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Lettire Construction Corp.

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The difference between affordable housing projects and market-rate housing is normally pretty clear when it comes to “green” building techniques and the finishes used. Lettire Construction Corp., however, has spent more than 30 years blurring the lines between the two types of projects with regard to quality.

“We don’t cut corners on any of our projects – when we do a job, we do it the best we can, and will use the best materials and finishes within budget or based on our budget on even our affordable housing projects,” the company says.

The company’s dedication to quality dates back to its establishment by brothers Nick and Gerard Lettire in 1979. Initially, the pair exclusively performed high-end renovations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Upper West Side for celebrities – including actress Brooke Shields – and other wealthy clients. Their work eventually gained the attention of the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), a low-income housing provider that approached the brothers about a rehabilitation project at one of its multifamily residential buildings. “When they saw the level of quality at the price involved they couldn’t believe it,” the company says. “That was the first time in New York City that a contractor brought that level of quality and finish to a supportive housing project.”

Since completing its first project for the WSFSSH, Lettire Construction has built dozens of supportive housing complexes for the organization and other affordable housing developers including Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies, the company notes.

Much like the company’s reputation for quality on its high-end rehabilitation projects caught the attention of affordable housing developers 30 years ago, Lettire Construction’s projects in recent years have gained the notice of market-rate developers. The company’s status as an open-shop contractor that is able to operate on a large scale also helped attract clients. “Many of the large market-rate developers in the city have worked with union contractors, but realized we could build on-time, on-budget and at high quality at about 30 percent less cost to them,” the company says, noting the company negotiates with labor unions on certain projects as needed.

The majority of the company’s work comes from referrals from past clients. “We don’t go looking for business; it’s all word of mouth,” the company says. “Whenever I talk to somebody, I always refer them to our website to pick out a project we’ve completed, and then invite them to speak to the developer directly.”

Affordable Green

Two of Lettire Construction’s recent projects exemplify its dedication to quality and sustainable living. The Tapestry, a $65.8 million, 12-story mixed-income building completed in 2010, features a number of energy-efficient architectural design elements including green roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, efficient mechanical systems, ENERGY STAR-rate appliances and fixtures and the use of low- or no-VOC paints. The 185-unit building is certified LEED Gold.

The project – developed by Lettire Construction’s real estate arm Urban Builders Collaborative in conjunction with Jonathan Rose Companies – earned the company the Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Award from the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing and “Project of the Year” recognition from Multifamily Executive magazine for 2011.

Lettire Construction also earned recognition from the Urban Land Institute and others for its work on the $71 million Via Verde development in the Bronx, completed in 2012. The 222-unit complex, developed by Jonathan Rose Companies and Phipps Houses, includes green and healthy living features such as green roofs, bicycle storage areas and a health education and wellness center. The complex includes rental apartments for low-income households and 71 co-ops affordable to middle-income households.

Current Projects

Lettire Construction has two million square feet and 2,000 multifamily units under construction. The company’s ongoing affordable housing projects include Van Cortlandt Green, an 86-unit, 11-story, 70,000 square foot senior housing development in the Bronx. The project started in June 2014 and is projected to end in December 2015.

The company recently started work on Queens Plaza North, a 23-story, 400,000 square foot, 421-unit market-rate multifamily complex in Long Island City, N.Y. The project is the developer’s first with an open shop contractor, the company notes. The project is slated for completion in 2015. The complex includes a rooftop pool, unobstructed views of Midtown Manhattan and a panelized façade.

Construction started in March 2014 on 71 Smith Street, a 369,000 square foot mixed-use development in Brooklyn. The 20-story building, slated for completion in June 2017, will include 128 market-rate residential units, a 96-room hotel and 20,000 square feet of retail space. Foundation work is underway on the project.

Lettire Construction also began driving foundation piles in February for Carroll Gardens, a two-phase project containing over 700 multifamily units in 700,000 square feet in Brooklyn. Construction is slated to conclude in April 2016 on the first phase.

The Carroll Gardens project is a federally designated Superfund site requiring special environmental cleanup. Previously a manufacturing site, the site abuts the Gowanus Canal, which was a major transportation hub in the 19th century. Remediation on the first phase has been completed with oversight by both federal and state agencies.

The Smith Street site, located on top of three subway tunnels, also requires special attention and coordination efforts, as foundation piles are being driven between those tunnels. “These are not easy projects,” the company says. “We’re going head-on into areas that require very complex engineering and difficult site work.”

Building Loyalty

Lettire’s owners are closely involved in all of the company’s projects, regardless of their level of difficulty. “We run a very lean organization in terms of senior management, so our subcontractors know they go directly to Nick and Gerard for any issues that may arise, however small or large they may be,” the company says.

Many of Lettire Construction’s subcontractors have grown right along with the company. “Loyalty is one of those elements that contributes to a company’s success, especially in New York City,” the company adds. “If you don’t have the loyalty of your subs, you won’t be successful as a general contractor here.”

The Lettire Brothers also contribute to their community by hiring workers from the neighborhoods in which they work and actively participating in a number of community activities, and encourage their employees to do the same. Community projects include apprentice programs, toy and clothing drives and job fairs.

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