are properly structured to protect the owner from subcontractor defaults. Prompt payment and properly structured agreements can go a long way in helping subcontractors manage cash flow. Ultimately, avoiding default is a better outcome than merely being protected if the situation does occur.

The economy is uncertain, and owners and developers have no way of knowing exactly when the prices for building materials will stabilize. Fortunately, the risks associated with material price volatility are generally tolerable and quantifiable. A combination of the above strategies—along with a little extra planning, creativity, and flexibility—can help mitigate economic variables and ensure reliable, on-time, on-budget delivery of construction projects.

This article is authored by Andy Halik, VP and corporate interiors co-lead of Skender, and Roger McCarron, President and CEO of Project Management Advisors Inc. (PMA). It was originally published by Facility Executive magazine.

Skender Announces Executive and Senior Management Promotions

Skender would like to congratulate the following executives and senior managers on their recent promotions:

Alex Panici, Project Executive. Since joining Skender in 2016, Alex has built exceptional client relationships, displayed tremendous leadership in the commercial construction market and is extremely tuned in to his project teams and their needs. Alex continuously sees challenges given to him and the team as opportunities instead of obstacles. He graciously values feedback and views constructive criticism as a chance for continuous improvement, all components for high-quality Skender leaders.

Brian Kane, Project Executive. Since joining Skender in 2008, Brian has constantly sought ways to improve himself, his team, and Skender as a whole. He consistently promotes a culture of learning and continuous improvement so that his team is set up for success on project delivery. Brian plays a key role in business development, cultivating external relationships at every stage, which has led to steady growth in Skender’s healthcare, owner’s services, and travel-with-client construction.

Jason Utah, Senior Project Manager. Jason joined the Skender team in 2016 and has contributed exponentially to the stability and growth of the firm’s Healthcare team. He has been instrumental in the establishment and success of the new lab sciences construction market, while also providing outstanding preconstruction, budget development and owner services. As Senior Project Manager, Jason is responsible for delivering projects on schedule, maximizing productivity and efficiency, and controlling project costs for his healthcare and lab clients.

Kevin Chan, Senior Project Manager. Since joining Skender in 2015, Kevin has been an important player on the Healthcare team, developing relationships, educating new employees and serving as the go-to person for owners, facility staff and end-users alike. During the last year, Kevin managed several critical jobs, ensuring efficient schedules and optimizing value. He continues to go above and beyond the assigned work, delighting clients and making the process of building easier for all parties involved.

Ryan Cotter, Senior Preconstruction Manager. Ryan joined the Skender team in 2016 and has helped create a clear vision for the firm’s comprehensive preconstruction services. He is a true builder and collaborator with architects, engineers, consultants and trade partners. As Preconstruction Manager, Ryan aligns our internal teams with client goals to support project budgeting, bidding, scheduling, constructability, logistics and value analysis. He efficiently and reliably guides our commercial projects through the planning, design and construction phases.

“I’ve been so proud of our team that has continued to step up during this unpredictable year to anticipate our clients’ needs and deliver the most efficient and effective building solutions amidst a tough market,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO, Skender. “These rising stars at Skender are exemplary of the type of leadership that will keep us competitive as we work toward stronger building outcomes.”

ENR Midwest: Top Contractors Persevere Through Pandemic Year

The Midwest’s top contractors—many of whom had projects delayed or stalled due to the pandemic—reported $41.3 billion in revenue for 2020, a slight decrease from a record high of $42.5 billion in 2019. Revenue totals were reported by 85 contractors and construction managers from 11 states who responded to ENR Midwest’s Top Contractors survey.

Just as they have in the past, contractors took on a wide range of projects, including construction of a 200-bed veteran’s hospital in Chicago, expansion of a parking and rental car facility in St. Paul and construction of an innovation center and library at a college in Traverse City, Mich.

The contractors on this year’s list tackled projects in a wide range of specialties, including, but not limited to, environmental, transportation, education, aviation, manufacturing, health care and senior living.

Read the full article at ENR Midwest.

Skender Breaks Ground on 133,000-Square-Foot Maywood Supportive Living Redevelopment Project

Skender broke ground today on the major historic redevelopment of Maywood Supportive Living, a five-story, 133,000-square-foot supportive living facility for seniors at 316 Randolph St. in Maywood, Illinois. The building, when finished, will provide 100 units of affordable, supportive living housing with substantial healthcare and nursing amenities provided in the facility.

The existing building, which formerly housed the Central Baptist Home and has sat vacant for many years, will be stripped down to its structure and building envelope and restored with an eye for preserving its historic architectural detail. In 2017, the property was added to the State of Illinois’ National Register of Historic Places.

The existing building and grounds take up a full city block, and the section built in 1929-1930 boasts a Tudor Revival-style, while the additions in 1955 and 1965 align with modernist architectural trends. The renovation will include installing new windows; restoring the wood trim, stucco and brick façade; replacing the roof; restoring the first-floor lobby including the preservation of terrazzo floors, commercial kitchen and dining area, and common areas; and converting 100 units to supportive living units with kitchenettes on floors 2-5.

“We’re preserving the facility’s character by retaining and restoring much of its original architectural features, meanwhile making it a more functional, safe and modern space in which to deliver necessary care to its residents,” said Afshan Barshan, Senior Vice President, Skender.

In addition to serving as general contractor, Skender is providing design-build mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection engineering services, while collaborating with developer Celadon Partners and Gleason Architects. Financing for this renovation is being provided by NDC Corporate Equity Fund, KeyBank, US Bank, and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Solutions for Building Office Properties Through Supply Shortages, Rising Prices

U.S. coronavirus cases are plunging and businesses are fully reopening. Meanwhile, the challenges of developing new office buildings and renovating existing ones are only compounding as project pipelines fill up amid unpredictable economic factors: skyrocketing materials prices, a tightening labor market, soaring demand and problematic supplies. Real estate developers, owners and their builders must take action to mitigate the financial impacts and keep projects on track.

It’s no secret that building component costs have risen at an unprecedented rate in the past year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from April 2020 to April 2021, material prices increased an astounding 143 percent for refined petroleum products such as diesel fuel and asphalt base, 90 percent for lumber and wood products, 78 percent for cold-rolled steel sheets that are used for metal studs, and 31 percent for copper wire and cable.

Such extreme material price increases have intensified over the pandemic and spread to other components, all while severe shortages and supply chain bottlenecks have lengthened timelines for production and delivery. These challenges are not limited to one type of building construction—both ground-up and renovation projects across all property types are realizing the effects of higher prices and scarce supplies.

How can developers, owners and builders overcome these economic challenges and mitigate the risk to their project’s bottom line? Consider the following five solutions:

Blend the team early

Time is money, so in order to ramp up speed to revenue, break down barriers and combine teams sooner than later. Early collaboration between architect and contractor—in a design-build or design-assist delivery method—will accelerate schedules and prevent expensive, time-intensive redesign. For example, making smart design choices in terms of where the major vertical circulation (i.e., stairs and elevators) is placed in a ground-up project can preserve substantial budget dollars.

