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Monday, 23 January 2012 14:46

Urban core at heart of Pride Builders

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Urban core at heart of Pride Builders Courtesy photo

** Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from its original version. Pride Builders was not a spin-off of Rockford Construction Co., but rather a joint venture between Terrell Daniels and Rockford CEO Mike VanGessel.

GRAND RAPIDS — Dilapidated, vacant and otherwise forgotten buildings litter the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids’ Southwest side. They sit unused, like relics of better times with seemingly no better purpose than posing for the all too familiar photos of urban decay.

Luckily for these abandoned pieces of real estate there’s a man whose aim is to bring back their former glory. Terrell Daniels owns Pride Builders Group, which originally started as a joint venture with partner Mike VanGessel of Rockford Construction Company Inc. Already the owner of Modern Fire & Security Systems Inc., Daniels leveraged that company’s finances to support the split without having to find outside funding.

“It’s been an easy transition given that we have another successful business,” Daniels said. “We had already been performing some general contracting services on some sites.”

Daniels started Pride Building because he said he saw a need for a viable, minority-owned contracting firm in West Michigan. After working on and watching buildings go up around West Michigan for nearly eight years, Daniels said he thought he had enough tools to start small and grow a business just like he did with Modern Fire & Security Systems.

Many people and experiences helped influence Daniels along the way. He worked on a joint venture with Pioneer Construction Co. and credits Larry Erhardt Sr. of Erhardt Construction and Bill Edwards of Hunt Construction for their mentorship.

Then he met VanGessel, the president and CEO of Rockford Construction. After talking with VanGessel about his vision for what would become Pride Builders, Daniels said he found a partner willing to “put some skin in the game.”

“Terrell is an entrepreneur,” VanGessel told MiBiz. “He has had a dream, and it’s a honor to help him try to make it happen. Just like when I was involved in starting Rockford, you need people to have confidence in you, encourage you and help with investment. Investment is more than money — it’s time, introductions and sharing experiences and opportunities.”

Pride served as a general manager on some Rockford projects, as well as partnered up with other contractors doing construction management. As he developed a foundation for the company, Daniels said buying out VanGessel seemed like a viable option.

“(VanGessel) always knew we’d become a competitor, just probably not this quickly,” Daniels said.

Competition aside, the two companies continue to have a supportive relationship. Pride has leveraged the connection to Rockford for advice as well as for estimating services, accounting and assistance in setting up Pride’s administration. So far, Daniels said his company has used Rockford’s services only two or three times in the last year.

“Terrell and Pride have a lot to offer our community,” VanGessel stated. “Our community needs leaders like Terrell to be truly a vibrant and healthy Grand Rapids.”

He said the support has been indispensable in helping him narrow his focus for Pride on the “urban core” of Grand Rapids. With the number of buildings left vacant, underused or in state of disrepair, Daniels sees opportunities to reinvest in neglected areas of Grand Rapids.

“I’m a product of this community,” he said. “These projects are very near and dear to my heart.”

Daniels said people need to reinvest in these areas of the community to preserve what resources already exist in the neighborhoods. Taking these properties and repurposing them adds value and makes the neighborhoods more marketable to developers, he said. In turn, this can add jobs and get people again interested in the landscape of their community. To show his commitment and willingness to be an ambassador for the area, Daniels decided to open his office right in the heart of it at 20 Stevens Street SW, off Division Avenue.

“Why don’t I take the first step and build my office here,” he said he asked of himself. “Great projects can come out this urban core.”

Right now, Pride is investigating several buildings for possible redevelopment and has a handful of ongoing projects, including a mixed-use facility, a low-income housing development and a clinic.

“It’s refreshing to work with a group that has such a strong focus and commitment,” said Mike Corby, VP of Integrated Architecture, a firm involved in several of Pride’s projects. “The partnership fits well with our mantra as a sustainable design firm.”

Coincidentally, both Daniels and Corby are graduates of Grand Rapids Union High School and their shared interest extends back to their Redhawk pride.

Corby said taking advantage of the assets already existing in the urban core and the downtown area is something everyone should think about before building new facilities somewhere else. In essence, the most sustainable building project is to reuse an existing building, rather than choosing new construction. At times, the development can be challenging with old buildings, he said, but giving them new life is part of what a design and construction team can contribute to adaptive reuse projects.

“It depends on what you have to start with and what you can mesh together,” Corby said. “The thing that we try to do is give the building some personality so that people who use the building can function in it, and even the people who might never set foot in the building can see how it contributes positively to the neighborhood.”

Read 2539 times Last modified on Monday, 13 August 2012 12:50

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