OPC News: Former President’s Surprise Visit

Lakeside Alliance team members, including representatives from Powers & Sons Construction, who were working on the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) site last week received a surprise visit from the man himself, President Barack Obama.

What began as a typical June 24 work day became more exciting when a Secret Security detail rolled up. The nation’s former chief executive visited the Jackson Park job site for the first time since its September 2021 groundbreaking.

President Obama spent about 30 minutes walking the site, saying hello, and posing for dozens of photos. He observed ongoing work to build the concrete foundations and core walls for the massive museum tower and parking garage, then took a few moments to thank everyone for their efforts.

Maliq Cherry (shown on far left at bottom) had not imagined he would meet the nation’s 44th president during his internship. “It was a little surreal,” said the Ball State University senior who is majoring in architectural design.

College student Maliq Cherry, working his second summer as a Powers & Sons intern, said the experience was moving.

“I was smiling from ear to ear. We couldn’t believe President Obama was actually on site and took time from his busy schedule to thank us. It was inspiring—and it encourages me not to give up on my own dreams and the things I want to accomplish in life,” said Cherry, a native of Merrillville, Indiana.

Obama noted the importance of their work on the surrounding community, which includes Hyde Park and Woodlawn.

“The way the project is being managed and designed will help the community flourish. The OPC will provide local residents with improved access to information, knowledge, and cultural experiences. President Obama is determined to leverage the project as a means of helping people who live on Chicago’s south side thrive,” Cherry noted.

About 100 team members were present during the visit. They now have a memory to last a lifetime. Watch the Obama Foundation’s video on YouTube.

For construction news and updates, visit obama.org/the-center/construction and lakesidealliance.com. Page photo credit: Obama Foundation.

Northview Middle School: Project Update

Located at the corner of 91st Street & College Avenue in Indianapolis, the new Northview Middle School is starting to take shape. Powers & Sons is a construction manager on the project.

When complete, the $72M Washington Township facility will replace the existing middle school located on the North Central High School campus.

  • The two-story building will be built around a central core with a main public corridor that connects administrative areas with academic/activity spaces.
  • Academic areas are designed as pods on the first and second floors, and include shared teaching/learning and student collaboration space.
  • A special education suite with a separate building entrance will located central to the pods.

  • A baseball field, softball field, and six tennis courts will be built west of the school. A six-lane all-weather track for field events will also be installed. Athletic fields will be fenced for security and ticketed access, with an adjacent stand-alone concessions building with restrooms.
  • A majority of the existing heritage trees on the site will be preserved. An efficient parking layout design maximizes the amount of open green space. The campus will include public bike parking and walking path connectivity. Exterior lighting will be designed to eliminate light spill to adjacent properties.

The Powers & Sons team, which includes Project Executive Les Carrol, Project Manager Casey Parsons, Project Manager Emily Lucas, and Senior Project Engineer Kayden Rivers, is making good progress.

  • Concrete has been poured and structural steel is being put into place.
  • Construction is expected to be complete in the summer of 2023.

OPC News: Lakeside Alliance Mentors Local Youth

On Saturday, April 21, Powers & Sons carpenters on the Lakeside Alliance team spent time mentoring and teaching high school students from ACE Amandla Charter School and the Simeon Career Academy in Chicago some hands-on carpentry skills.

As the group built picnic tables for the construction field force working on the Obama Presidential Center job site, the students gained insight about careers in the trades.

Thanks to the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council and these Powers & Sons Northwest Indiana and Chicago team members for sharing their knowledge:

  • Erik Bailey
  • Chitan Bibbs
  • Emmanuel Dobbey
  • Kerrence Jackson
  • Jamal Lawrence
  • John Lemley
  • David Nicholson


Sustainability Initiatives for Education & Service

The Powers & Sons Indianapolis Sustainability Committee, led by Senior Project Manager Randy Swinford, is educating team members about environmental challenges and solutions, ways to be more eco-friendly on the job and at home, and sustainability trends in the construction industry.

Sustainability Committee Chair Randy Swinford has over 30 years of experience in the construction industry. His projects have run the gamut from large municipal public works to sports and entertainment venues, biomedical labs, hospital additions, university buildings, and multi-family housing communities.

Over the past 12 months, the group (which includes Senior Project Engineers Kayden Rivers and Matt Robinson and Director of Communication & Marketing Susan Sullivan) toured a local consumer recycling operation.

