In early 2019, a fire broke out at the Oaks of Willow Hill, an apartment complex in Justice, IL. One of the buildings, which consisted of 12 units, burned down completely; the other building sustained severe damage, down to its structural components.
“We did a handful of commercial jobs for the University of Chicago a few years back, and the University’s Director of Facilities & Maintenance was very happy with the work,” says ETI President Ivan Tello. “When he became the Director of Facilities & Maintenance at Waterton’s Presidential Towers, he recommended us for some work on other Waterton-owned investments, including the Oaks of Willow Hill.”
The property is a multi-building apartment complex consisting of 24 units. The majority of them are 800 square foot 2-bedroom units. “Since the first building was completely burned down, it required ground-up new construction,” says Tello. “The second building was salvageable, but a full-gut rehab that included structural repairs was required, so this was a multi-faceted project with many moving parts.”
The project, which started in September 2019, offered a variety of challenges for the ETI team. “We worked with the architect to come up with a scope of work for the structural integrity of the building to be gut renovated,” recalls Tello. “We essentially stripped that building from the outside-in.” Tello goes on, “We had to bring the old, gutted infrastructure up to current code, which was a tedious process. We collaborated with the structural engineer who came up with the initial designs to ensure the building and its structural integrity was in compliance.”
The project was completed, on-time, in March 2020. “The tenants were displaced from their homes, so the client was very keen to get the project completed as soon as possible,” says Tello. “We were able to get the framing completed on the new building before the winter season started, which was huge.” Tello continues, “Based on the timing of the construction start, Waterton was concerned that we’d be unable to get the core framing finished within that time frame, so being able to make that happen for the client really helped us in exceeding their expectations.”
When asked what the key to success was on this project, Tello said, “We asked the right questions, had the right answers, and we were efficient in our communications with the client from the start. That set the tone for how we work.”
Since the completion of the project, ETI has continued to work with Waterton on other projects. “The clients were very happy with the Justice project. Multi-family projects are the core of our business because we’re good at it, and we love the work – it’s our calling,” says Tello.
Tello will always remember the Oaks of Willow Hill as a very rewarding project. “The tenants went through an unbelievably difficult ordeal – many of them lost everything they owned,” says Tello. “It was satisfying to see that we could get the people back into their homes and help them get their life back on track.”