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Project management as partnership is credo of tenant/owner rep.

In the fast-evolving world of Project Management, a firm established less than five years ago has secured a firm foothold on some of the largest corporate redevelopment projects in the tri-state area.

The combination of a multi-faceted staff in excess of 20 professionals and principal involvement in every project makes for a successful formula. Today, even though just about every major renovation or relocation has a project manager on board, Quartararo & Associates (Q&A) remains among the firms to put corporate finance, facilities and construction professionals together for the benefit of the project and the clients.

"There's no question that a corporate relocation or redevelopment project benefits from the input of a professional project manager," says Raymond Quartararo, president of the firm. "Now take that single project manager and turn him or her into a comprehensive team that spans many disciplines, and tackles issues from the technical aspects of the lease and analysis of plan through to the move-in, and you've increased the benefit ten-fold. That's what we do."

The sophisticated Q&A method of project management is a far cry from the days when office managers and facilities managers were burdened with their companies' multimillion-dollar renovation. Similarly, building managers had traditionally been directed to manage massive capital improvement programs at major office buildings. "Project management takes extreme focus on the literally thousands of macro and micro aspects of the project," says Dennis Squilla, executive vice president of Q&A. "Although facility managers and building managers are perfectly competent at their jobs, they are too busy managing the day-to-day business for which they're responsible to take on a major, all-consuming project. Also, these projects might crop up only every 10 years for an in-house manager, while we are immersed in the ever-changing progress of this business every day."

Beyond the execution of the relocation or redevelopment, project management produces benefits in the initial planning stages of a project. Whether the task is the evaluation of potential relocation sites or preliminary budgeting for a new building facade, Q&A produces great value in providing strategic planning input that eliminates problems before they develop down the road. "We are called project managers, but really we manage the process that draws all aspects of a relocation or redevelopment together," Squilla says. "We provide value-added project management consulting services to corporate and institutional clients. It's not an easy concept to fit into a two-word description, but it becomes crystal clear when you take a look at the scope of our work and our accomplishments."

Q&A is currently directing more large-scale corporate facilities development projects than any other project management firm in the tri-state area, the principals say. Projects include the massive tri-state redevelopment and consolidation of 15 facilities into three major corporate campuses for PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PWC). In this case, Q&A is helping PWC create new, cutting-edge facilities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to house its newly merged practices throughout the tri-state region.

Another project, albeit smaller in scale, that Q&A recently completed was equally complex: the restoration/renovation of the French Institute/Alliance Francaise (FIAF), a 75-year-old townhouse re-envisioned by famed architect Michael Graves.

"The bottom line is that I run a cultural institution and have never managed a construction project; I needed a project manager who would walk me through it, protect the interest of this not-for-profit organization, and deliver the project in not only a timely fashion, but also under budget," explains David Black, the Institute's Executive Director. "Q&A delivered on all counts. They held my hand when needed; they ran the project with FIAF's interests in mind; they saved us money; they delivered the project in a professional, timely manner; and they created and lead a unified team of FIAF, the architect and the construction company."

In other ongoing business, Q&A is also coordinating the relocation of Empire BlueCross & BlueShield from its former Midtown headquarters into a 400,000 square-foot facility at One World Trade Center. This is the headline-grabbing portion of the firm's work for Empire, which also includes the integration of additional facilities throughout New York State.

The firm is also engaged by J&H Marsh & McLennan, for which it just completed the consolidation of two major Manhattan facilities (including the relocation of 800 people over six months in multiple phases). Currently, Q&A is managing the company's 350,000 square-foot relocation from 125 Broad Street to a newly leased facility at One World Trade Center.

As impressive as its work for tenants, Quartararo & Associates has carved out a niche as a powerful partner for institutions and owners of property that are planning major renovations or improvement programs. Today, the firm is nearing completion of the $25 million capital improvement program at 919 Third Avenue on behalf of J.P. Morgan Investment Management, and has handled similar projects for Prudential Insurance.

"We were confident that Q&A would be an asset for us with regard to streamlining the flow of information and maintaining control over the construction process, and we were delighted with the additional benefits we derive from our relationship with the firm," said Douglas Gardiner, Vice President of J.P. Morgan Real Estate, which is the asset manager for 919 Third Avenue. "Q&A has been superb in helping us during lease negotiations. When an owner deals with complex, 100,000 square-foot-plus transactions in a building where all the systems are being totally re-engineered, translating performance criteria and specific abilities to potential tenants is critical. Q&A protected the landlord's interests in these negotiations, going head-to-head with all their sophisticated counterparts on the tenants' side. They complemented and worked well with our leasing agent, Insignia/ESG, together creating a powerful team that allowed us to negotiate with comfort."