They launched a virtual “Lunch & Learn” series about sustainability and environmental awareness, with one presentation given to date.

The committee also planned a fun Arbor Day event in April to benefit Indy Parks & Recreation. About 20 employees served on the Indianapolis “Green Team.” Together, they:

  • Removed enough trash, tree limbs, and debris to fill a 30-yard dumpster.
  • Weeded and refreshed the playground, spreading mulch donated by Powers & Sons.
  • Painted picnic tables, pruned trees and removed suckers, and culled invasive plant species.

Amy Anderson, senior manager of community partnerships for Indy Parks & Recreation, noted the team was “one of the hardest working volunteer groups I’ve ever worked with” and it “far exceeded what I thought we could get done in three hours.”

Similar to many communities around the nation, maintenance and upkeep funds for the city’s 213 parks and 11,000+ miles of green space are stretched thin. Swinford is working with Anderson to plan a similar fall event.

What else does the group have planned?

Next month, they will tour a local recycling operation at CW Recycling, one of the largest construction and demolition waste recyclers in Indiana.

  • They will learn how high-volume construction waste can be diverted from incinerators and landfills.
  • They will also learn about the market for recycled construction materials.
  • An overview on what the committee discovers will be a future “Lunch & Learn” presentation.

Swinford expects the committee to explore other trends in sustainable construction practices in the months ahead.

Southbridge Phase 1: Mixed-Use Development

Two Southbridge buildings (Buildings B3 and B4) are nearing completion in the first phase of this new mixed-use development located at the intersection of Cermak and State in Chicago. The project is intended to bridge the South Loop, Chinatown, and Bronzeville.

  • Each Phase 1 building includes ground-level retail spaces with 103 mixed-income apartments on the upper floors.
  • Amenities include a fitness center, community dining space and common areas, and outdoor terraces with city views.
  • Surface-level parking is located behind each building, both located near CTA Green and Red Line Stations.

As noted by Chicago YIMBY, Powers & Sons’ work is part of a joint venture with McShane Construction.

When all phases are complete, Southbridge will feature:

  • Over 877 residential units across income levels
  • 65,000 SF of retail business space
  • Multiple recreational areas and green spaces
  • A design that meets best-in-class urban and sustainable standards.

Developers are McCaffrey and The Community Builders. Public partners include the Chicago Housing Authority, Illinois Housing Development Authority, and the City of Chicago Department of Planning & Development.

2022 Notable Executive in Construction & Real Estate

Congratulations to our CEO & Chairman Mamon Powers, Jr., who was recognized today by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of 30 Notable Executives of Color in Construction & Commercial Real Estate in 2022.

His role on the new Obama Presidential Center, his history in affordable housing and healthcare projects, and long-standing support of educational attainment and post-secondary education for young people of color were noted.

A member of the Indiana Society of Professional Engineers, Mamon Powers, Jr. has served on the boards for the Associated General Contractors of Indiana, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the Chicago Regional Board for Fifth Third Bank, and Methodist Hospitals. He has served four terms on the Purdue University Board of Trustees.

Together, Powers and all those recognized were honored for their efforts to bring new life to Chicago’s South and West Sides. They lead multi-million-dollar initiatives in the community, at major universities, and for municipal and state government agencies. In addition, they volunteer their time and talent for causes that advance affordable housing and accessible, equitable educational opportunities. They encourage and mentor the next generation of construction, architecture, and real estate professionals. Their efforts help build a stronger Chicago.

Glendale Branch: Second Library CM Project in Indy

Powers & Sons Indianapolis is at work on its second CM project for the Indianapolis Public Library (IndyPL). On April 22, Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis (pictured above, second from left) joined 150 civic leaders and community members for a celebratory groundbreaking on site at the new Glendale Branch.

Located near East 62nd Street & Olney, the new library will replace the existing branch which leases space at Glendale Shopping Center. When it opened in 2000, it was the country’s first full-service library in a major shopping mall.

Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis led the successful construction of IndyPL’s West Perry Branch library, which opened last June.

More accessible to those in nearby Broad Ripple, Allisonville, and Meridian Kessler, the stand-alone new library will serve about 250,000 Indianapolis residents each year.

