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Kip Ritchie (from left), president of Greenfire Management Services LLC, talks with Chris Sherman of Sherman Associates Inc., Brent Norvik, Jen Drath and Emily Rauscher in an apartment at Paper Box Lofts, one of Greenfire’s non-tribal construction management projects. For more photos, go to jsonline.com/photos.
After the Forest County Potawatomi Community launched Greenfire Management Services LLC, the firm provided construction management services for such tribal projects as the new Potawatomi Hotel in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.
But Greenfire, which was founded in 2010, has since grown to provide its services for other developments, including some high-profile apartments being built in the Milwaukee area.
Developers hire the firm to oversee construction projects, providing services that include design management, bid packaging and cost estimating. It has 16 full-time employees and $16 million in yearly revenue.
Milwaukee-based Greenfire’s initial projects included the 381-room hotel, which was announced in 2012 and opened in August at 1721 W. Canal St.; Data Holdings LLC’s data center, which opened last year at 3135 W. Highland Blvd.; and a new biodigester renewable energy facility, near the hotel and casino.
But Greenfire also has landed some large contracts beyond those tribal projects.
They include the 72-unit Paper Box Lofts apartments, which Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates Inc. is completing at 1560 W. Pierce St., and two apartment projects under development by Mandel Group Inc.: the Echelon Apartments, with 188 units at Wauwatosa’s Innovation Campus, east of Highway 45 and south of Swan Blvd.; and the 83-unit Beaumont Place, north of E. Silver Spring Drive and east of N. Santa Monica Blvd., in Whitefish Bay.
Those three projects total about $58 million in development costs.
The Potawatomi tribe launched Greenfire in part because it knew the hotel, data center and biodigester would provide opportunities to build expertise and capacity for expanding the firm to other projects, said Kip Ritchie, Greenfire president.
That included hiring construction project managers and supervisors during a time when the economy was stagnant, said Brian Kraus, chief financial officer.
So when the economy strengthened and Greenfire sought more contracts, it had a core of talented, experienced employees, Ritchie and Kraus said.
Greenfire doesn’t land jobs by making lowball bids, they said.
“We basically work through relationships,” Kraus said. “We’ve really been successful in obtaining work.”
The firm hopes to do additional work for Mandel Group, among the Milwaukee area’s most active development firms, and Sherman Associates, which plans to do more projects in Milwaukee.
Sherman’s pending developments include a proposed upscale apartment building for older people that would overlook the Milwaukee River in Shorewood, south of E. Capitol Drive at N. Sherburn Place.
At Paper Box Lofts, Greenfire understood the complicated nature of a historic renovation project, said Paul Keenan, a Sherman project manager. Greenfire identified unexpected site conditions and recommended solutions that kept the project on schedule and on budget, he said.
Mandel’s future projects include a 46-unit apartment building and Adventure Rock Indoor Climbing Gym in the Riverwest neighborhood, south of North Ave. and east of Commerce St. Greenfire is providing construction management services for that development.
Greenfire’s strengths include providing preconstruction services, said Bob Monnat, Mandel Group’s chief operating officer. He also said the company’s Native American-owned status is helpful in meeting City of Milwaukee requirements for minority-owned business participation.