From Retail to Hotels and More
CSI Construction Company goes where the building market beckons
Colorado-based CSI Construction Company may have the West Coast covered in terms of its business locations. Headquartered in Colorado Springs, it has a branch office in Portland, Oregon, and two in California. But the impact of this general contracting, construction management and design-build firm is even more far-reaching, having completed projects in over 20 states since its inception in 1978.
Under the leadership of Tim Phelan and Rob Oldach, CSI Construction’s owners since 1988, the company has gone from a mainly retail construction business to one that has demonstrated agility in adapting to changing economic demands. It’s also shown strength, strategy and adaptability during times of market transition, says Mike Gorman, Vice President of the Portland region.
For a long time, retail clients kept the company busy.
Its signature projects include Fred Meyer grocery stores. In Wilsonville, Oregon, it built a new, 150,776-square-foot building, and in Warrenton, Oregon, workers gutted and remodeled a 40,000-square-foot addition—all during the wintertime, at the coast, while the store was open during normal business hours.
“Once upon a time, we did tons of Walmart work. We have always been strong in retail. But with changes in the market due to more online shopping, the shift is away from big-box retail to smaller tenant improvement and specialty projects,” Gorman says.
The Market Has Spoken
So with an open mind and educated view of the diverse building market, CSI Construction began making a name for itself with other kinds of projects, including those in the hospitality sector.
Gorman says the switchover to other construction markets has been smooth, especially with subcontractors.
“The subcontractor base has the same levels of expectations of work, so we were able to leverage that,” Gorman says, making for an easier transition.
Thus far, Gorman says the wage rate between retail and hospitality construction has remained the same—not based on prevailing wages, but on open-shop bids from contractors like plumbers and electricians. And due to demand, CSI Construction is always looking for quality subcontractors to keep in its contacts list.
Challenges? No Problem!
Remaining up to date on codes and regulations regarding energy efficiency has proven valuable, says Gorman, with hotels often looking to reduce their carbon footprints and environmental impact. His team constructed the seven-story Wingate by Wyndham hotel in SeaTac, Washington, for example.
Just as CSI Construction’s leadership used problem-solving to approach a downturn in retail construction, it had to use problem-solving with the Wyndham build as well.
The project was complicated. The hotel had to be built over a live, 140-foot-long storm vault, which turned out to be different from what the original plans indicated, requiring re-engineering work.
“We had to look for out-of-the box ideas to keep the project moving and not lose momentum.” Gorman says. In lieu of stopping and waiting for the new design, CSI Construction continued work on half of the hotel’s footprint, keeping the project within deadline.
CSI Construction has completed other types of projects as well, including sports venues and entertainment complexes.
Several years ago, CSI Construction led the expansion of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum ice rink in Portland, home of the WHL Winterhawks professional hockey team. Originally opened in 1960, the now 12,000-seat arena required asbestos abatement, demolition, excavation, new piping, refrigeration system installation and more.
One of Portland’s entertainment complexes, the 20-screen Cinemark Century movie theater at Clackamas Town Center, was also the work of CSI Construction. It not only required tilt-up construction—a technique that uses concrete and a crane to vertically brace elements of the build until components such as floors and walls are in place—it also had to be completed on a tight schedule so the theater could open in time for the 2007 holiday season.
The firm also has experience in senior housing projects, an area where CSI Construction is looking to do more work.
Gorman says senior housing is evolving. Just like hotel building trends now involve energy efficiency, senior living facilities are changing, too.
“There’s a demand with baby boomers retiring,” he says. “With a lot of the senior housing projects we bid on, residents have the option to buy the unit and own their own senior living space.”
As CSI Construction continues to grow and diversify its portfolio of projects, the leadership plans to keep abreast of construction market trends and situations so that the entire team will be ready and able to meet demands where needed.
A United Front
Beyond broad expertise, another factor that strengthens the local Portland office is the larger, united company behind it.
Overall, CSI Construction has about 200 employees, with over 30 based in Portland. Gorman says that many team members have been with the company for 15 or 20 years—and some even longer. Gorman tells of Construction Executive Tom Scott hiring him 23 years ago as an intern, and of the former Vice President of the Portland office, Gabe Godwin, working his way up the ladder over the course of two decades. Today, Godwin serves as the company’s President.
“We all know each other really well. At one time, all of our current and former vice presidents worked in the Portland office together,” Gorman says. The Portland team holds monthly business development meetings with annual off-site meetings as well to exchange knowledge and project details with one another.
He notes how the positive work environment at CSI Construction—which earned recognition as one of the “Best Workplaces” of 2019 in The Gazette, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in Colorado Springs—has contributed to employee loyalty and longevity.
“Although this is a regional award, our company values remain the same for all four of our offices,” Gorman says. Recognition also came last year from a trade magazine honoring CSI Construction as a top contractor in the categories of retail, hotel and multi- family construction.
In tandem with strong intercompany ties and professional recognition, CSI Construction gives back to the industry as well. Scott has been active with the Pacific Northwest chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors for six years, including two as Chairman. Steve Smith, Director of Business Development, is the Membership Chairman for the Urban Land Institute.
This strong industry involvement, united team and new horizon in constructing hotels and senior living facilities have CSI Construction braced for any new challenges that come its way.