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June 22, 2010 7:00 AM CDT

St. Louis Masonry Center Renovation


Shown is the newly expanded and renovated Masonry Center in St. Louis, home to the Mason Contractors Association of St. Louis and the Masonry Institute of St. Louis.
Shown is the newly expanded and renovated Masonry Center in St. Louis, home to the Mason Contractors Association of St. Louis and the Masonry Institute of St. Louis.

With the nation’s financial markets on the verge of collapse, panic and fear were sweeping the nation in the fall of 2008. St. Louis’s construction industry was especially hard hit. Numerous projects were postponed, and the industry began hemorrhaging jobs.

These were the bleak conditions confronting the leadership of the St. Louis Mason Contractors Association as they wrestled with a decision on their pending plans for the major expansion and renovation of the Masonry Center, their Richmond Heights headquarters at 1429 S. Big Bend.

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, but also it hadn’t been upgraded in 25 years 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.

But with the local construction industry spiraling downward, the MCA’s officers knew they couldn’t play it safe and put the project on the shelf. Too much was at stake. “We felt we owed it to the St. Louis masonry industry to go ahead with our plans and provide jobs,” says Richard F. Frisch Jr., president of the MCA and owner of Frisch Masonry in Kirkwood.

“It would have been easy to put the project on hold and wait until things got better,” says Jeffrey D. Schmidt, MCA VP and owner of JDS Masonry in St. Charles. “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, 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 persons each. The expansion also includes additional office space, a larger boardroom, a larger library/study room, and modern restrooms.

“I think the real story is that 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,” concluded David A. Gillick, MCA 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.”

Originally published in Masonry magazine.

About the Author

Gregg Hodgson is a Miller Beach, Ind.-based freelance writer who covers a variety of business topics.


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