Stronger, earlier collaboration on these elements avoids do-overs later, but challenges are bound to happen. Develop backup scenario plans in advance – this strategy will allow the team to rapidly and seamlessly shift to an acceptable plan B or C and avoid delays or cost overruns.

Build lean

Lean construction provides greater stability, reliability, efficiency and flexibility. A Lean builder can help navigate market conditions and material shortages and will maximize ROI by conducting ongoing research, monitoring economic trends and providing counsel on lifetime costs, environmental impact, inflation and more. Builders with Lean DNA are master planners and professionally trained in delivering optimally efficient projects, reducing waste during all stages of construction.

Dodge Data & Analytics research demonstrated that “high Lean-intensity projects” were three times more likely to complete ahead of schedule and two times more likely to complete under budget. Dodge found that of projects that did not implement Lean methods, 61% finished behind schedule and 49% completed over budget.

Expand the material mix

Evaluate and analyze substitute materials and systems to expand the menu of choices for all components of a building, including foundations, superstructures, framing, enclosures, systems, interior building materials and more. Working with the contractor and strategic trade partners early in the design phase can ensure that extending the list of acceptable substitutes does not compromise on safety, quality, durability or functionality. Every project has options.

Specifically, pre-cast concrete, ready-mix concrete and different wood species have become useful substitutes. On one recent project, the original plans called for Douglas Fir for the wood-framed structure, but the suppliers couldn’t guarantee delivery in time, so the team determined that Spruce Pine Fir would be a suitable alternate to maintain the construction schedule.

Procure materials earlier

Material prices are moving fast and furiously, causing daily uncertainty about how much a product could cost down the line. Working from real, data-driven expectations can aid in making material procurement decisions earlier. Buying materials earlier will typically result in cost savings and greater decision-making power about other factors later in the project. It mitigates unknown exposure to shortages and can ensure access to materials when needed.

Establish strategic budget reserves and a reinvestment plan

Try to carry extra contingency and avoid building to your max budget upfront. Build a strategic buffer, and, more importantly, a schedule of milestones for reassessing risk at the last responsible moment and gradually releasing reserved funds back into the project as risk diminishes. For instance, if your project budget is $15 million, target a spend of $14.5 million and then systematically release the balance if economic conditions improve. Converting surplus contingency adds real value and allows for adding project wish-list items such as upgraded finish materials, appliances, technology, landscaping and more.

The economy is uncertain, but the risks are tolerable and quantifiable. Lean, experienced builders know how to manage projects throughout increased volatility. A combination of these solutions—early team collaboration, Lean best practices, material flexibility and agility, and strategic budget reserves with reinvestment milestones – will help mitigate risky economic variables and ensure the reliable, on-time, on-budget delivery of your next construction project.

This article, authored by Skender’s Justin Brown and Dan Ulbricht, was originally published by Commercial Property Executive magazine.

Skender’s Joe Pecoraro to Moderate Webinar on Surging Material Costs, Impact on Affordable Housing

The Illinois Housing Council will host a webinar titled “Surging Material Costs and the Impact on Affordable Housing” on Tuesday, June 8. Skender Project Executive Joe Pecoraro will moderate the virtual event, which features a panel of experts, including David Brint, principal of Brinshore Development, and David Logan, director of tax and trade policy analysis at the National Association of Home Builders.

As the United States returns to pre-pandemic speeds and businesses fully reopen, economic volatility and supply chain constraints have led to construction material procurement challenges and soaring prices. Skender recently released material pricing data and solutions for building through supply shortages and rising prices.

To register for the event, please visit https://ilhousing.org/webinars/

 

‘Isolation Is The Enemy’: Next-Gen Office Designs Focus On Togetherness

Decision time is approaching for Chicago’s biggest office occupants. Companies that have been delaying their office return plans are now facing the choice of whether to renew their leases, find new space or even overhaul their entire real estate strategy.

“We’re seeing an uptick in tours and leasing activity, as well as clients who are ready to move forward with their pre-Covid real estate plans again,” said Andy Halik, a vice president at Skender who helps lead the Chicago construction firm’s interiors group. “They’re not looking to kick the can anymore.”

In Chicago, many of the companies setting the tone and pace of the return are those interested in the recently converted warehouses and new towers being developed in Fulton Market, an office submarket that has swelled over the last decade, attracting tech giants, law firms, design agencies and other corporations that pride themselves on culture driven by architecture and design.

The new challenge for these companies is not just to create spaces that are functional and cost-effective, but spaces that attract people to collaborate, coexist and build corporate culture, even for employees that may only be coming in a few times a week.

The yearlong experiment in working from home has shown companies the value of flexibility and how crucial it is to give employees control over how and where they work and even who they sit and work with on a daily basis. But 2020 has also revealed the negative impact on employee health when engaging with co-workers in an office environment isn’t an option.

“We are human, we want to coexist, and isolation is the enemy,” Halik said. “The challenge of designing an office now is creating a space that encourages flexibility while solving the problem of isolation by offering what the home office can’t provide: space that brings us together.”

Many of the companies in Fulton Market are anticipating that on average, their offices may only host around 70% of the staff that they hosted pre-pandemic, and Halik said most are looking to cut back slightly on their overall office footprints. But those reductions are likely to come from individual work areas, not collaboration and client experience space.

After a year of working alone and hosting video calls, the Fulton Market crowd expects its employees to be starved for collaboration and connection. Employees may choose to come into the office on days they need to meet face to face with colleagues, to give presentations or to welcome guests and visitors. Accordingly, conference rooms and other open areas for teams to meet are likely to stay the same or expand, as will event spaces to host celebrations or guest speakers. Those changes should make days spent in the office feel more purposeful and special, Halik said.

For many organizations, the idea that every employee must have a personal desk is fading. Halik said he is seeing more demand for nontraditional seating, including long high-top tables, as well as for spaces that can be cleared for large-scale gatherings and events. Some companies are creating online reservation systems for individual desks, while others are looking to create desk “neighborhoods” that allow small teams to gather for periods of a few weeks at a time to collaborate on projects.

At the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, the shoulder-to-shoulder density of modern offices was seen as a health risk. But as vaccinations become more widespread and fear of contracting Covid recedes, parts of the office may expand, but actual seating areas are likely to stay just as dense.

“Companies are looking to build more places for people to coexist and feel something that makes the office a compelling place to work,” Halik said.

Finishes that make the office beautiful — like biophilic design, art and wood accents — are on the rise, as are upgrades to daylight and air quality.

An office renovation or tenant improvement budget can be stretched a lot further by a contractor who knows the local market. Halik said that understanding the logistics of each building, localized construction activity and even parking within Fulton Market has given Skender clients more financial room to tailor their offices to their particular needs.