  • The 25,000 SF facility is being built on the 5.5-acre site of the former John Strange Elementary School.
  • The property includes established heritage trees that will be preserved and open green space, much of which will be retained. A 1,500 SF outdoor program area is included in the project.
  • The facility, designed by krM Architecture, will feature a drive-up materials return, public transportation access, and surface parking for 95 cars.

Inside, the library will include study rooms, activity areas, a computer lab, and a community meeting room large enough to seat 100 people.

Like the West Perry Library, another CM project delivered by Powers & Sons, the Glendale Branch will be energy efficient. Lewis notes that LEEDv4 Silver Certification is being pursued.

  • Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, roof-top solar panels, and sustainable construction materials are included in the design.
  • The solar panels will provide power for a substantial portion of the library’s energy needs and the building will include other energy-efficient systems.

Due to continued supply-chain challenges, Lewis said the structural steel package was bid and procured last year well in advance of when it would be needed.

The project is being funded by a bond initiative approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council without an increase in the library’s current debt service tax rate. The target date for opening is late summer 2023.

Other members of the Powers team include Assistant Project Manager Dylan Etheridge, Project Engineer Jose Valdes, and Project Superintendent Phil Hadley.

Celebrating Our Legacy & Focusing on the Future

As Powers & Sons celebrates its 55th year in business, COO & President Claude Powers shares thoughts about the changes he has experienced in general contracting and construction management—and what he expects in the future.

“We have reached 55 years in a competitive industry because we stand on the shoulders of our founder and early leaders. We continue to evolve and adapt to new opportunities as we consider our most productive areas of service,” Powers says.

Claude Powers is COO & President of Powers & Sons Construction, a position he has held for nearly 20 years. The Purdue University graduate is active in the industry. He is working to develop the next generation of construction talent in Northwest Indiana through apprenticeship programs.

Continued Trends
Demand for multi-family housing throughout the region is strong as the need for affordable apartments continues to grow.

  • As of 2021, Powers & Sons has built about 2,600 housing units across Indiana and Illinois. The company will continue its legacy of producing quality multi-family housing to meet community needs.
  • In addition to housing, Powers sees continued growth in the life science and healthcare market as well as opportunities for hotels and entertainment venues like casinos.

New & Emerging Trends
Powers points to emerging trends he expects will become even more important in the next five to ten years.

  • Some corporate owners are moving toward invited bids from prequalified pools of preferred contractors. Contractors who are prequalified can reduce variability in quality and outcomes. These relationships facilitate a more collaborative environment, resulting in partnerships that are a win-win for both parties.
  • Integration of lean business principles with construction best practices will continue to grow. Lean approaches require constant analysis, evaluation, and implementation on the part of contractors for best-in-class construction production and delivery. Finding more ways to apply lean approaches is a focus area for the firm.
  • As construction technologies and methodologies evolve, skills training for team members to update and gain new skills is critical for growth. Taking advantage of training opportunities is a priority across all levels of the company.

Focus on Customer Care & Service is Unchanged
Despite an ever-evolving industry, Powers says one thing remains the same. “We want to be the firm of choice for both existing and new clients, so our focus on building strong relationships is unchanged. We have always taken the time to understand client needs and will continue to remain client-focused. We will deliver quality projects that enable clients to achieve their goals because this is what makes future opportunities possible,” he notes.

Powers points to a recently awarded project as one example. “We were chosen over another firm who submitted a lower bid based on our reputation and past performance.”

What Would the Company’s Founder Think of the Industry Today? 
While Powers says his father and company founder would not have imagined some of the changes that have taken place in recent decades, one thing is certain.

Powers & Sons’ founder Mamon Powers headed north by train during the Great Migration. He settled in Gary Indiana, where he and wife Leolean raised four sons. He started Powers & Sons Construction as home builder in 1967. By 1979, he had built his last home and diversified the business to focus on commercial projects.

“He would understand that adapting to changing markets, continued versatility, and diversification is essential for continued success and survival,” Powers says.

  • Contractor responsibilities to meet rigorous safety, environmental, and other requirements have expanded. Competence in areas like infection control when working in hospitals is expected. Safety training and certifications for superintendents are more stringent than in the firm’s early years.
  • The firm’s founder also might not have imagined the technology changes that have streamlined processes and enabled the team to be productive working from home, in the field, and the office with fewer people. Real-time virtual communication with instant access to construction visuals and documents was not something he and other contractors probably envisioned.

