With the nation's financial markets on the verge of collapse, panic and fear were sweeping the nation in autumn 2008. St. Louis' construction industry was especially hard hit. Numerous projects were postponed and the industry began losing jobs.
These were the conditions confronting the leaders of the Mason Contractors Association (MCA) of St. Louis as they wrestled with a decision on their pending plans for the major expansion and renovation of the Masonry Center, their headquarters in the St. Louis suburb of Richmond Heights.
The ongoing background turmoil complicated their decision. No one questioned that the 1950s-era structure had to be replaced. Not only was it too small, it hadn't been upgraded in a quarter century and could no longer serve the needs of the MCA and its sister organization, the Masonry Institute of St. Louis, also located in the building.
Despite the local construction industry spiraling downward, the MCA's officers knew they couldn't play it safe and put the project on the shelf. “We felt we owed it to the St. Louis masonry industry to go ahead with our plans and provide jobs,” said Richard Frisch Jr., president of the MCA and owner of Frisch Masonry in Kirkwood, Mo.
“It would have been easy to put the project on hold and wait until things got better,” added Jeffrey Schmidt, MCA vice president and owner of JDS Masonry in St. Charles. Mo. “Instead, we decided to show our commitment to the industry and its future by putting people to work.”
The $2.1 million project, which was completed in October 2009, effectively doubles the building's size while modernizing its facilities. The expansion, designed by local architects at Archimages, features a meeting/presentation room that can seat up to 200 or be divided into two rooms that can accommodate 90 people in each. The expansion also includes additional office space, a larger board-room, a larger library/study room, and modern restrooms.
“When the economy was at its darkest and everyone was afraid we might be looking at Armageddon, the board decided to go ahead with the project,” said David Gillick, MCA's executive director. “The MCA has been at the heart of the St. Louis masonry industry since we were chartered in 1896. Going forward with the project and the jobs it provides is our way of showing that we remain committed to the industry and its future success.” For more on the association, visit www.masonrystlouis.com.