With the pace of vaccination rising, workforces may be ready to return to the office in a matter of months. But companies are also facing another deadline: While low demand kept construction pricing down during the pandemic, prices for tenant improvements and other small projects could shoot right back up as soon as the first wave of office users make their decisions.

“There is a real financial benefit to making a decision now, before others have jumped on the bandwagon,” Halik said. “We see the improvements in market confidence happening fast and when the tipping point comes, pricing advantages will quickly evaporate.”

This article originally appeared on Bisnow.com.

Ashlee Pforr Named to Crain’s 2021 Notable Women in Construction and Design

Congratulations to Skender Project Executive Ashlee Pforr on being named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ Notable Women in Construction and Design. This is the second consecutive year that Ashlee has earned the editorial honor.

“The women featured here lead in all corners of the field,” according to the Crain’s Chicago Business feature, which recognized 65 professionals in its May 3 issue.

Ashlee was recognized for her leadership, mentorship and commitment to advancing the industry and her peers.

Click here to see the full feature at chicagobusiness.com.

Skender Named a Finalist for Two Interior Contractor of the Year Awards

Awards come from rewarding work. Skender is thrilled to be a finalist in both Interior Contractor of the Year award categories – owner projects and tenant projects – at this year’s Greater Chicago Food Depository Commercial Real Estate Awards.

In a year unlike any other for our real estate community, Skender led interior construction for anchor tenants in transformative developments including the Old Post Office, Bank of America Tower and 151 N. Franklin. In total, Skender delivered 1.3MSF of tenant interiors in these three buildings alone last year while balancing ambitious schedules, complex design and technological requirements, as well as the safety and livelihood of our employees, clients and partners during the global pandemic.

In addition to our tenant spaces, Skender partnered with leading building owners and managers to provide rapid-response asset repositioning, lobby updates, amenity spaces, rooftop decks, spec suites, infrastructure and energy efficiency upgrades, and more. For instance, at 2430 N Halsted, a new building dedicated to life sciences firms, Skender worked with Sterling Bay to build out first- and second-floor common areas, a reception area, four conference rooms, two staff offices, an upgraded HVAC system, new security and a tenant lounge.

Every step of the building process is collaborative and we are grateful for all those who helped make our 2020 tenant and owner interior projects a reality.

Click here to donate to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Pictured (clockwise from left): 110 N Wacker, The Old Post Office, 2430 N Halsted

Skender Breaks Ground on New, 16-unit Supportive Living Apartment Community in Matteson, Illinois

We are excited to break ground with OTR (Over The Rainbow Association) on Mustacchi Manor, a new, 16-unit supportive living apartment community designed by Weese Langley Weese Architects.

The building will join a 3-development campus on 10 acres of land in Matteson, Illinois, and is named in honor of longtime OTR board member and treasurer Roberto Mustacchi, who passed away in 2018.

Since 2015, Over the Rainbow, Weese Langley Weese and Skender have collaborated on four properties, totaling more than 100 units, providing independent living solutions for individuals with physical disabilities.

Watch the video of our Midtown Crossing Apartments construction project (completed in 2017) for OTR:

Chicago office designers envision post-pandemic workplaces that function and feel like neighborhoods

What will the post-pandemic office look like when workers return to downtown Chicago? One only needs to take a walk around their neighborhood to get an idea. At least this is what some top office interior designers and builders are saying as business leaders finally start preparing their strategies for bringing employees back downtown.

But another key theme that will come about from the tidal wave of the pandemic, and after spending more than a year working from home, will be the idea of control.

Having some semblance of control over the work environment will allow employees to feel safer, and when the workforce feels a deeper sense of security, then we can begin to move forward and get back to focusing on in-person collaboration and fostering company culture, Eric Gannon, a principal at the Chicago office of the global architecture firm Gensler, believes.

“The expectation now is that you’re returning to something different, and you’re returning to something that you have some control over,” says Gannon. “So, I think what that means is how you reserve or how you gauge the intention to what you need, and there’s an expectation that the space is flexible to us as individuals and what we might need to support our work.”

In addition to a flexible, hybrid model of work where employees can choose to work from the office or at home, there’s going to be changes to the office that give employees a similar sense of control that they have at home, Gannon adds. For example, allowing employees to directly adjust lighting at workstations, changing the temperature, or forming a workplace “bubble,” gives more autonomy to choose what feels most comfortable.

This focus on user control and autonomy in the workplace isn’t entirely new, but it’s something that’s being kicked into high gear because of the pandemic. And in many ways, it can also be viewed through the larger lens of the mainstream focus on wellness and fitness in recent years.

And then in terms of the actual layout and programming of any particular office, each company will have different needs, but the industry is moving away from a straight-forward open office environment to one that’s still largely open, but also intentionally planned.

“The open office was a product of real estate efficiency,” says Gannon. “We were crunching down desk sizes to fit more [people] and I think we believed for a while in the energy that was created in the ability to turn your chair around as a benefit to culture and to the work environment.”

Instead, the antidote to the current workplace conundrum in a post-pandemic world might be the office “neighborhood,” or a layout that looks towards urban planning for inspiration.

“When you think about a workspace from an urban planning construct, you’ve got the main plaza space that’s more communal and you’ve got smaller, more intimate type spaces,” Gannon says of the new way of thinking for office design. “So, I think that the modular approach to the neighborhood is a way to achieve flexibility but also prepare for ongoing change in the short term.”

Beyond the programming, the neighborhood concept is also different in the sense that it’s not a set-it and leave-it approach to office design, Gannon adds. Designers will have to continue periodically checking in with clients about what’s working and what’s not in order to make adjustments and changes to the office to better foster collaboration and productivity.

Andy Halik, a VP at Chicago-based Skender also sees a future for the neighborhood layout, or the “address-free office,” as he calls it. And we could start seeing these changes in the office sooner than later.

“Generally speaking, flexibility is more about how a business behaves rather than the space it offers,” Halik says of the oft-discussed theme of workplace flexibility. “The space that companies are offering are still very much driving what they used to be about, if not more so now, which is about culture, collaboration, and succeeding through this together.”

Halik says that there will certainly be a return to the office as companies have learned of some major caveats of having entire teams and staff working from home exclusively, including lower employee satisfaction, retention issues, and a sense of being disconnected or disengaged from colleagues, as well as the company’s mission and culture.

And regardless of office location, type, or layout, the big question that employers and office designers need to spend more time thinking about is what the office offers that working from home doesn’t.

“I’ve heard a lot of people forecast that lower density buildings or build-to-suit single occupier situations are going to be the hottest office properties out there, and I do think that demand for those types of buildings will go up,” Halik says. “But the reality has more to do with answering the question: What does the office provide that working from home does not? The buildings and the neighborhoods that answer that the best will be the ones to provide the most opportunities for people to be together, period.”

Afterall, there is an element to working in an office downtown that’s maybe not as easily defined — the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself.

Just the simple act of going into the office over the next couple of months may be enough for many workers to feel better about the changing world and workplace.