Quartararo says he is flattered by his clients' recognition of his firm, and delighted by the market's reception to its unique capabilities. "We've grown to 23 professionals in the last three years, and have been tapped by many of the region's most important corporations and institutions," he says. "There's no question that we've been able to grow because we have set ourselves apart from our many competitors in the market."

The differences, according to Quartararo and Squilla, are that their size and staffing offer more depth than any other project management firm in the City. Quartararo himself is a former corporate executive, putting his MBA in management to work at Turner Corporation and Siemens Corporation, prior to forming his own company. Squilla holds a degree in construction management, and boasts more than two decades of corporate construction experience on his resume. The rest of Q&A's team is equally impressive, including professionals with extensive design, engineering, construction, corporate real estate, facilities and management backgrounds.

Second, unlike many newcomers, Q&A has tremendous experience and success with large-scale projects "Projects of 50,000 square feet or more in this modern, high-tech era are an entirely different beast than any other type of project, with complexities that multiply exponentially with every additional foot of space," Squilla says. "A project management firm must have experience and depth of operation when coordinating projects of such massive scope and size in order to achieve a competent performance. An individual project manager just can't handle this type of work as effectively as a team of professionals."

"Q&A uses a team of project managers carefully selected to combine diverse backgrounds," he continues. "For example, the lead project manager may have a background in facilities management or real estate, while another member of the team would have a background in construction management or cost control."

Third, Q&A is able to integrate base building expertise with interior construction specialties. In this way, a project can be coordinated from all sides: construction management, real estate, cost control and facilities planning. And, finally, Q&A offers what many firms promise but can't deliver: principal involvement.

"Dennis or I are involved in every single project we direct," Quartararo boasts, proud of his commitment to his clients. "You'll see me at Empire BlueCross' offices in the morning, and then it's up to 919 Third Avenue in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Dennis will be at J&H Marsh McLennan all day today, then up to PriceWaterhouse Coopers for a late meeting. When we take on a project, we create a partnership with our clients - a partnership in which there is no handoff, but rather a commitment to personally be an integral part of that team."

Q&A's clients agree that the principal involvement provides an added comfort level for them throughout the project. "Since Dennis has been in the business a long time, and is a principal in Q&A, he carries a tremendous amount of clout, so having him involved in our project in a very visible manner has been extremely valuable," said Valerie DiFebo, a partner and group director of Deutsch, Inc., the 80,000 square-foot advertising agency that is working with Q&A on its relocation project. "We have our senior management involved in our business, and so we are delighted with the investment that Q&A is making to us and our project through their regular principal-level involvement."

Keeping clients happy is only one part of his job, Quartararo says. In addition, the firm and all its professionals need to stay on top of technological advances and trends that support modern corporate infrastructures, and develop working relationships with teams of contractors, architects, vendors, consultants and engineers who each work with their own hallmark style. "As a young firm, we recognize the importance of continuing the education of our staff," Squilla explains. "It is not unusual for weekly staff meetings to include presentations from real estate professionals or telecom consultants. The quality of our staff is even more evident when you hear they are meeting on their own time to work on a company project management manual."

All this training and dedication comes into play when the armies of consultants, contractors, sub-contractors and specialists get to work on a relocation or redevelopment project - all at the same time. Q&A's primary job becomes the coordination of efforts to achieve the desired results. Solid coordination leads to hard-fast results, including cost-savings for the client.

"The savings we are realizing by their involvement - through value engineering, maintaining tight control of the process and keeping their eye on the ball - far outweigh the fees associated with their services," said Thomas Gress, vice president of J&H Marsh & McLennan, Inc. for which Q&A is currently managing the development of its World Trade Center headquarters offices. "That's the bottom line. But there's no price-tag that we can put on the value their objectivity brings to the overall success of the project. Q&A was able to secure, evaluate and disseminate critical project information, enabling us to make the most informed decisions. They are an invaluable partner for us."

Q&A's principals say that growing their firm, and dividing time among the company's offices in Manhattan and Stamford, also requires great focus. "We've been very careful to grow with the right mix of people and assignments," Quartararo says. "We are meticulous about hiring the very best talent in the market, and then being selective about the projects we take on. Then we match the most appropriate staff with a suitable assignment."

The partners continually repeat that they don't have designs on being the biggest in the market - but they don't question that they are already a dominant player in project management. "Our goal is to always be differentiated from our competitors by the level of expertise, commitment and value offered by our professional team," Quartararo says. "This goal allows for the professional and personal satisfaction of both Dennis and myself, and for the entire Q&A team."
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 14, 1999
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