REI Construction building its reputation with mixed-use projects

Some people know early on what their life’s work will be. Like Jon Laureto. “I was the only kid in high school watching “This Old House,” said the co-owner of REI Construction Consultants.

Laureto, his wife, Maggie, and their partner, David Moore, launched REI three years ago with the goal of working in mixed-use developments in their adopted hometown of Traverse City. So far, so good: The company has overseen the construction of Washington Place and reconstruction at East Bay Plaza, among other endeavors, and is turning its sights toward its own development, The Lofts rental apartments on State Street.

The threesome moved north from Grand Rapids. Moore and Jon Laureto were working at Wolverine Construction, and Maggie Laureto was putting her real estate background to use doing commercial real estate mortgages with Greemann Capital. Jon had grown up with a family home in Glen Arbor, and he and Maggie had a cottage on Lake Leelanau. Like so many others, they dreamed of someday moving up north.

Moore had grown up in the construction business, and while none of his three brothers were interested in following in their father’s footsteps, he was. He eventually joined Wolverine Construction, where he met Jon Laureto.

“I worked at Wolverine for 17 years — 13 with Jon,” said Moore. The two discussed starting their own business prior to the recession, and fortunately for them, decided then the timing wasn’t right. But when they revisited the idea a few years later, it seemed to make sense.

“We always wanted to have our own business, and when we talked about it again, we said ‘Let’s do it.’” The three decided to pool their talents and specialties by working in an area they saw as underserved. “We work with developers and didn’t see that up here,” said Moore. “We’ve done a lot of multi-family and did some high-rises in Grand Rapids. We like to do develop/build (projects).”

Maggie Laureto echoed those thoughts. “We like to work for developers. Not schools or hospitals, but multi-family and industrial,” she said. “Jon and David’s expertise is in mixed use. We thought Traverse City was ripe for that.”

Tom McIntyre was soon convinced. The developer behind the Washington Place condominiums said Jon Laureto knocked on his door about the project. “I considered two others and chose REI because they brought good ideas to the project that no one else had, and they had competitive, fair pricing,” he said.

Those ideas included both underground and above-ground parking, which McIntyre credited to their experience with similar projects. Their vision for parking enabled them to maximize space for other functional perks. “We were able to add storage units for tenants. That’s a result of REI’s suggestions,” said McIntyre.

Jerry Snowden of Miller Snowden Development Group said his firm interviewed other companies regarding its development of the Chase Bank building on Front Street. “[REI] convinced us they’d be the best. On thing for us, in addition to hiring a solid construction manager, is it is important to have great communication and reporting. We have regular meetings and progress reports. They delivered that,” he said.

While Maggie works in the business and financial side of the operation, Jon works on the budgetary and design sides, working with the developers to determine the most efficient and cost-effective ways to build their project. Moore serves as the construction superintendent. Together, they’re building their company by building projects like Washington Place and their own apartment development. Maggie Laureto said the latter has been a goal for a long time. They believe the Lofts apartment project on State Street will help provide affordable housing in the downtown Traverse City area, which continues to be an ongoing challenge. “We are leasing already. They’ll be available June 2018.”

Moore added that they’ve been able to incorporate innovative ideas like using pre-cast hollow-core concrete sections with a steel structure. The concrete sections are set onto the steel beams, which are then welded together. “It’s a wave of the future. It brings the cost down. We did the first steel-and-precast building in the state, in Grand Rapids,” he said.

Jon Laureto said the project is emblematic of the trend toward downtown living and reminiscent of the work they did downstate. “It’s an example of how the culture is changing. There’s more demand downtown than outside the city (in) Grand Rapids, and the same here,” he said.

“People want to walk to the coffeeshop and mingle — all levels of income and all ages, from milliennials to empty-nesters. Downtown is becoming more attractive, more complex.” And REI Construction is on top of that trend, sometimes literally.