“I’ve been going downtown more, and every time I do, the anxiety wears off a bit of what it’s going to be like,” says Eric Gannon about heading into Gensler’s office in The Loop. “So I think that there is a very emotional, human piece of just doing it and getting used to it again.”

This article originally published in the April 2021 issue of Illinois Real Estate Journal.

Skender Named One of Crain’s 2021 Best Places to Work

Skender has been named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Crain’s Chicago Business for the fourth consecutive year. The award is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best companies to work for in Chicago.

Each year Crain’s and Best Companies Group, an independent research firm, set out to find the local businesses that have excelled in creating quality workplaces for employees. Determining the Best Places to Work in Chicago involves a comprehensive evaluation of each participating company’s workplace policies, practices, and demographics, as well as a separate assessment of employee experiences and perspectives. The complete list of winners, in alphabetical order, is available here.

This is the fifth time in eight years that Skender has earned the Crain’s recognition. In the last 15 years, Skender has won nearly 30 best-place-to-work awards by three different awarding bodies. If you’re interested in joining our team, please click here to see our open opportunities.

Skender Completes Construction of 45,000 SF Office, Retail Project for Herman Miller in Chicago

CHICAGO — Skender has completed construction of a 45,000-square-foot office and retail building for furniture company Herman Miller in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood. Located at 1100 W. Fulton St., the build-to-suit project preserved the existing building’s historical masonry while incorporating a new concrete structure to support the 100-year-old exterior.

Read the full article at REBusinessOnline.com >

Skender wraps up Bank of America buildout at 110 N. Wacker

Skender recently completed interior construction of the 536,000-square-foot office relocation for Bank of America’s (BofA) downtown Chicago offices. Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, relocated to the Bank of America Tower at 110 N. Wacker, a new Class A+, 56-story high-rise that was concurrently under construction.

Encompassing 17 floors, approximately one third of the building, BofA’s new space includes private offices, open workstation areas, conference rooms, work cafés, support space and other modern workplace amenities. Unique features include a trading floor with supplemental cooling and uninterrupted power supply, critical-systems infrastructure, custom two-story trellises, a barista bar and market café, and two dedicated outdoor terraces. In addition, the interior includes a monument staircase connecting a two-floor conference center and executive suite.

Read the full article at REJournals.com >

Skender Completes Construction at 1100 W. Fulton for Fulton St. Companies and Herman Miller

Skender recently completed 1100 W. Fulton, a 45,000-square-foot, five-story, single-tenant, mixed-use commercial building in the Fulton Market neighborhood of Chicago. The build-to-suit office and retail project for the iconic furniture company Herman Miller, the building’s sole tenant, includes a bespoke showroom that is one of three in the world.

Completed in December 2020, the new project preserved the existing building’s historical masonry while incorporating a brand-new concrete structure that supported the 100-year-old exterior. The streamlined, phased construction timeline began with base building in December 2019 and interior construction in June 2020 to build out floors two through five while the base building was happening simultaneously. The final phase included the first floor, containing the Herman Miller retail showroom, a café and coffee bar.

The showroom is a pristine, museum-like space that required highly coordinated and meticulously planned engineering and construction. With no exposed cables or pipes, symmetrical ceilings, Pacific hardwood floors and custom light features, each floor of the building showcases a different brand offering from Herman Miller.

Skender, serving as general contractor, collaborated with architect Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, owner’s representative CBRE, developer Fulton St. Companies and project manager ConopCo Project Management to successfully complete the build-to-suit project within schedule on a tight site footprint. Skender also coordinated with all teams to ensure safety and health precautions were followed onsite amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skender is the construction expert behind many Fulton Market buildings and workspaces, including projects for Hyatt House, Google, Glassdoor, Mondelez, Soho House, Vital Proteins, and many more.

Skender Completes Interior Construction of new 536,000-SF Bank of America Flagship Office

Skender recently completed interior construction of the 536,000-square-foot office relocation for Bank of America’s (BofA) downtown Chicago offices. Bank of America, one of the world’s leading financial institutions, relocated to the Bank of America Tower at 110 N. Wacker, a new Class A+, 56-story high-rise that was concurrently under construction.

Encompassing 17 floors, approximately one third of the building, BofA’s new space includes private offices, open workstation areas, conference rooms, work cafés / pantries, support space and other modern workplace amenities. Unique features include a trading floor with supplemental cooling and uninterrupted power supply, critical-systems infrastructure, custom two-story trellises, a barista bar and market café, and two dedicated outdoor terraces. In addition, the interior includes a monument staircase connecting a two-floor conference center and executive suite.

“Completing this trophy project was a tremendous team effort in the face of unprecedented external challenges,” said Bank of America Senior Vice President Sarah-Lynn Cinquegrani. “Skender played a critical role in the project’s success – skillfully and safely managing hundreds of tradespeople and the complex logistics necessary to deliver our new office on time and under forecast. I couldn’t be more impressed with the team at Skender.”

Serving as general contractor, Skender collaborated with JLL, Interior Architects, and engineer Syska Hennessy Group to successfully complete the large-scale project on time, on budget and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Building one of Chicago’s largest interior construction projects during a global pandemic is a testament to the collaboration, commitment and ingenuity of all partners on this project,” said Skender Project Executive Ashlee Pforr. “We’re proud of our Skender team’s unbroken focus on quality, safety and efficiency in the face of unprecedented circumstances.”

Construction sector showing signs of life despite COVID

When Rahm Emanuel was mayor, he would tout a simple metric as evidence Chicago was on the path of progress: the number of construction cranes on the city’s skyline.

By 2017, the count had risen to 33. Today’s tally? Just 12, according to the Chicago Department of Buildings.

Attribute the decline to the coronavirus pandemic, which interrupted a building boom that transformed the skyline and urban life in Chicago with new luxury apartment towers and trendy hotel and office projects. Construction starts in the Chicago area fell 25 percent in 2020, representing $10.1 billion in projects, according to Dodge Data & Analytics, a Hamilton, N.J.-based research firm.

But after being knocked down last year, the local construction industry is starting to get back on its feet. Some developers have shelved plans for big projects, unable to secure financing. But the pandemic merely delayed other developments. Construction executives are feeling a mix of relief that the worst is over and hope that a nascent recovery is already underway.

Read the full article, featuring commentary from Skender President & CEO Justin Brown, at chicagobusiness.com >

Skender Completes Interior Construction of 200,000 SF Walgreens Technology Center at Chicago Old Post Office

CHICAGO — Skender has completed the interior construction of the 200,000-square-foot Walgreens Technology Center of Excellence within Chicago’s Old Post Office. The office will eventually welcome hundreds of employees, including e-commerce, mobile, pharmacy technology and digital team members as well as Walgreens Boots Alliance information technology personnel. The office space spans multiple levels and features a staircase, open and private offices, collaboration and conferencing spaces, data rooms, lounge spaces and a kitchen.

