Editor's Picks

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.”

EPC's McKeen sees stability in KC multifamily market

By Marcia Charney | MWM Contributing Writer

Stable. Steady. Cautious. Opportunity.

Those are the words Mike McKeen is using these days to describe the state of Kansas City’s apartment market. The principal and president of EPC Real Estate Group, LLC spoke to a record-breaking crowd of more than 150 brokers and real estate professionals at the April meeting of the Kansas City chapter of CCIM

Areas that will continue to succeed in the multifamily market will have “charm, character and are walkable, with jobs in good proximity,” McKeen said, noting that strong players currently include Lenexa City Center, downtown Overland Park, Olathe, Mission; and downtown Kansas City, Missouri, which leads the area in multifamily development. 

The living preferences of Millennials are driving the market. Some of EPC’s current products are Millennial-based, including Avenue 80 in downtown Overland Park, where Millennials comprise 70 percent of the tenant base. Empty nesters, who no longer want to maintain their homes and are seeking to live life a little differently, are another growing tenant segment.  

McKeen discussed how e-commerce is changing multifamily development. With the explosion of package delivery, developers are installing electronic parcel delivery systems, which allow tenants to retrieve packages by entering a security code. McKeen said that without these delivery systems, the buildings would need a massive storage room for delivered packages and staff to monitor receipt and storage.

McKeen said that developers now have to consider for the first time the amenities and unit size that Generation Z wants. He stated that studio apartments are the “quickest thing to fly off our lists right now because they hit a certain price point of affordability but they also cater to that lifestyle of people who spend most of their time playing video games.” McKeen added that the amenity most requested by Gen Z is blackout shades for better game screen visibility. 

McKeen discussed the challenges currently facing multifamily developers which include a decline in the number of skilled craftsmen; the threat of tariffs, causing suppliers to raise prices to offset the impact of possible future tariffs on costs; future tax treatment; the passage of city ordinances which impact the use of development incentives; aging infrastructure; low supply and high demand, particularly for precast concrete products; and rising operating costs.

McKeen also recognized new opportunities for multifamily developers such as the creation of new inventory to meet the demands of Millennials and empty nesters, affordable housing, and opportunity zones. In addition, new product types like micro-units, which range in size from 350 to 500 square feet, are in high demand with rising rents.  

Noting that “site selection is everything now,” McKeen said the average occupancy of multifamily properties in the Kansas City area has remained steady, staying between 93 and 95 percent.  

 

Populous helps lead national esports movement

In a nod to what is being called the “next generation consumer,” Kansas City-based Populous is teaming up with Comcast Spectacor and The Cordish Companies to build Fusion Arena, a $50 million esports and entertainment venue in the heart of the Philadelphia Sports Complex. 

“Fusion Arena represents a watershed moment for the competitive gaming market,” said Populous Senior Principal Brian Mirakian. “We’re taking our 36 years of designing iconic experiences for traditional sports- settings like Yankee Stadium- and applying those same principles of design to the virtual world of gaming.”

The future home to the Philadelphia Fusion esports franchise will have seating for up to 3,500 guests and will serve as the “western hemisphere’s largest ground-up, purpose-built esports venue,” according to a release. 

Earlier this month, Mirakian spoke at SXSW and discussed how esports venues can bring cities and sports teams new revenue streams, increased commerce and development and reinvigorated neighborhoods. 

The rise of esports development and design was a big topic for panelists at MetroWire Media’s Game On event covering sports and entertainment development and design on March 7.

“Esports is exploding as more universities starting to offer scholarships,” said James Dietz of Henderson Engineers, which served as the low-voltage engineering firm of record for the Esports Arlington Stadium. “These facilities require high connectivity and people are starting to look at a specific sport and turn it into more of a fan experience for video gamers out there.”

Overland Park-based Dimensional Innovations also is seeing more opportunity in esports, particularly on college campuses. “We are working on two university gaming/training facilities, so there is definitely a strong trend in that marketplace,” added DI co-founder Justin Wood

Populous’ Philadelphia venue will incorporate industrial materials that pay tribute to that city’s heritage as “workshop of the world” and will include a 6,000-square foot public entry and 2000 square feet of interactive media hovering 30 feet above. 

In addition to hosting competitive gaming events and elite training, the arena will be designed to host a variety of live entertainment programming and experiences, offering unique seating experiences such as balcony bars, club seats with USB ports, flexible loge boxes and exclusive suites. Additionally, nearly 10,000 square feet will be dedicated to a training facility, broadcast studio and team offices. 

“Fusion Arena will set the gold standard for competitive gaming and debut on one of the country’s most exciting platforms of sports and entertainment...” said Blake Cordish, Principal of The Cordish Companies, which also served as master developer of the Kansas City Power & Light District.  

Sprint HQ buyer Occidental eyes acreage adjacent to OP campus

Wichita-based Occidental Management expects to close on the Sprint Campus in the next 30 days. CEO Gary Oborny and President Chad Stafford talked with MetroWire Media about what led to the acquisition and plans for the sprawling Overland Park campus and adjacent land.

MWM: When did you first become interested in buying the Sprint campus?

Oborny: We heard that Sprint was looking at divesting at some point, so we started following opportunities to get closer to the situation and look at how we might connect on a potential deal. We sat back while Sprint figured out what to do. Then we contacted Cushman & Wakefield when the property was placed with them for a national search last year.  

MWM: How did your 2014 purchase of the former Overland Park International Trade Center (OPx) adjacent to the Sprint campus play into the acquisition?

Oborny: OPx was our introduction into the market. It helped us build relationships in Kansas City and Overland Park, so the Sprint campus was a natural fit. 

MWM: What is your short-term game plan for the campus?

Oborny: We want to enhance existing amenities and bring additional amenities for tenants who want to be on the campus. There are a number of cafeterias and food venues, so we will look at bringing in guest chefs and maybe freshening those spaces. We’re also looking at conceptual ideas to improve the overall aesthetics of the campus, so we will be look at revitalizing existing buildings to make them a little more contemporary... Eventually we’ll undergo a full rebrand of the campus. 

MWM: What will Sprint’s ongoing presence be?

Stafford: Sprint will continue to be the largest tenant, and the company is making a commitment to Kansas City with a long-term lease situation, but that’s all we can say right now. Sprint and Occidental are both focused on recruitment and retention of associates and employees on the campus. 

MWM: What is the current tenant mix and how do you see that changing?

Stafford: There’s a good mix right now between health care and financial services companies. There is also good infrastructure for technology-related companies, so there is opportunity there. 

MWM: What additional opportunities do you see? 

Oborny: We are looking at the 60 acres near 119th and Nall that have never been opened to commercial development. We see an opportunity to bring amenities to that vacant land such as hotel, restaurants and retail, but for right now we have to close. 

MWM: This is a huge transaction. What’s next for Occidental?

Oborny: Yes, it’s a big opportunity. We see a natural progression for us in Midwest cities, so development opportunities in the $100-$300 million range are certainly always of interest.