Few construction companies can boast a record to match that of Charles Pankow Builders Ltd., the contractor for Paseo Colorado. Since its establishment in 1963, the company, a division of the multi-city-based Pankow Cos., has completed more than $3 billion in construction projects.

What makes the record especially noteworthy, however, is that every project was completed on time and none ended in litigation, an impressive accomplishment in an industry where law suits are often regarded as a standard cost of business.

“We're really a hands-on builder,” says John “Chip” McCorkle, director of project development for the Altadena, Calif. office of Pankow Builders. “We back that up with the technical ability of our in-house engineering and architecture staffs.”

The contractor, which also has offices in Honolulu, San Francisco and San Diego, can now add to the list access to its own pre-cast concrete factory.

In late 1999, Pankow's parent company founded Mid-State Pre-Cast Concrete L.P. to operate a plant in Corcoran, Calif., that can produce up to 700 structural and architectural elements per month, including panels, columns, beams and cladding.

The factory, says Thomas Verti, a senior vice president in Pankow's Altadena office, has made it possible to shave even more dollars off many construction projects by reducing the number of on-site laborers. The savings are particularly evident in high-wage markets such as San Francisco.

Verti estimates that use of the company's own pre-cast concrete Hybrid Moment Resistant Frame rather than steel shaved $3 million to $4 million off the cost of construction of the Paramount, a 600,000 sq.ft., 425-foot-high, mixed retail, office and residential tower in downtown San Francisco. The building is the tallest precast concrete structure ever built in Seismic Zone 4, which includes all the states west of the Mississippi River.

Equally important to the firm's outstanding record is its use of the design-build protocol. A major advantage of design-build over the standard design-bid-build method, according to Verti, is the opportunity for simultaneous completion of tasks that ordinarily would have to be done in succession.

Another advantage, McCorkle points out, is that Pankow can guarantee a final cost up front, something that is especially important in complex projects such as Paseo Colorado. “There are sophisticated projects all over the country that have 30, 40 and even 60% overruns. Once we set a budget, we can hold to it,” he says.

McCorkle describes Paseo Colorado as unusually complex because its construction required taking an old structure that was designed to support two levels of retail and completely refitting it to support up to six levels of above-ground construction.

That task seems simple, however, compared to Pankow's work on Roosevelt Field Mall in Long Island, N.Y. Over two phases, the company added 1.5 million sq.ft. of new leasable space and two more levels to one of the busiest shopping centers in the nation while keeping it operation.

In the opinion of Verti and McCorkle, Paseo Colorado's greatest significance lies in the inclusion of a residential component.

“Retail with housing above it will be an important prototype for future residential development, especially in California,” Verti asserts. “The land shortage and the growing desire for greater accessibility dictate increasing demand for this type of product.”

Pankow intends to focus more on this type of mixed-use project in the coming years, he adds, saying, “We've been pioneering economically competitive methods to build five and six-level residential projects like Paseo Colorado.

There's such a great need for more housing, and this project and others like it will play a major role in filling that need.”