Read the full article at REBusinessOnline.com > 

Skender Completes 200,000-SF Interior Construction on Walgreens Technology Center of Excellence in Old Post Office

Skender, serving as general contractor, completed construction last year on the new Walgreens Technology Center of Excellence, a 200,000-square-foot, open-office workspace in the redeveloped Old Post Office at 433 West Van Buren. The office, which was finished during the COVID-19 shutdown, will eventually welcome hundreds of employees, including e-commerce, mobile, pharmacy technology and digital team members as well as Walgreens Boots Alliance Information Technology personnel.

The expansive office spans multiple levels and buildings of the Old Post Office development and features a signature staircase, open and private offices, collaboration and conferencing spaces, data rooms, and kitchen and lounge spaces. It increases Walgreens presence in Chicago, where the company was founded in 1901, and signifies a commitment to attracting top technology talent with its desirable downtown location. Walgreens was the first major tenant commitment to the Old Post Office redevelopment project in 2018, and Skender’s first project of several in the major renovation of the iconic riverside Art Deco building.

“The Walgreens Old Post Office project represents collaboration, ingenuity and progress and was completed during a particularly challenging time for the City of Chicago and world at large,” said Skender Vice President Brian Bukowski. “We are proud to be part of the team that brought this innovative space to fruition and know that it will power Walgreens’ innovation for years to come.”

Other key project team members included: Mace as owner’s representatives; Stantec Inc. as architect and engineering firm; and the Walgreens construction and architecture departments.

609 W Randolph Begins Construction in Chicago’s West Loop Gate

A new 15-story office building has begun construction at 609 W. Randolph in Chicago’s West Loop Gate neighborhood.

The project will span over 100,000 sf and is being developed on a surface parking lot adjacent to an existing five-story building. The facade will keep in line with the neighborhood feel and consist primarily of masonry with complementary steel, metal panel, and exterior glazing. It will also include a granite base.

The building will be a four-minute walk from the Clinton CTA station and a three-minute walk from Ogilvie Transportation Center. Skender is building the project, which is being developed by Vista Property Group.

Read the full article at Building Design & Construction > 

Skender Starts Construction on 609 W. Randolph, a 15-story Office Building in Chicago’s West Loop Gate

Skender recently started construction on the Class-A office development at 609 W. Randolph in the West Loop Gate neighborhood in Chicago. The 15-story, 100,000+ square-foot building is being developed by Vista Property Group and designed by Antunovich Associates.

Located along W. Randolph Street between N. Jefferson Street and N. Des Plaines Street, the office building will be a four-minute walk from the Clinton CTA station, and a three-minute walk from Ogilvie Transportation Center, making it a convenient office location for commuters.

The façade will keep in line with the neighborhood feel and consist primarily of masonry with complementary steel, metal panel and exterior glazing, as well as a granite base. The building is designed to be WELL certified and exceed energy code.

The new office building, which is being developed on a surface parking lot adjacent to an existing five-story building at 601 W. Randolph, will be completed in early 2022. The project team includes:

Developer: Vista Property Group
Architect: Antunovich Associates
Contractor: Skender
Structural Engineer: WSP
Major Trade Partners: Adjustable Concrete Construction, Advance Mechanical Systems, Ewing-Doherty, Glass Solutions, International Concrete Productions, Titan Electric, USA Fire Protection
Leasing Team: CBRE
Construction Lender: Bank OZK (Nasdaq: OZK)

About Vista Property Group

Vista Property Group is a family-owned private real estate investment firm with a diversified portfolio of commercial, retail, and multifamily investments in urban centers. Core holdings are located in New York City, Chicago, North Carolina, and London, with an added focus on expanding into other exciting urban markets. For more information, visit vistaprop.com.

About Skender

Skender is a full-service building contractor and one of the nation’s top 100 construction firms, according to Building Design & Construction. We combine Lean process with high-performing teams to deliver unmatched results and maximum value. Headquartered in Chicago with a satellite office in Indianapolis, Skender serves its clients in the Midwest and across the country.

Skender Announces Executive Promotions and New Shareholders

Today, Skender announced executive and senior management promotions, as well as new shareholders at the leadership-owned construction firm.

Skender would like to congratulate the following executives and senior managers on their recent promotions and appointments:

Andy Halik, Vice President. Andy joined Skender in 2011 and has 15 years of experience in the construction industry. In his expanded leadership role, Andy will co-lead the Interiors group, focusing on market strategy, client service and motivating the team toward continued growth. Andy’s ability to nurture client relationships, his keen business intelligence, and the ability to work in partnership with his peers are all reasons for this recognition.

Brian Bukowski, Vice President. Brian joined Skender in 2007 and has over 17 years of experience in the construction industry. Brian will co-lead the Interiors group in his expanded leadership role, focusing on driving financial success, efficient operations and the team’s vision. Across a wide variety of client experiences in Illinois, Nevada and California, Brian’s focus is always client satisfaction and continuous improvement.

Brian Simons, Vice President. Brian joined Skender in 2007 and has over 16 years of experience in the construction industry. In his expanded leadership role, Brian will oversee Skender’s satellite Indianapolis office, which was awarded a significant IU Health project in 2020, while continuing executive oversight of healthcare teams in Chicago. Brian has steadily advanced his career in operations because of his devotion to clients, personalized customer service and ability to foster team cohesion.

Clay Edwards, Senior Vice President. Clay joined Skender in 2006 and has 20 years of experience in the construction industry. He has been appointed the new leader of Self-Perform and Construction Technology. This group optimizes value, safety, production and quality for Skender clients through offerings such as general labor, demolition, rough carpentry, BIM, 3D laser scanning and high-definition surveying, intelligent project tracking, drone mapping and immersive reality. With extensive interior construction expertise, Clay will also continue to provide executive-level counsel and client services for tenants and end-users.

Joy Perryman, Director of Risk Management. Joy started with Skender in 2015 and was soon promoted to manage the risk management department, working closely with operations to identify ways to mitigate risks in daily procedures. Joy is known for her detail-oriented work evaluating and administering insurance programs for all Skender’s business lines, working closely with the executive team to negotiate contracts and promote Enterprise Risk Management throughout the organization. She is a certified Construction Risk and Insurance Specialist (CRIS), Certified Risk Manager (CRM) and member of the Risk and Insurance Management Society.

Mike Muehring, Senior Project Manager. Mike joined Skender in 2016 and has over 15 years of experience in the construction industry. As a Senior Project Manager, Mike is responsible for delivering projects on schedule, maximizing productivity and efficiency, and controlling project costs for his interiors clients throughout Chicago.

Todd Andrlik, Senior Vice President. Todd joined Skender in 2017 and has 21 years of marketing experience, including 16 in the construction industry. He quickly reinvigorated the marketing team, created effective strategies, generated bold brand awareness, and shaped external communication efforts. He plays an influential role on the leadership team by using his insight and creativity to maximize strategy.

