Walbridge and Orion Kick-Off Partnership with $28M Project


Plans are under way for the first joint project between Detroit-based Walbridge and Orion in Grand Rapids. The two contractors finalized a construction partnership earlier this month, it was announced Wednesday.

The project, the construction of Arena Place Development in downtown Grand Rapids, is set to break ground in early 2014. The plan includes a $28-million, two-building project, including a 50,000-square-foot office structure and an 80-unit apartment complex. 

With the new agreement, the two companies will team up on construction opportunities when factors such as project location, size, and complexity call for increased capacity or combining complementary capabilities. Kirk Frownfelter, general manager of West Michigan for Walbridge, says he anticipates that the firms will pursue four or five opportunities together in the new year.

While projects in West Michigan will be the duo’s main focus, “if it makes sense to pursue a project outside of (the region), we’ll definitely do it,” Frownfelter says.

The companies are also pursing work at Grand Valley State University and are talking about a project in Lansing. “Our firms think alike and are seamless in the way we pursue projects,” Frownfelter says. “It’s no different than if we were working with a sister office. We combine resources and pool teams.

“It gives both of us a little larger depth to pull from to satisfy our clients.”

About 10 people from the two companies will work on the Area Place Development project, for which they plan to hire 250 workers (about 120 will be on-site at any given time.)

Frownfelter says that the firms already have a strong relationship. John Boonstra, CEO of Orion Construction, and Randy Abdallah, executive vice president of Walbridge, worked together in the early 1990s at the Detroit office of London, Ontario-based EllisDon.