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Construction manager broadens its scope.

Construction manager broadens its scope

With the economy and the real estate slump causing a shortage in new construction assignments, the word today is diversification. That's why construction manager Lehrer McGovern Bovis, Inc. reports, while the firm will not experience its annual 15 to 20 percent growth this year, they are not feeling the attrition that other firms are.

"What we did some time ago, probably ahead of the curve, is look into different areas," said Jeffrey M. Levy, P.E., executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Based in New York, the firm has five other offices -- London, Princeton, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Ithaca - each with a different focus, says Levy. (The firm was founded as Lehrer McGovern in 1979 and merged with Bovis Limited, a London-based construction management firm, in 1986.)

While Lehrer McGovern Bovis was a major player in the residential and commercial building boom of the 80's, the construction manager has branched into such areas as universities and pharmaceutical and research and development facilities. They are doing a four-year plan at Rutgers University, a research laboratory for private companies at Penn State, the New Jersey aquarium, and facilities for Merck Laboratories.

Lehrer McGovern's aviation division is busy around the country at a number of airports that are upgrading for safety and for volume. They are doing work at all the New York airports. They are the designated manager for the Westchester County airport project, program manager for the Port Authority at La Guardia airport and they are working at Houston Intercontinental Airport for the City of Houston. "In order to get that job, we had to have some experience base," said Levy.

The museum and cultural division was responsible for the current Arms and Armor Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and they are reconstructing the fossil hall at the Museum of Natural History. Past assignments of that department have included the Vietnam Memorial in New York across from 1 New York Plaza, the Korean War Memorial in Battery Park City, the Peachtree Court at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the carousel in Central Park and the Central Park Zoo.

They are also taking advantage of opportunities in the public sector, such as the General Service Administration's Foley Square court house project, being built by BPT Properties, and a prison in Ithaca. They have worked with New York City's School Construction Authority and will be looking to get involved in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's $11.5 billion capital campaign.

They are also diversifying further geographically. In Boston, they are doing a renovation at the Prudential Center.

Levy said the firm goes after high-visibility projects that are different and unique. Lehrer McGovern Bovis has two world-renown New York restoration projects under its belt -- the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

"The people we have like that," Levy said. "When you have a particular market focus, you attract people that like that."

Levy himself, who joined the firm about a year ago, represents a broadening of the firm's expertise and scope. Before coming to Lehrer McGovern, he was vice president, director, and manager of the New York office for Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation. The firm was heavily involved in energy and general industrial facilities, a lot of government projects and civil work. He holds a bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering from The City College of New York and and an MBA in Finance from New York University.

Levy said there are definite "structural" changes going on in the real estate market and other markets as well. Before, he said, production would tell sales what they were going to sell; now that scenario is reversed. And today, he said, people are asking different things of their suppliers.

"The rules have changed," said Levy, "and companies that have been very comfortable playing by their own rules, are just not going to make it."

Competition is such today, he said, that building firms needs to invest in all the technologies available -- CADD and project management systems -- and train their staff to use them. But technologies, Levy said, are just the "tickets to the dance", today schedules are more critical than ever and you must have a real understanding of the issues. You must look and sound qualified, and bring ideas.

"The market demands we give our clients the absolute cutting edge -- the combination of tools and talents that will be most competitive... They really have to trust us."

And with many client firms operating with fewer people, Levy said, they find themselves working as "staff extensions."

Levy said the people at Lehrer McGovern are not weak spirits and they care about what they do. "It's a very rich organization in the people we have here," Levy said. "We have people with experience from all over the world... We provide value in the way we manage a project."

Levy said he is looking forward to further growth both by the in both geographic areas and by market. And that growth will mean expanding its staff. The firm was recently joined by Richard Klenk who was with aviation for the Port Authority.

Active in Industry and Community

Very important to Levy and other members of the firm, he said, is their involvement in professional and civic organizations. In addition to a number of other groups, Levy is on the executive committee of the New York Building Congress, which he said, "provides a unified voice for the construction industry."

Levy, and a number of other Building Congress members, recently testified in favor of extending the Industrial Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP), which may be the only source for new work in the next few years. The grim prospect for many firms, Levy said, is that once they finish jobs in progress there are no new jobs in the works.

"The same way we have to speak out to clients to say what we're going to do for them," he said. "We have to speak out as an industry on issue that are very telling."

Peter Lehrer, chairman of the Lehrer McGovern, was recently elected the first chairman of the Regional Alliance for Small and Minority Contractors, created by the Port Authority. The organization provides courses and advice for small firms and helps them bid on work.

New York Firm

While jobs are scarce, the firm is still eager to work in New York, Levy said. "We're not abandoning, in any stretch, New York," he said. "We're looking for different ways to work here."

They are currently doing the St. Vincent de Paul residence for the New York Archdiocese in the South Bronx. the Barney's space at 660 Madison, Roosevelt Hospital, MetroTech, and a major window replacement at Met Life's Peter Cooper Village. In New Jersey, they recently completed the brand new Menlo Park mall.

Competition is stiff today, Levy said, and, therefore, it is hard for owners to have a procurement strategy. Lehrer McGovern, Levy said, tries to give them a pretty balanced picture of what's involved and they will pre-qualify bids. "The prices are so good that, if an owner is going to pay 20 percent less than budgeted, they don't want to get 20 percent less," he said.

PHOTO : Jeffrey M. Levy, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Lehrer McGovern Bovis, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Lehrer McGovern Bovis Inc.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:company profile
Date:Oct 23, 1991
Words:1215
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