“Our leadership team is energized and poised to continue delivering the proactive, collaborative and value-driven construction that our clients and the marketplace expect from Skender,” said Justin Brown, President and CEO, Skender. “Together, we are laser-focused on creating the premier building experience and helping our clients achieve groundbreaking results.”

Concurrently with these promotions, Skender is pleased to recognize new shareholders. Skender is a leadership-owned business aimed at sustainable, long-term success and ample advancement and succession opportunities. Shareholder appointment is a merit-based recognition of hard work, loyalty, collaboration with colleagues, outstanding service and embodying Skender’s core values.

New shareholders are: Andy Halik, Dan Ulbricht, Ashlee Pforr, John Estes, Pete Conlin, Patrick Sullivan, Luke DeTolve, Brian Ribordy, Jeff Krause, Stacy Laughlin and Todd Andrlik. They join existing shareholders: Justin Brown, Jerry Ball, Dan Marijan, Afshan Barshan, Clay Edwards, Lisa Latronico, Jeff Janicek, Brian Simons, Brian Bukowski, Joe Pecoraro and Tim Rogers.

About Skender

Skender is a full-service building contractor and one of the nation’s top 100 construction firms, according to Building Design & Construction. We combine Lean process with high-performing teams to deliver unmatched results and maximum value. Headquartered in Chicago with a satellite office in Indianapolis, Skender serves its clients in the Midwest and across the country. For more information on Skender, visit www.skender.com.

Redevelopment of Space for Booming Life Sciences Firms

As the race for a vaccine or widely available treatment for COVID-19 kicks into high gear, many life sciences firms are looking to ramp up their production capacity — for this and future public health crises. With this anticipated growth in production volume comes the need for more lab space. But when looking for space to expand, life sciences firms may need to look beyond space specifically built for life sciences and identify sites that have been redeveloped into lab space.

Developers are taking note that some markets that have the assets of a life science cluster — such as proximity to large medical and university campuses and quality-of-life benefits for a growing workforce — haven’t yet actualized into a cluster, and they have an opportunity to seize the moment. Such developers are building new offices and research facilities and converting old structures into labs. Economic development commissions also have the opportunity to partner with developers to help bring the pieces together to draw life sciences companies and create these new clusters.

An Eye to Distinct Requirements
When looking for the right space, life sciences firms should partner with developers, designers, and a construction team that will redevelop the space with an eye to the nuances and distinct requirements of labs, such as ceiling height, mechanical and HVAC systems, and space for lab equipment. Since each type of lab — chemistry, biology, pharmacological, etc. — looks different and requires unique equipment, a first-time lab developer that goes with a one-size-fits-all approach probably won’t appease its lab tenants.

Specific improvements for different lab users could include more fume hoods and sinks for chemical labs; extra room for negative air pressure chambers and changing rooms to keep parasites from escaping the lab for biology researchers; and more specialized temperature and humidity controls to keep samples safe for pharmaceutical scientists.

But labs aren’t the only part of life sciences workspace — researchers spend a surprising amount of time at their desks or in conference rooms. Some developers think that the only focus should be the lab — which is certainly important — but savvy developers know the office space is just as much of a priority for researchers. Life sciences firms should look for development and construction teams that know how to balance lab and office space to bring to life a full workplace.

Read the full article, authored by Skender’s Jeff Janicek, at areadevelopment.com > 

Construction wraps up on Sarah’s Circle’s six-story supportive housing facility for women on Chicago’s North Side

Skender recently completed construction on the new 36,000-square-foot, six-story supportive housing facility in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for Sarah’s Circle. This nonprofit organization serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space by providing housing, life necessities and supportive services to permanently end their homelessness.

Skender collaborated with design firm Perkins+Will and owner’s representative Brinshore Development to successfully complete the project.

Following a groundbreaking in September 2019, the project stayed on schedule with delivery in 15 months. The new Sarah’s Circle facility, known as Sarah’s on Sheridan, has 38 units of permanent supportive housing for women who are homeless, as well as 50 beds for the Interim Housing Program. With the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating homelessness in Chicago, this facility will undoubtedly help an underserved community in the city.

Read the full article at REJournals.com >

Skender Completes Construction on Sarah’s Circle’s Six-story Supportive Housing Facility for Women on Chicago’s North Side

Skender recently completed construction on the new 36,000-SF, six-story supportive housing facility in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for Sarah’s Circle. This nonprofit organization serves women who are homeless or in need of a safe space by providing housing, life necessities, and supportive services to permanently end their homelessness.

Following a groundbreaking in September 2019, the project stayed on schedule with delivery in 15 months. The new Sarah’s Circle facility, known as Sarah’s on Sheridan, has 38 units of permanent supportive housing for women who are homeless, as well as 50 beds for the Interim Housing Program. With the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating homelessness in Chicago, this facility will undoubtedly help an underserved community in the city.

“Sarah’s Circle is thrilled to be able to deliver our new facility on time and ready for occupancy right before the holidays, and the harshest part of winter,” said Kathy Ragnar, Executive Director, Sarah’s Circle. “Women who are now homeless will be able to start off the year in a new, fully furnished home of their own.”

Located at the intersection of Sheridan and Leland, this steel and precast building includes a basement, dining room, walk-in commercial freezer, office space for on-site case managers, computer lab, and group rooms. The building also incorporated original terra cotta and other design elements of the façade of the previous building on the lot, the Leland and Sheridan Building.

Skender collaborated with design firm Perkins+Will and owner’s representative Brinshore Development to successfully complete the project.

Watch the project video on YouTube.

Skender Completes Interior Build-out for Vi’s New Headquarters in Chicago’s Willis Tower

Skender completed the full-floor interior build-out for Vi, a luxury senior living company, on the 84th floor of Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower. The 30,405-square-foot office is Vi’s relocated headquarters. The office design showcases high-quality finishes and amenities reflecting the luxury experience that Vi offers residents in each of the company’s 10 life plan communities.

The new office includes a high-end conference center consisting of one boardroom, two medium conference rooms and two small conference rooms. Interesting construction features include custom millwork, an electric fireplace, custom light fixtures in the reception area, and two 12-foot custom sliding doors with an integrated laser-cut metal screen.

Following three weeks of demolition of the previous space, the project took 14 weeks of construction and was completed simultaneously with a major base-building project in the tower, requiring additional attention to project logistics. Skender collaborated with architecture firm Baumann Studios, engineering firm ESD, and owner’s representative Savills to successfully complete the project in January 2020.

Developing Life Sciences Real Estate At The Speed Of Innovation

Speed always has been a hallmark of the life sciences sector, with first movers standing to gain considerable market share while delivering much-needed medical devices and pharmaceuticals to the public.

But the race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine and related therapies is unlike anything that has come before, with a dozen potential vaccines already entering Phase 3 clinical trials only months after the virus was identified.

