Plant Construction Executive Grows Hope

By Sharon Simonson

The City of Hope Real Estate and Construction Council has selected Craig Allison, co-general partner of Plant Construction Co., as this year’s winner of its Spirit of Life Award. Since 1986, the Real Estate and Construction Council has raised more than $6 million for the City of Hope. Previous award recipients include Hamid Moghadam, chairman and chief executive for industrial property company Prologis Inc., and Constance Moore, president and chief executive of apartment company BRE Properties Inc. Both companies are based in San Francisco, as is Plant.

Local Business & Lifestyle PortraitsAllison, Plant president from 2002 to 2011, has overseen work to develop and renovate some of San Francisco’s signature and historic buildings including the 1898 Ferry Building, Market Street’s iconic Flood Building and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where an historic facade by Willis Polk was joined with a new structure. The company is currently working on the Ahwahnee Hotel, an historic landmark, at Yosemite National Park.

City of Hope is an independent biomedical research, treatment and education center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Located northeast of Los Angeles, the City of Hope specializes in bringing the latest medical therapies from the lab to the patient and bringing the compelling outcomes of real life to the lab.

Founded in 1913, City of Hope includes the Helford Clinical Research Hospital, multiple research institutions, and the Graduate School of Biological Sciences.

A native Californian, Allison was trained as an architect with undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He began with Plant in 1981 as a project manager and became a principal in 1990. He has served with David Plant as general partner of Plant Construction Co. L.P. since the business was re-organized as a partnership in 1999.

What makes Plant Construction unique?

Our specialty is projects that require more than the normal amount of management, attention and involvement from the contractor. Because we are located in San Francisco and there isn’t much land, we have done a lot of renovation and a certain amount of new construction.

The clients we work for primarily need and want more from their contractors than is typical—museums, schools, real estate developers—people who are not in the construction business and don’t have or want a large, permanent construction staff. We specialize in customers rather than buildings, and the customers we have taken up do historic renovations. There is a fair amount of technical knowledge that is needed for that work. There are standards for how those buildings have to be treated and many times the clients want to secure tax credits. We know how to work with those agencies, and there are technical issues with exterior restoration and safety issues unique to existing buildings.

With an old building you have to have a corporate culture that enables you to think on your feet to adapt because once you start, it is always different from what you expect, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. That might be the biggest piece of expertise in historic renovation—not insisting that things be the way you thought they were going to be at the beginning, because you will get nowhere.

What are some of Plant’s current projects?

We have [restoration] projects in SoMa [South of Market Street in San Francisco] at [TMG Partners’] 680 Folsom and [Wilson Meany’s] 140 New Montgomery. Also the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry for the University of the Pacific at 155 Fifth St. Those are three of the largest projects right now, and those are clients we do a lot of work for. We are also doing pre-construction for the new Berkeley Art Museum [& Pacific Film Archive].

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