After providing services for nearly 30 years from its crowded residential offices, Northwest Housing Alternatives (NHA) was outgrowing its space. What transpired is the development of a new, multi-purpose campus where the organization can better serve low-income residents in Greater Portland, Ore.
NHA is a nonprofit organization that provides housing for low-income residents, including the elderly and disabled. Representatives from NHA worked with general contractor O’Neill/Walsh Community Builders, LLC, to help develop a 1.7-acre site in Milwaukie, Ore., in the Portland area.
MWA Architects partnered with NHA to develop a master plan for the campus. It comprises a new, eight-unit, 8,460-square-foot family shelter called the Annie Ross House Shelter; 28 multifamily, affordable housing units totaling 29,851 square feet, ranging between one and three bedrooms; and a development and management office known as an opportunity center, with 11,755 square feet.
The site selected for the new campus provides access to bus service and nearby light rail; is within walking distance to a grade school, middle school and high school; and conveniently located near downtown Milwaukie and commercial businesses. Amenities at the site include a resident community room, resident services, on-site parking, outdoor terrace, playground and community gardens.
The first step was hiring a subcontractor to demolish 11 homes on the existing residential property. Walsh selected local commercial site preparation and excavation company Lauzon Contracting – one of the few female-owned construction firms in the Pacific Northwest – to perform the demolition.
Lauzon Contracting has been working with representatives from Walsh Construction at the job site for more than two years. Demolition included removal of existing underground utilities, to the street. In addition, Lauzon was responsible for excavating 10,000 cubic yards of dirt and preparing the site for the next stages of development.
After demolition, Lauzon Contracting used its Doosan crawler excavators to perform a series of complex utility installations. Led by Construction Manager Joe Gadotti, employees installed new sewer lines, domestic and fire lines, and the structures for fire and water. Tia Olsen, controller at Lauzon Contracting, said the team used multiple crawler excavators to dig as deep as 15 feet to install the new sewer lines on the property. Altogether, the company installed approximately 4,000 linear feet of sewer, storm and water utilities, connecting the new lines to nearby city of Milwaukie public works services.
Also installed at the site was a water detention system to collect and manage excess stormwater runoff in the urban setting. The water will be temporarily stored there, underneath the new development, until it is released to a nearby drain where it enters the Milwaukie stormwater system. Olsen said it was one of the most difficult parts of the underground work that spanned approximately four months. After that, Lauzon Contracting proceeded with structural excavation for below-grade parking garages. The new NHA campus is scheduled to be completed in December 2018.
To handle underground excavation tasks, Lauzon Contracting relies on its crawler excavators. The company currently owns seven models (all Doosan) – ranging from a 14-metric-ton DX140LC-3, to a 35-metric-ton DX350LC-5 model – to accomplish its trenching needs.
Equipment versatility is critical to the success of Lauzon Contracting and its owners: David and Nancy Lauzon. Excavators are used throughout the company’s work as a site preparation contractor, including demolition, clearing, structural excavation for the buildings and installation of utilities. And they’re equipped with buckets and hydraulic clamps to assist with all stages of the construction.
For example, operators reverse their buckets on the excavators to meter dirt or rock when they are digging a plumbing trench, especially if it’s an area where footings have already been poured. “We can’t drive to get back in there,” said David Lauzon, who serves as the company’s head estimator and project manager.
On a busy construction site, visibility is critical to the operator’s success. Even with the larger crawler excavators, the operators have good all-around visibility.
Today, however, equipment is not the issue, it’s finding help, said Lauzon. “Our big thing right now is trying to find operators. It’s really, really a tough job market.”
Lauzon Contracting has been in business since 2002. David and Nancy Lauzon started the company with just two other employees; it’s grown to 25 employees today. Early on, the company made it a priority to meet deadlines every time.
“Our reputation is we get work done on time, so that others can get their work done on time,” David Lauzonsaid. “We never overload ourselves to the point that we can’t meet our schedule.” That motto has helped the company thrive in the Portland residential and commercial markets.
With just a couple of earthmoving machines, the company started small, doing residential projects. “Joe and I did the work in the field, and Nancy and Tia did the office work,” said David who grew up on a South Dakota range and “has been in excavation all my life.”
Over time, the company’s reputation began to grow beyond meeting deadlines, becoming known for its versatility. When bigger projects meant larger earthmoving equipment, Lauzon Contracting turned to its equipment partner – Feenaughty Machinery – for a recommendation. That led to the purchase of six Doosan crawler excavators and a wheel loader from Byron Rose, Doosan sales specialist.
Lauzon Contracting completes eight to 10 projects annually, focusing on commercial projects and multi-unit housing such as retirement communities. The company offers a range of services from budget consultation, to permits and a commercial job package from start to finish. One thing that hasn’t changed is the company’s commitment to remain grounded and right-sized.
“My inspiration is to provide a better life for my employees and my family,” Nancy said. “We work so well together and appreciate each other, and that’s what makes our company successful. We saw some hard times in 2008, but our faith carried us through, letting us know we were going to make it, and we did. And it’s all looking great now, looking really good for us.”
Northwest Housing Alternatives has been working throughout the state of Oregon to provide stable and affordable housing since 1982. According to the organization, it provides 1,865 safe, dignified, affordable homes to 2,800 individuals in 15 counties. It is the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the state. The new campus will be designed to accommodate approximately 50 employees and provide growth for future employees during the next 20 years.