While we don’t know exactly when a COVID-19 vaccine will be widely available, research and development has advanced to combat this global threat at a pace that can only be described as “breakneck.” In contrast to today’s day-to-day progress, the mumps vaccine — considered the fastest ever approved — took four years to advance from collecting viral samples to administering a licensed drug.

Read the complete article, co-authored by Skender’s Jeff Janicek, at Life Science Leader > 

Skender Completes Interior Construction of IDEX Corporation HQ in Northbrook, Illinois

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed interior construction of the 40,000-square-foot global headquarters for IDEX Corporation (NYSE: IEX), a specialty industrial machinery manufacturer that relocated from Lake Forest to Northbrook, Illinois.

Located on the third floor of 3100 Sanders Road, the modern workspace features a mix of private offices, conference rooms and huddle areas, as well as a community café in the floor’s center. New millwork and a custom reception display to feature the company’s diverse array of products were also installed. The building remained open and active throughout construction, which required extra attention to logistics and safety.

Skender collaborated with architect HED and engineer Syska Hennessy Group to successfully deliver the project.

 

Chicago Is A Lab Sciences Desert. But What Kinds Of Labs Does It Need?

Chicago is no slouch when it comes to lab sciences. The Chicago region boasts the headquarters of pharma giants Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie and Baxter International. But with lab spaces scattered across the suburbs and spread around the city’s research universities in Evanston and Hyde Park, the city lacks a centralized laboratory cluster like those in Cambridge and San Francisco.

Developers have recognized the void in the market and are pouring money into building new offices and research facilities and converting old structures into labs, said Skender Vice President Jeff Janicek, who focuses on healthcare and lab construction.

But creating a lab space isn’t as easy as bringing a few microscopes into a corporate office. Without the right guidance, first-time lab developers may end up building a kind of lab entirely different than what tenants are asking for.

“People tend to say ‘life sciences,’ when they really mean ‘lab sciences,’” Janicek said. “A chemistry lab looks entirely different from a biology lab, which looks different from a pharma lab. If developers go in with a one-size-fits-all mindset, they are not going to make it far with their lab tenants.”

Because the Chicago development market does not have much experience building labs, developers will sometimes propose sites that don’t make sense for the lab tenant market, or which aren’t appropriate for labs.

Janicek described how one client arrived with a landlord, a broker and what they thought was a bulletproof plan to put a chemistry lab on an upper floor of a building in the Loop. Janicek had to inform them that because of the volume of chemicals it would handle, the lab could only be on the first or second floor of the building. Plus, the building did not have the mechanical systems or vertical access shafts in place the tenant would need to retrofit the space.

After finding the right space, developers also have to be knowledgeable about what sorts of improvements each type of lab user will need. Chemical researchers usually require more fume hoods and sinks, while life sciences researchers may need more specialized temperature and humidity controls to keep samples safe. Biology researchers often need extra room for negative air pressure chambers and changing rooms to keep nasty parasites and spores from escaping the lab.

The key to successful lab construction and renovation projects, Janicek said, is to consult very early with the intended tenant about what their needs are and to consult with an engineer and contractor that can make those needs a reality. When it comes to retrofits, pre-construction will likely begin even before a property has been sourced.

“Sometimes the victory is in not wasting money,” Janicek said. “When developers involve us in the process early enough, we can steer clients away from poor choices, and we can propose other choices that will create a better, more affordable project.”

While researchers typically spend between 20% and 40% of their time in the lab, they also spend a surprising amount of time at their desks or in conference rooms, Janicek said, and developers that don’t set enough room aside for traditional workspaces may not see many nibbles for leases.

Sourcing a location for a new lab space is also a challenge. More and more, Janicek said, potential tenants in Chicago are former grad students looking for lab space to continue their research or launch a startup and they don’t want to have to commute out to the suburbs to go to work. For that reason, more developers are looking for potential lab renovation spaces in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, the West Loop and Fulton Market.

Most of the buildings in these neighborhoods will have trouble being converted to lab space, Janicek said, but there are a select number of sites that could be promising. Former healthcare facilities and even warehouses that were previously built for cold storage often have the infrastructure they need to be renovated into lab spaces, including piping systems, low ceilings and thick walls.

Janicek pointed to 2430 North Halsted St., a 120K SF commercial lab space and the first project in Sterling Bay’s life sciences initiative, The Labs. Exicure, the first tenant for the lab space, was growing rapidly and needed space to expand. The team at Skender was able to reposition some of the building’s existing infrastructure, delivering the lab space a mere four months from the initial idea to relocate and expand.

As the race for coronavirus therapies and a vaccine continues, Chicago is feeling the immediate crunch for lab space, but Janicek said an investment in more research facilities would also ensure Chicago remains a destination for lab sciences in the long term.

“The need for research space has been emphasized by the pandemic, but it’s always been there,” Janicek said. “The real estate community needs to try to give young scientific talent from Chicago a reason to stay close to home.”

 

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and Skender, and was first published by Bisnow.

Lessons Learned from Chicago’s Landmark Old Post Office Redevelopment

Even as many Chicago companies have delayed reopening offices until the threat of coronavirus has lessened, eventually companies will return to their workplaces for collaboration, to boost company culture, and to regain a separation between work and home for their employees. In the meantime, work continues on one of Chicago’s most talked-about office developments of the past few years: the Old Post Office redevelopment.

Inside this gigantic 1921 Art Deco structure, tenant representatives, architects, interior designers and general contractors have the unique opportunity to create the next era of office space in Chicago – one that honors the building’s historic integrity while delivering design, technology and amenities that will propel work into the future. But doing so is not without its challenges, even pre-pandemic.

As one of the early contractors to work inside the Old Post Office with two completed projects and three in progress, our Skender interior construction team has learned the unique nuances of building out in this adaptive reuse development.

Lesson 1: Merging old with new begins with care and planning.

The Old Post Office actually comprises three buildings and 2.5 million square feet: The original six-story building and two nine-story buildings from the 1930s. The north and south additions have floor-to-floor heights as high as 19 feet, and they are connected to the original east building with corridors that have 16-foot ceilings. In addition to the varying ceiling heights, each of the buildings has unique requirements to maintain the historic designation. Some tenants are only in one of the structures, while others span all three.

All of these factors add up to challenges that are critical to understand and plan for from the outset, ideally using building information modeling. Once the client and project team are in alignment, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and National Park Service (NPS) review all drawings for tenants building in the space, as well as all the finishes selected, to ensure they comply with restoration guidelines.

In the last few months due to COVID-induced supply chain challenges, Skender has worked with the design team early to get a list of finishes to check on availability before they’re submitted to the SHPO and NPS for approval, eliminating the need for multiple revisions.

Lesson 2: Understand the constraints of historic preservation – and the impact on your timeline.

The art deco elements that proffer the Old Post Office’s historic status can be difficult and expensive to source. Before beginning work, the team needs to observe the structure’s marble base, wood and wire molding, and wainscoting to see what needs to be repaired, and then source it to match. For example, there’s only one vendor in the U.S. that is able to replicate the mosaic tile that runs through the corridor and is required to be included in the design by the SHPO and NPS. To avoid costly delays and reorders, Skender does a floor survey early to order the right quantity of tile and plan for its production in the project timeline.

