Galaxy Builders’ experienced staff and pre-construction expertise enabled it to reach the quarter-century milestone. By Jim Harris
Galaxy Builders Ltd.’s staff of loyal, skilled employees helps it build strong relationships with clients. “Our people are what distinguish us,” says Neilesh Verma, president of the San Antonio, Texas-based contractor. “It’s our people who have done this kind of work time and time again, who bring a vast amount of knowledge to what needs to be built [and] who help us stand out.”
The company’s building experience extends back to 1991, when it was founded by Verma’s father Arun, an industry veteran who had previously worked as president of another contractor. This year marks the company’s 25th anniversary.
Neilesh Verma began working for the company in 2005 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. He was employed as a project manager and in other positions at the company while obtaining his executive masters in business administration from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2009.
Verma became president of Galaxy Builders in August 2012. His father served as chairman of the company’s board thereafter until his passing last December. “His involvement after the transition was in strategy and mentoring,” Verma says. “He made sure we worked with clients that aligned with our vision; he was our safety net, if we needed consultation or advice, he was the person we went to. He was a wealth of knowledge and we were all fortunate to have learned under his guidance.”
Galaxy Builders honored its founder’s legacy in February, when it sponsored a memorial golf tournament in his name. The event, which took more than seven weeks to plan and was completely sold out with sponsors and golfers, raised more than $45,000 for the American Heart Association – San Antonio division. The company directly donated $10,000, making it one of the leading sponsors of the association’s local campaign.
“My father battled heart disease for most of his life, so our family felt it was the right cause to donate to,” Verma says. “The AHA has become a long-term partner for us as we intend to host this event on an annual basis moving forward.”
Galaxy Builders’ longevity has contributed to its positive reputation among developers and owners in the San Antonio market as well as throughout Texas. The company has completed more than 20,000 multifamily units during its history.
Much of Galaxy Builders’ work is negotiated through repeat business and referrals, as opposed to being hard-bid. “We take great pride in being one of the most competitively priced contractors in the market, by being conscientious of obtaining several bids for each scope of work, being current with commodity pricing and in tune with the labor market,” Verma says. “The niche experience in this market and tenure of our people makes our clients feel comfortable.”
One of Galaxy Builders’ greatest skills is its focus on pre-construction planning. “We prepare preliminary estimates based on the schematics we receive,” he says. “We believe everyone wins when negotiating the work, because it creates a team environment that results in a collaborative effort between the architect, its sub consultants, the contractor and the developer to design drawings that are in budget for the client. We want to bring different solutions to clients on the front end that can ultimately make these projects a reality.”
The company regularly performs a value-engineered cost analysis, a detailed cost comparison of two or more construction systems to determine the most cost-effective methods and materials for a project.
Galaxy Builders’ pre-construction work often begins long before it breaks ground on a project. “On average, we work with our clients for at least a year before the project even starts,” he adds. “When you consider the entire lifecycle of a project, from pre-construction through substantial completion, we’re often working three-plus years on a project.”
The company’s pre-construction division regularly seeks subcontractors input when creating its preliminary estimates. All of the subcontractors on Galaxy Builders’ projects are internally prequalified.
“There are certain subs we use more than others, but we do a good faith effort to level the playing field,” Verma says.
Galaxy Builders uses a tracking system to determine the status of each of its subcontractors’ work.
“We review their financials and their current workload with us and other contractors before making the decision to award a project,” he adds.
“It’s an art trying to determine which subs should be on which project and if they’ll be able to perform.”
‘Spacious and Inviting’
The company applies its pre-construction and other skills to a wide range of multifamily project types. This includes conventional garden apartments as well as rehabilitation projects, senior living, HUD-financed affordable housing projects and military/government housing.
Recent projects include Cascadia, a 280-unit garden-style apartment project in San Antonio’s Westover Hills area developed and owned by Geringer Capital. The project, completed in May, is located near two other multifamily developments Galaxy Builders completed for Geringer Capital previously. In total, the company has built more than 900 units for the developer, Verma notes.
Cascadia is located on a terracing piece of property that required the placement of large stone retaining walls. The stone retaining walls allowed the company to place buildings and paths that stretch from one side of the property to the other, Galaxy Builders notes.
