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Using Experience, Partnerships And Pre-Construction To Strengthen The Affordable Housing Market

Alexander Crossing in Yonkers, New York, a seven-story, 440-unit project along the Hudson River, for which Callahan provided construction management services.

There continues to be a staggering need for affordable housing in major cities across the U.S. 

In New York, it is estimated the city needs 560,000 new affordable units by 2030, but only 14% of that is in development. In Boston, the 2022 Greater Boston Housing Report Card showed that the region “would receive a failing grade” in almost every metric measuring housing accessibility, equity and availability. 

Boston and NYC are two areas where Callahan Construction Managers is dedicated to providing affordable housing construction solutions. Callahan Director of Business Development Phil Dinan said the company builds a comprehensive and effective business plan for each prospective client, and as a builder of millions of square feet of market-rate multifamily housing, increasing the company’s focus on 100% affordable housing seemed like a good fit, both operationally and socially. 

“​​The need for affordable housing isn’t going away anytime soon,” Dinan said. “This isn’t someone else’s problem. Our parents, our children, our friends need affordable places to live. It feels good both as a corporation and as individuals to use our years of knowledge and experience in multifamily construction to provide housing for a wider range of people.”

Callahan provided construction management services for Squirrelwood Apartments, a 12-building, 88-unit affordable housing, Passive House development in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dinan said Callahan is reaching out to other growth companies that have expanded into the affordable market and that it is using the company’s longstanding partnerships in the market-rate space to continue to branch out into affordable. 

Vice President of Business Development Stephen R. Callahan said that traditionally, market-rate rental housing has been Callahan’s bread and butter, and after years of focusing on this particular market, the company has the experience and relationships needed to bring real value to the affordable space. 

In Boston, Callahan is working to expand its minority- and women-owned business participation following the Boston Residents Job Policy, which tracks the percentage of local, minority and female workers on a construction project. The company has brought in independent consulting firms to further ensure that it is meeting these goals with every project. 

In New York, Callahan is focusing on the Hudson Valley, where affordable housing seems most needed and logistically is a good fit for the company’s growing White Plains office, Callahan Project Executive David Morrow said. 

“This strategy will likely include the Bronx, Queens and Westchester County to start, but we certainly will entertain any location that we currently service with the right development partner,” Morrow said. 

Emblem 120 in Woburn, Massachusetts. Callahan provided construction management services on the 289-unit, 470K SF mixed-use apartment project.

Bob Sanda, professional engineer and LEED advanced professional, said that along with Callahan’s extensive multifamily experience and partnerships, what sets the company apart and makes it uniquely suited to help meet the affordable housing demand is its pre-construction services. During the pre-construction stage, Callahan helps clients mitigate budget and timeline risks by developing a comprehensive scope of work and associated budget that covers everything from demolition to site work to landscape and hardscape.

“Our site budgets are much more comprehensive than other general contractors because we have the in-house resources to do full site work takeoffs,” Sanda said. “This typically includes a complete cut/fill analysis of the site and full utility takeoffs and coordination with specialty subcontractors, such as ground improvements, deep foundation systems, support of excavation, dewatering and blasting subs.” 

During pre-construction, Callahan also provides a comprehensive earthwork evaluation. The company’s computer-aided design software, In-site, is geared toward site contractors and incorporates soil strata to be removed, soil boring information and calculates cuts/fills to subgrade elevations. This yields a much more accurate result than a standard CAD cut and fill, which just compares existing and proposed grades, he said. The company also considers all the geotechnical and environmental aspects of the project. 

“These can often be a significant challenge from a logistical and financial standpoint,” Sanda said. “But by having the resources in house to understand issues such as dealing with unsuitable bearing capacity soils, shallow groundwater or how to manage contaminated soils, we are often able to assist the owner in making the right financial design decisions early.” 

Once Callahan helps an owner develop a tight set of plans, its department also handles bidding out the site work. Since getting out of the ground and starting foundations is key to the construction schedule, Callahan develops a site scope of work and bid tab sheet early so it can select the right subcontractor, if not self-performing the work, and hit the ground running. 

Sanda said that thanks to having its own operators, laborers and heavy equipment, Callahan can offer an additional in-house service where it can focus on managing client risk as it relates to site work and strive to resolve issues in the field without compromising the overall project schedule. While the company does self-perform site work, it always solicits competitive bids from other site subcontractors to ensure the owner is getting the best value, he said. 

Ultimately, Callahan wants to use a combination of its comprehensive pre-construction system and experience creating successful multifamily projects to expand its footprint in the affordable market and help bring cities the housing they so desperately need. 

“Callahan’s two offices are located within two large metropolitan markets in Boston and NYC, and it only makes sense to become what we are already in the market-rate multifamily market,” Morrow said. “We want to become a go-to trusted partner in the affordable housing market.” 

This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Callahan Construction Managers. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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