Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fifty People Working

Right on St. Patrick’s Day, Larry James and I took two representatives of the Rees-Jones Foundation on a tour of CityWalk@Akard. The Rees-Jones Foundation made the largest private gift towards completing CityWalk, but the people at the foundation would be some of my favorite people even if that wasn’t the case. At their best the people that run foundations do much more than simple read grants and dole out money. They are involved and interested in problem solving; up-to-date on the best approaches; a partner in the project. When a foundation starts asking questions and making suggestions, then you know that it is investing itself in making the project work.

The Rees-Jones Foundation people are some of the very best, and it was fun to be able to show them their money at work. We’ve just got beyond a couple of problems bottlenecking CityWalk and things are going forward at a furious pace. The plumbing and mechanical work are both getting close to completion. Most of the studs are up and almost half the dry wall. The elevators were being worked on. The third-floor deck is under reconstruction. The new stairs is going in. The building was full of noise and energy, and our superintendent on the job told me that the fifty people we had working on the project on that day was just the beginning. By the end of the month we’ll have 100 people working on CityWalk every day.

There is something very satisfying about seeing that many people (of all ages, races and ethnicities, but almost entirely men) working on a project that you helped make happen. I could tell our guests were pleased—nothing distresses a foundation more to give money and not have anything happen. But in addition there is something exciting about the physicality of a construction project. Men making things is amazingly energizing.

The people that are involved in CityWalk long-term, our general contractor, our architects, our project manager and others, are all invested in the work partly because of what it will mean to the people that will live there—some of them people now homeless that will soon have homes. Most of the people we met on Tuesday were subcontractors—specialists in some aspect of high rise construction work. Their energy seemed to come just from the pleasure of accomplishing something.

In any event, nobody had to pretend they were working because the owner was visiting. Everyone was hard at work.

Everyone seemed happy just to have work to do in these tough times.

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