“Value Engineering” is the technical term for “holy —-, we are way over budget!” It’s not unusual for construction costs to exceed an owner’s budget. So the ‘value engineering’ process begins, where the design team, contractors and owner review the plans and try to wring dollars out of the design– and where the owner has to make hard choices about what goes and what stays. As I participate in these meetings, my feelings are all over the map: energized and fascinated, impatient, all the way to thoughts that I would prefer a root canal.
So while I flounder in the wasteland of trying to find the right contractor and budget, I still want to have our building serve some purpose. Thankfully, one of my neighbors put me in touch with Scott Jarrett, a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He stages art installations in vacant buildings and was (and is always) looking for a site to display art using whatever salvage is on site. I meet Scott and find a delightfully enthusiastic young man who I know will show up and treat the building with love and care.
Just as we thought we would begin construction, we’ve experienced setbacks. We had selected a general contractor that would have undoubtedly been great at doing the work, but did not possess the financial resources or back office experience for a LEED project. We continue to search for the right set of skills. It reminds me of the 3+ months it took to find the design team, and it appears that finding the right general contractor will take longer.
Logan Square Kitchen is about to begin construction within the next few weeks. We expect construction to last 4-6 months. We’ll be upgrading water and utility services to the building, building a new roof, facade, and infrastructure. We will have three galleys in our commercial kitchen: two for pastry/baking, one for catering/prep. Galleys will rent on an hourly basis. Our dining room, available for private events will seat up to 75 for dinner.
As the designers work, I need to figure out a sound financial foundation for the Kitchen. Small projects are more difficult to fund, since they have fees to professionals– lawyers, architects, engineers, accountants– that are the same whether your building is big or small.
As we continue to refine the kitchen design, I make the rounds with our floor plan to see how it looks to the people that would work in the space. Tara Lane, former pastry chef of Blackbird is an amazing woman and friend and talented pastry chef. She has so much experience and insight, and I’ll be forever grateful for her generosity.
My New Year begins with an introduction to LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” It’s a government certification that stamps a construction project as green. There’s so much ‘green’ that’s not genuine, that I want the Logan Square Kitchen to stand out as a building committed to sustainability from the start. Anyone can say something is green, but I want us to hold us accountable to our community.
We have our first design team meeting. It’s very rewarding to see everyone around the same table for the first time, and while I still have no idea what I’m doing, I know that I can trust each one of these people, that we have a team of such strong character, we’re well equipped to meet any challenge.
To start, the building gets measured– every inch of it! It takes a few days, and then every dimension of the entire building is loaded into a computer program to provide ‘as-built- drawings. This is the starting canvass for all the architects and engineers.
I gave myself one month to find the design team, and it only took three! There have been many sleepless nights, and days and days where I felt like I just kept kissing frogs. Now I feel like it’s all been worth the wait. As I would whine to my brother Tom, the banker in the family about how long it was taking, he would say, “I wouldn’t worry too much about it; you can’t make a bigger mistake.” He was soooo right; I feel great about the team I’ve assembled, and it was challenging to find people who had experience with green buildings, kitchens, and renovations of older buildings.
Now that we own the building, I’ve created a timeline to design and build the Kitchen. I’m giving myself a month to find an architect and any engineers I may need. I’m hopeful that we’ll start construction in January, and open in the spring. I’m trying to remember that when man makes plans, God laughs…