Design-build company takes construction to new level

Filed under: Focus |

On Aeroplaza Drive and Aerotech Drive and Astrozon Boulevard-three roads that connect like a Christmas stocking near the corner of Fountain and Powers boulevards-RDH Business Park is nearly finished, a testament to the ingenuity and willpower of the Hammers family.

With 18 individual lots, the park is commercially zoned and offers a variety of sizes, colors and styles, all designed and built by Hammers Construction with a focus on small businesses.

And the structures that populate the park are as unique as the individuals who first envisioned them.

Brad Foster, owner of Foster Electric, an electrical contracting firm, purchased two one-acre lots to build the office-warehouse of his dreams, and even took part in designing the two-story metal building with rock and stucco accents. The 13,000-square-foot structure includes a 3,000-square-foot office mezzanine.

“Our building’s by far the best looking one so far,” said Foster, who’s been in business at 2028 Aerotech Drive since March. “There’s not a lot of them done. Hammers Construction bought all the land, developed all the land, and is building all the buildings on the land.”

Other owners of lots in the park include C&D Electric, Landscape Endeavors, Peak Heating, Advanced Powder Coating, All American Ground Maintenance and True Spirit Baptist Church.

Part of the appeal of the park and the custom construction is the chance for a small businessperson to get exactly what he or she wants at a good price, without having to deal with several different parties.

“It’s very affordable for a small entrepreneur who’s coming out of a lease,” said Steve Hammers, president of Hammers Construction.

The design-build firm employs a staff that includes two in-house architects, four designers, eight full-time project managers, a commercial realtor, superintendents and a team of subcontractors who specialize in electrical and mechanical work, plumbing and landscaping. “We package each office as land and building, which allows the client not to have to search for office warehouses. We fill that niche.”

Together, the group comes up with a preliminary number-a square-foot analysis. That budget number is what the team designs to.

“The hard-bid method is the most dysfunctional part of construction,” Hammers said. “It’s taking the lowest bid whether [the contractor] is qualified or not. There’s less quality and you lose valuable construction time because of functional disagreements between architects, contractors and clients.

“When you do it all in one house under one roof, there’s no blame game, no pointing fingers. It’s all our responsibility, including insurance and quality issues.”

The business park is named after Hammers’ father, Robert Dwayne Hammers. In 1946, the elder Hammers started a construction company in Minnesota. The Hammers family opened shop in 1986, and incorporated as Hammers Construction Inc. in Colorado in the early 1990s.

Scot Smelker, owner of All American Landscaping and Ground Maintenance,is moving into the park at the end of the month.

“You design it, they build it,” Smelker said. “I gave them a little drawing, and we went on from there. We made many, many changes, and they accommodated it.”

Smelker owns 1925 Aeroplaza Drive, 4,000 square feet that includes a reception area with a stone fireplace, a glass-walled conference room, offices, a kitchen/break room and a shop area. “I wanted something very warm, inviting and nice for people to come into.”

Another advantage that business owners who choose to buy a lot in a business park setting often can realize is income tax benefits, Hammers said.

“There are really unique tax advantages. By owning his own facility, the client gets appreciation. The owner can set up under an LLC. He can eliminate some Social Security tax by paying a higher rent than wage,” Hammers said. “It even gives an exit strategy for retirement. He can loan the new people the money to buy the facility, he can become the bank, he can do a straight lease and get a residual income.”

Hammers said the business park is scenic and professional, and perhaps a bit eclectic. The self-proclaimed “upfront sales guy” said the concept plan for RDH Business Park was submitted in July 2003 and all but one lot was sold by March.

“The nice thing for the client is he’s talking to one single project manager until the finish of the project, so he’s knows what’s going on,” said Hammers. “That alone is a valuable service.”

Next up on the agenda for Hammers Construction is Claremont Business Park, which is in the pre-planning stages and is ditching the eclectic atmosphere of RDH Business Park for a tract-home feel.

The 90-acre development, east of Powers Boulevard at Marksheffel Road and Highway 24, is full of cookie-cutter creations, not unlike mirror images of one another. Several of the lots, which range from $3 to $6.50 per square foot, are under contract.

Clients will choose between four colors, two exterior designs-stone or stucco-and three floor plans. Other than that, the differences

between the offices are imperceptible in the “light-industrial” park. Each 5,000-square foot building will be surrounded by a fenced quarter-acre yard. Buildings are prepriced, including additional upgrades.

“It’s similar to what you do when you’re buying a home,” Hammers said. “It was really client-driven. As we listened to our clients, what we found is there’s an average-sized building that is financeable at the bank level. They are going to appraise well in the marketplace.

“By far, this is the first project of its type ever in Colorado Springs.”