When Powers looks ahead to the future of the company and the industry, he is optimistic.

“As we continue to hire staff who more technologically adept, they will help us continue to grow and take our operations to the next level. I think our founder would be excited by the possibilities.”

Reflecting the Community: U.S. Bank Chinatown Square

Powers & Sons has relationships with a number of banks and financial service firms. Over the past decade, we have partnered with U.S. Bank and their representatives at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to deliver about one dozen new construction and major renovation projects.

Our most recently completed U.S. Bank project is located in Chinatown Square. More than one third of Chicago’s Chinese population lives and works in and around this cultural quarter.

Project Manager Rob Kennedy (left) and Superintendent Kevin Sparks were the primary leads for the Powers & Sons project.

Unlike other metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and New York, residents of Chicago’s Chinatown often remain in the area for two, three, or more generations.

The neighborhood has drawn immigrants from China and other parts of Asia for over 100 years. Census data from 2020 show Asian-Americans comprise about seven percent of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents.

Powers & Sons was excited to modernize this busy, high-volume bank with renovations that represent the heritage of the community. Signage, graphics, and artwork on the interior and exterior reflect the Mandarin language and Asian culture.

“It was important to U.S. Bank and their design team for the bank to fit the culture of their customers and the identity of the local neighborhood,” explains Project Manager Rob Kennedy.

Work on the two-story, 3,175 SF bank was completed over about four months. During construction, safety signage in and around the bank was posted in both Mandarin and English.

Kennedy says the renovations were completed in three phases because the bank remained open during the project period. “We met with the owner’s team weekly to sequence our work around their operations and business hours,” he adds.

Superintendent Kevin Sparks oversaw installation of new MEP and HVAC systems and new flooring, wall panels, ceilings, LED fixtures, sliding and hinged glass doors, and updated finishes. Kennedy and Sparks coordinated IT and security work with the bank’s direct subcontractors.

The renovated facility is now positioned to serve Chinatown Square and local residents for years to come.

Governor Park: Affordable Housing Development Nears Completion

Powers & Sons is nearing completion of Governor Park, a new three-story, 71,880 SF apartment community in southern Indiana. Located in Ellettsville, the housing is designated for low-income seniors and adults with special needs.

Apartments include 70 one-bedroom, one-bath units at 675 SF each and 20 two-bedroom, two-bath units at 857 SF each. Some units are ADA compliant, with others adaptable for residents with mobility challenges.

Two wings connect to a central common with fitness center, community room, laundry, and business/computer center. Surface parking accommodates 100 vehicles.

Although not a LEED project, the development utilizes energy-efficient appliances and meets other green building requirements, including above-average insulation in the roof and walls.

Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis (top), Superintendent Tom Kimmel (bottom left), and Project Engineer Tyler Moffat (bottom right) have been integral to the project’s success.

COVID-Related Delays and Price Increases
Senior Project Manager Russell Lewis says preconstruction planning focused on value engineering to keep the project within budget.

“The original budget and design, completed before COVID caused price increases and supply chain challenges, called for exterior balconies and a cost-prohibitive central heating and cooling system. By recommending alternatives and design modifications, we reduced costs substantially and brought the project within budget,” Lewis notes.

While there were significant material delays, the Powers team worked around them.

“Lumber availability was a serious challenge with a delay of about 45 days. Delivery of roofing material from the manufacturer was also delayed. When framing was complete, we installed a temporary roof to shield the interior from water infiltration, which kept work moving until permanent roofing materials were available,” says Lewis.

Creative Solutions Kept the Project on Track
Other creative solutions were implemented to make progress.

“We normally build apartment buildings one floor at a time in sequence. Because of material shortages, we took a different approach. In analyzing the structural design, a central firewall provided a natural demarcation point. To avoid having to shut the job down until supplies arrived, we proposed working in halves. The owner approved, so we built the right side first then the left side. This enabled us do the rough-ins sooner and kept us from losing more time.”

Site work included removal of existing infrastructure on the property, which was a former mobile home park. An underground storm water detention system to collect run-off and release it slowly was installed.

Although not a requirement, local Monroe County subcontractors were utilized when possible. Lewis says developing smaller scopes of work for local firms whose companies are based in Southern Indiana also kept costs down. Powers & Sons has managed over 30 subcontractors, not including material suppliers, for the project.