GBA Celebrates 50 “Remarkable” Years

This month Lenexa-based GBA turns 50 and has much to celebrate including steady growth, embracing change and providing remarkable solutions in the architecture/engineering industry for half a century.

Founded by civil engineer George Butler in 1969, the firm George E. Butler & Associates, Inc. began with just ten employees in a small office on the sixth floor of a downtown Kansas City office. Today, GBA and its subsidiaries employ a staff of 275 in seven states.

“It’s something that I never dreamed I’d get to see but I’m really honored that the firm has done so well, and most of that’s happened since I left [laughs].……,” recalls the founder and CEO Butler in GBA’s commemorative 50th anniversary video.

The firm quickly made its mark on the KC metro community with one of their first projects, the Jackson County Sports Complex, later named the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex. The firm was responsible for the civil engineering design and all site work surrounding the stadiums, which included the design of parking lots, roadways and utilities. This was no small feat at the time, considering that this was the first, two-stadium sports complex in existence. 

In 1970, Butler’s lifelong friend George Saller joined as a principal of the firm, quickly broadening the firm’s services with his extensive mechanical and electrical engineering experience. Water environment, mechanical, electrical and plumbing services were added to the company in the 1970s.

Now in the midst of implementing a five-year strategic plan, the GBA team is focused on technology and innovation to meet the ever-changing needs in delivering transportation, environmental, building and development projects.

“During my career at GBA, change has been constant; we’ve embraced new technology and adapted our services to meet the needs of our clients and communities,” said GBA President/CEO Tim Ross. “As we continue to grow, one thing that won’t change is our commitment to creating remarkable solutions for our clients.”

GBA is headquartered in Lenexa, Kansas, in the Renner Ridge Corporate Center, where the firm provided planning, building design, site development and surveying. The firm has regional offices in Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas and Illinois. 

Sunflower Development: Preserving the past, creating a new future

MARCIA CHARNEY

Sunflower Development Group, founded 13 years ago, has established a niche in redeveloping historic properties. Principal Jason Swords shared with attendees at the Kansas City CCIM Chapter Breakfast on Friday, May 17, 2019, the details of some of its recently completed and current redevelopment projects. Swords showcased The Grand, a transformation by Sunflower Development Group and its project partner, Block Real Estate Services, of the Traders on Grand building, located in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The property, purchased in April, 2016 from Van Trust Real Estate, now features 201 luxury apartment units with high end amenities.

The Grand also features 12,000 square feet of office and retail space. Sunflower Development Group recently relocated its offices to The Grand. Sunflower Development Group worked with the National Parks Service to designate the Traders on Grand building a historic building, making the project eligible for historic tax credits on both the state and federal levels.

Swords said that without the historic tax credits, the project would not work. With a total investment of $69 million, the quality of the amenities and The Grand’s prime location, Swords said he believes the building has another 40 to 50 years of life, “so we believe we’re positioned really, really well.”

Another recently completed historic renovation project is the Blenheim School Apartments, located at 2411 E. 70TH Terrace, Kansas City, Missouri.  Sunflower Development Group acquired the closed Blenheim School through the Kansas City Missouri Public Schools’ repurposing program and transformed the building into 52 affordable/restricted income apartments for seniors 55 years and older. 

After signing the purchase contract, Swords said it took Sunflower Development Group three years to get the federal and state historic tax credits, the federal and state affordable housing credits and other financing in place.   During those three years, the gymnasium filled up with four feet of water creating a mold issue, recounted Swords, “so the building got less expensive the longer we were under contract.” 

The completed project opened in December, 2018 and is approximately 75% leased.   Swords noted that most of the tenants are from the neighborhood.  This is the second  Kansas City, Missouri school building that Sunflower Development Group has repurposed.  It completed a 48 unit affordable senior living project in 2017, the Faxon School Apartments, which is fully leased.

Within the next two months, Sunflower Development Group plans to begin the transformation of the former Valentine Shopping Center, located across the street from the Uptown Theater, into the Uptown Lofts, a 226 apartment unit project.  The project also will contain a retail component.  In addition, Swords noted, Sunflower Development Group is working with Sky Real Estate to convert the historic American Electric Building located in downtown  St. Joseph, Missouri into the American Electric Lofts, which will contain 137 market rate apartments.

Swords wanted to dispel the myth that it’s cheaper to buy an older building and convert it than undertaking new construction.  “Renovating an older property, you’re going to spend more per foot than you would building a new construction,” he said.

United Excel relaunches as StructSure Projects

The national general contractor formerly known as United Excel Corporation has relaunched as StructSure Projects. The firm founded in 1994 will build on its strength in the healthcare market and grow its presence in office and other diverse spaces.

“Healthcare is our main lane, but there is a desire to diversify and pursue other markets such as higher education, Class A office, and laboratory and pharmaceutical space,” said StructSure President Dennis Burns, who is leading the local market launch. “Healthcare is our bread and butter and what we are known for, but we still are going to look to expand into other sectors.”

“Our team is ready to put its expertise and drive for excellence to work in their own backyard,” Owner Kevin Rogers added. “StructSure Projects is motivated to perform at the highest level by offering certainty in quality of work and schedule.”

The company will retain all the history, experience and talent in its project management team. Recent projects include a new Hybrid OR at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, now AdventHealth, and the firm is currently working on projects for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Menorah Medical Center.

"We have new energy and a new vision and it was the right time to rebrand and differentiate ourselves from the competition," Burns said. “We are still the same firm, just with a new look and feel."

A.L. Huber grows in scope and size

Coming off a record year in 2018, A.L. Huber is building on its longtime reputation for quality construction and positioning itself for growth in additional market niches such as healthcare, industrial, and information technology.

 “We are a 116-year old company and in a successful time of transition,” said A.L. Huber President Phil Thomas who assumed majority ownership of the company in 2015. “It’s been a great 3 ½ years. Along with my ownership, we have four additional owners as well. Our future is very exciting.”

 A.L. Huber’s revenue topped $83 million in 2018, up more than 70 percent from $48 million in 2017. Thomas says the growth is largely due to the firm’s strong preconstruction team, which has tripled over the past five years and has helped transform A.L. Huber’s business model.

“A lot of times, people think because we are doing preconstruction work that our pipeline is two years out, but we actually can build 6-8 months down the road,” Thomas said. “We collaborate closely with owner and design team and move projects through the design phase quickly. We know that if we can get the budget and schedule to the owner early, that means we don’t have hiccups when submitting for permits and don’t end up over-budget.”

In the technology market, A.L. Huber recently completed Fishtech Group’s new Cyber Security Operations Center in Martin City as well as Sprint’s new 5G Experience project. The firm reinforced its industrial division in 2018, completing a 315,000-square foot manufacturing facility for Aspen Products in Kansas City and a 255,000-square foot distribution center for TVH in Olathe. On the healthcare front, A.L. Huber is expanding geographically – currently completing construction of a hospital addition in Fall Rivers, S.D..

A.L. Huber’s founding family, the Huber’s, remain partners and very active in the storied construction firm, with Augie Huber serving as CEO. Thomas and Senior Vice President Keith Dorrian guide the firm’s day-to-day operations.

“One of the unique things about our story is that my only job has been at A.L. Huber, and Keith’s only job as been at A.L. Huber. I started here 35 years ago and Keith 23 years ago, so try to drive best practices from everyone we meet—including our peers,” Thomas explained.

With more than 100 years as a family-run business, A.L. Huber prides itself on low turnover. Once they start, employees typically stay with the firm for the remainder of their career.

“It’s still a family culture here, and we truly work hard at finding the best people and then we work hard at keeping them together.”