At 1,800 s.f. in size, the renovation of a former butcher shop into new offices is not the biggest project KA has ever completed. (Nor is it the smallest.) But for the client, non-profit United Way of Bemidji Area, the impact is huge. The organization works with local agencies to assist area residents with emergency food, shelter, clothing, and a host of other resources, mobilizing the collective caring power of the region to build measurable and long-lasting improvements in education, income and health. As part of that caring community, and a longtime supporter of the United Way, KA’s Bemidji team was pleased to lead the construction effort that delivered the new office project. While the project was modest in its scope, the teamwork approach reflects the importance of collaboration, and communication, on projects of all sizes.
Q: What prompted the move to a new location and new offices for United Way of Bemidji Area?
DENAE ALAMANO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNITED WAY OF BEMIDJI AREA: On top of needing to move because the building we were previously renting was sold, we chose our locations for many reasons. We had many philanthropic partners that made the project affordable. Our new location adds visibility that our office didn’t previously have. It also provides us with a long 10-year lease, functionality, and the ability to grow our capacity in the future.
Q: What were the architectural challenges of the project? How did you work through these with KA?
MIKE KARVAKKO, P.E., PRESIDENT, KARVAKKO P.A. This work was pro bono or reduced rate for all parties involved, and no contracts were managed by Karvakko. That left some grey area as to who was responsible for doing what. Karvakko worked through those questions directly with United Way Executive Director Denae Alamano, and with Tom Tessier (KA Assistant Project Manager). There were more phone calls, fewer meetings, and quicker response time because of how this project was fast-tracked. KA made it very efficient and effective to work with way.
Also, because there were no original drawings of the building, Karvakko had to field measure existing conditions. Once the remodel was started, it was quickly determined that the building was actually smaller than what was thought. Adjustments were made by the contractor, through discussions with Denae, and coordinated by KA.
Q: What were the challenges for you as client? How did KA assist you with these?
DENAE ALAMANO: We had challenges with our layout that KA quickly solved. We also worked with KA to find an extremely low cost option for our signage on the outside of the building, which would have otherwise cost us thousands of dollars. KA problem solved through many small concerns, such as placement of outlets, affordable cabinetry and flooring options. KA was easy to work with in giving us just a few design options to choose from, understanding that our campaign season was still our top priority. I was very impressed with Tom Tessier’s ability to stay calm and problem-solve when changes or challenges came up. Tom went above and beyond making sure KA hit their timeline and the building was truly “move in ready” for us.
Q: Other comments on the project before and after the remodel?
DENAE ALAMANO: We are more than thankful to have worked with great community partners in the Bemidji area who found it important to donate their time and talents, including Kraus-Anderson, Karvakko, Innovative Office Solutions, Fisher Paint & Paper, George W. Neilson Foundation, and the United Way Board of Directors. The office is extremely functional for us, giving us an opportunity to be a better community partner and serve our partner agencies.
Q: How will this new facility help our community?
MIKE KARVAKKO: Having two Bemidji-based companies design and construct the facility gives community ownership to this project. Our project team has a sense of pride to see the success of the organization long after construction is complete. This new facility is larger and better laid out than the old United Way location. The efficient use of space allows for better traffic flow and office functioning. The colors and finishes lend a professional feel that is appropriate for the work United Way does. Sharing the space with other community partners will help create synergies between different agencies as well as help distribute the cost of running an office.
TRACY POGUE, DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, KRAUS-ANDERSON CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, BEMIDJI OFFICE: KA recognized the importance of UW moving out on to one of the busiest streets in Bemidji as an opportunity like no other. While the project might feel small to some, the benefits for the community will be quite significant. We are very proud of our long standing relationship with United Way and look forward to seeing what this move will do for our community.
Q: Closing thoughts?
MIKE KARVAKKO: Kraus-Anderson and Karvakko have a history of partnering on projects in the area. Both KA and Karvakko are good community partners who are working together to build a better community, because we want to make a difference.