Placing updated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in a historic building can present issues as well. For example, the north building has a polished, non-industrial design, which means exposed data cabling for tech systems must either run in conduit or cable tray that is painted and finished to blend with the building’s elegant, pristine look.

AbelsonTaylor Lobby

Lesson 3: Responsiveness may be our greatest design tool.

The pandemic has taught us that the ability to be responsive to challenges is necessary. What works for your company in this moment may need to be changed. When it does, being able to turn to a firm that understands not only the unusual requirements of the space, but also your company culture and the demands of your work is essential.

While office spaces that are currently under construction may be more focused on separating coworkers and decreasing density, once a widespread treatment or vaccine is available for COVID-19, companies may want to reorganize to encourage collaboration or allow colleagues to gather again.

Pandemics are not the only event that require a company’s space needs to evolve: resizing the workforce, undergoing a major rebrand, merging with or acquiring another firm, adding new technology, or simply realizing that the realities of workflow mean different departments or colleagues need to be closer together can all require reconfiguring an office.

AbelsonTaylor Staircase 

Lesson 4: Experience counts.

Most project leads choose to work with general contractors that have an established reputation and plenty of successful projects in their portfolio. For a redevelopment with as many specific considerations as the Old Post Office, it can be beneficial to work with a contractor that has experience in the space and can carry information about maintaining preservation and addressing design challenges from one job to the next.

Our work on a current project is informed by issues we worked through in our past project. We know that the clay tile that is part of the deck construction requires special anchoring. We understand how to work with the high ceilings to maximize natural light by building walls that don’t reach all the way to the deck. We’ve sourced the correct metal caps for the exposed columns in two of the buildings. These examples are just some pieces of the knowledge we bring to each project.

Being part of a large-scale redevelopment of a landmark building offers a unique opportunity to learn on the job. The project team can honor the surviving historical features, while ensuring that what’s built around them is high-quality and balances longevity and flexibility. Building today may be uniquely complicated because of the pandemic, but adaptive reuse presents added complexity that can be lessened through experience.

 

This article, authored by Skender’s Lauren Torres, was first published by NAIOP.

Skender Completes Interior Construction to Expand Upwork’s Chicago Office

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed construction on a 34,000-square-foot expansion to Upwork’s current office space in Chicago located at 525 W. Van Buren, which was also built-out by Skender and completed in December of 2018.

Upwork, the leading online talent solution, recently announced their decision to shift to a remote-first model. The Chicago office will act as a collaborative work space for team members in the area. This second phase of construction incorporates an open office concept for workstations combined with technology-rich meeting areas, an upgraded all-hands meeting space and café, server room, large training room and collaboration/break-out space.

The enhanced and expanded space will provide a Day 1 occupancy of up to 204 employees with infrastructure to expand to 250 workstations. The larger square footage has allowed Upwork to offer their workforce a solution to coming back into the office while still observing socially distant guidelines.

Skender collaborated with architecture/engineering firm CannonDesign and tenant’s representative Cresa to complete the project in Q2 of 2020. Upwork just recently reopened the office to begin utilizing the newly built-out space.

Skender Participates in National Safety Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction

Skender, one of the nation’s largest building contractors, is participating in the seventh annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction campaign during the week of September 14-18.

Coinciding with Construction Safety Week, the national campaign raises awareness about fall protection. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, falls from heights are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities in construction. The goal of this campaign is to prevent falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds by encouraging the proper planning, equipment and training.

To support the national campaign, Skender is taking extra time on its projects to discuss lessons learned, site-specific hazards, and preventative measures for avoiding fall-related injuries. “We have a strong culture of safety and regularly come together to support continued training and education,” said Skender Safety Director Dan Torres. “Every day, we walk our construction sites and carefully evaluate all potential hazards. During this campaign, we give special attention to fall protection and our site-specific safety plans, as well as our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Skender Completes First Biotech Lab Space and Base-building Work at 2430 N. Halsted

Skender, serving as construction manager, recently completed interior construction of the 30,000-square-foot laboratory and research office space for Exicure, Inc., a pioneer in gene regulatory and immunotherapeutic drugs. The clinical-stage biotechnology company is the first tenant in developer Sterling Bay’s recently redeveloped life sciences building at 2430 N Halsted.

Occupying the entire fourth floor, Exicure’s workspace features 44 lab stations, 11 fume hoods, open-office workstations, two tissue culture rooms with alarmed pressurization, an uninterrupted power supply, and space adapted for a custom-built DNA synthesizer machine. Skender collaborated with Sterling Bay, CannonDesign and CBRE to successfully complete the project.

As part of the base-building scope, Skender also worked with developer Sterling Bay to build-out the first- and second-floor common areas of 2430 N Halsted, a 125,000-square-foot medical research facility offering modern, flexible commercial lab space in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Skender’s base-building work included a reception area, four conference rooms, two staff offices, upgraded HVAC, new security and a lounge space for tenants.

Living history: The Old Post Office bridges Chicago’s past and future

Chicago is well known for its architectural heritage, though our actions sometimes belie this. In a city that has demolished more notable structures than others have even erected, we revere some of our gems while allowing others to decay.

The Old Post Office has existed in both of those states. Sitting fallow for years, its 2.8 million square feet long sat empty, serving no greater purpose than as the occasional backdrop for a Christopher Nolan Batman movie. Previous attempts to renovate the Art Deco gem fell through until New-York-based 601W Companies acquired the property in 2016.

Since then, a massive, $800 million repositioning has been underway. And though much of the building’s interior is still not quite ready for occupancy, these efforts have already paid off, attracting tenants such as Walgreens, Uber, Ferrara Candy and Cboe, among others.

One tenant who has moved in is AbelsonTaylor, a Chicago-based health and wellness advertising agency. Skender collaborated with HED and Syska Hennessy Group to deliver their 85,000-square-foot space in February. Before this client could occupy this space, an immense level of pre-planning and cooperation was involved.

A big portion of what the design-build team needed to do up front was survey the in-place materials, especially in the northern portion of the space. The north building, designed by the legendary Chicago studio of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, was constructed first in 1921, before later additions to the south in the 1930s. As such, standards governing the preservation of historical features are more stringent in this section of the building.

Read more at REJournals >

Skender Completes Interior Construction of American Library Association HQ in Chicago

Skender, serving as general contractor, recently completed interior construction of the 55,000-square-foot Chicago headquarters of the American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world.

Located on a single floor at 225 N. Michigan Avenue, the modern office features a mix of private and open-concept workspaces, enhanced meeting and focus spaces, a library, as well as multiple podcasting and video conferencing rooms.

Skender collaborated with architect Nelson Worldwide, engineer Environmental Systems Design (ESD), and owner’s representative Cushman and Wakefield.