Many of the trees located on the property will be preserved, including a grove of 60-foot tall grandfather live oaks, “which make for a quiet park to relax and take in an afternoon,” the company says.
The Cascadia site also includes a clubhouse with meeting and social spaces as well as an exercise room with three fully windowed walls. “The whole site is surrounded with endless views including of the downtown skyline,” Galaxy Builders says. “The units are spacious and inviting.”
The company in January 2015 broke ground on Twin Creeks, a 22-building, 300-unit Class A garden-style apartment complex for owner SWBC in San Antonio’s Alamo Ranch. The project is anticipated for completion in early summer. The project, located on an 18-acre property, was designed with its surroundings in the Texas hill country in mind. “The heavily-treed site was treated with great care to save as many trees and incorporate the natural beauty of the environment around it,” the company says.
The materials and colors used on the project’s buildings are also tailored specifically for its environment. “We used natural stain on rough lawn cedar for exterior and interior accents, and also used stone on both the interior and exterior,” Galaxy Builders adds. “Stone wainscot and cedar beams are used to create an atmosphere of comfort and elegance, and warm paint colors tie the design together with stained concrete finishing the presentation.”
Galaxy Builders is currently building a second project, similar to Twin Creeks, for the same client in Grand Prairie, Texas. That project, called Timberview Ranch, is slated for completion later this year. The Timberview Ranch project will include 304 Class A garden-style one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The complex will also include a clubhouse, lounge and fitness and recreation center. Cross Architects is the architect.
In the Name of Valor
Galaxy is now working on the Valor Club project in San Antonio. The project, Galaxy’s ninth project for owner Home Springs Realty, is a unique 252-unit development located on the Pecan Valley Golf Course in San Antonio. The golf course, which closed in 2012, was once home to several major PGA Championships. The complex is designed to accommodate tenants with disabilities – particularly veterans, who will have first priority to lease units there.
“San Antonio is home to a large number of veterans, many of them wounded veterans who have decided to retire in ‘Military City, USA’ after their military service,” the project’s developers state. “For every veteran with physical wounds, there are many more who bear the burdens of post-traumatic stress.”
In addition to the multifamily component, a portion of the Pecan Valley golf course will be renovated to host a fully accessible, 9-hole golf course tailored for disabled veterans and others with disabilities. “It will feature state-of the art equipment and trained personnel to allow persons with disabilities to enjoy golf while keeping the challenge of the game pure and uncompromised,” the developer adds. “The guiding spirit of The Valor Club Golf Course is to serve our nation’s military veterans who have given so much of themselves for us. “
The Valor Club community will also feature “The Valordome,” a $20 million indoor sports complex.
Galaxy Builders’ work has earned it the recognition of many of its peers in the industry. The company is among the top 50 privately owned companies in San Antonio and is recognized among the top 10 largest San Antonio building contractors by the San Antonio Business Journal. The company is also noted as a top 100 builder and top 50 multifamily builder by industry publications including Builder magazine and Texas Construction magazine.
Galaxy Builders’ industry awards include Outstanding Construction Awards from the Associated General Contractors (AGC). These awards recognize several aspects of the company’s operations including its safety programs and projects as well as the work of its safety superintendent.
Several of the company’s projects have additionally been recognized by the Associated Builders and Contractors, including Steelhouse Lofts, Woodlawn Ranch, Casitas de Villa Corona, Oak Manor Oak Village Apartments, Fort Sam Houston Historic Homes, Artisan on the Bluff Apartments, Providence Estates Townhomes, Andalusia Condominiums, Paseo Pointe Apartments, Camden Medical Center, Retama Ranch, Cadillac Loft Apartments, San Marin Apartments and Berkeley Estates.
Galaxy Builders’ work for the American Heart Association reflects its positive internal culture, which the company says has remained intact for its entire tenure, even amid significant growth.
“At Galaxy, we consider ourselves a small, tight-knit community that collaborates amongst our peers both personally and professionally,” the company says.
Galaxy crafts bonds with its staff in a variety of ways, including offering perks ranging from fishing and golfing trips to shopping adventures. “Each opportunity uplifts morale around the organizational walls and keeps employees looking forward to the next big event,” Galaxy Builders adds.
In addition to offering trips and team-building opportunities, the company also has an employee health and wellness program. The program has helped employees in a variety of ways including helping them lose weight and reduce blood pressure.