Expansion to California
BEGINNING IN THE EARLY 1970S, SUNDT’S EXPANSION into California led to the acquisition of several large contractors in the state.
C.R. Fedrick, Inc., Joins Sundt
Not content to remain solely an Arizona contractor, Sundt expanded into California, beginning in 1972 with the acquisition of C.R. Fedrick, Inc., (CRF) based in Novato, which is just north of San Francisco. The decision to make CRF a wholly owned subsidiary of Sundt came after the two firms had several successful joint ventures together. CRF was operated by C.R. “Dick” Fedrick. He and his father founded the firm as Action Electric in 1948. In 1959, Dick bought his father’s interest in the company and renamed it C.R. Fedrick, Inc.
During its 37 years as part of the Sundt family of companies, CRF did almost $1 billion of construction (measured in un-indexed contract amounts). Many of the projects were some of the most difficult and challenging ever completed by Sundt. The office specialized in large-diameter pipeline work for water and sewerage systems. It also did associated pumping facilities, storage tanks, fuel and petroleum piping. And during the 1990s, when fi ber optics systems were being installed nationwide, CRF did many projects throughout the West, mainly in California, but also in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Hawaii and Guam. It did many water conveyance projects for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy. Other clients included many municipalities, county and state governments. Other than highly specialized items of work, most of the work was self performed.
CRF’s largest contract was for the Mohave siphon for the California Department of Water Resources. The $46.2 million project, which provides water for thirsty Southern California, consisted of three 12-foot-diameter steel pipes, each 11,400 feet long, set side-by-side in a trench. Each section of pipe was 60 feet long and weighed 61,000 pounds.
Throughout most of its history, the Novato operation was led by Dick Fedrick. Dick had a rich and colorful career in construction. Dick and the Novato office were always the masters of innovation. What appeared, at times, as risky work to others always spurred the creation of innovative construction means, methods and techniques that proved to be very profitable for Sundt. When Dick retired in 2007, he had been in the construction industry for 65 years, having started out working on the Los Alamos project in New Mexico during World War II, which coincidentally was built by Sundt. He passed away in 2009, just about the time Sundt closed C.R. Fedrick, Inc. due to a shortage of water resource project opportunities in California.
Northern California Expansion
In 1982 Sundt broke into the Northern California building scene through a joint venture with Nielson Vasko Earl (NVE) to build the Public Employees Retirement System Building in Sacramento. The $60 million building of reinforced concrete has more than 1 million square feet of office space, in addition to a large parking garage. The building was named the “Best Architectural Concrete Project of the Year” by the California State AGC Building Chapter. Soon after this, Sundt and NVE joint ventured the $33 million Clark County Detention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When NVE formed an open shop subsidiary, called New Merit Construction, in 1984, Earl became its leader. Several years later this company broke away from its parent, becoming Earl Construction Company. Earl and Sundt then became joint venture partners to build the 400 R Street office building and the 500 R Street parking garage in Sacramento, the Spring House Apartments in Pleasanton, and the Reflections Apartments in Fresno.
When NVE went out of business in 1989, Sundt moved into the vacuum by opening an office of its own in Sacramento. Its first major project was construction of Engineering Unit #2 on the campus of the University of California, Davis. The $26 million project included a 10,000-square-foot clean room and over 30 laboratories. Several more projects soon followed, including jobs on the University of California, Davis campus and the medical school in Sacramento.
Sundt Acquires Earl Construction
In 1995 Sundt acquired Earl Construction Company and Bob Earl stayed on to manage the subsidiary until he retired in 2004. Under his leadership Sundt’s presence in Northern California continued to grow. It became a major player in the assisted living market, which provides facilities for elderly citizens who are no longer able to live on their own. The company also ventured into the construction of facilities for wineries located north of San Francisco. The largest of these was a major project for the wellknown Ferrari-Carano Winery in Healdsburg. Sundt’s crews expanded the crushing facility on an extremely tight schedule so as not to disrupt the winery’s operations. Earl also helped the R.H. Phillips Winery in Esparto increase its capacity by adding fermentation tanks and expanding its bottle storage facilities.
As the new century began, Earl successfully secured two large retail projects, Plaza Escuela and Olympia Place, both in Walnut Creek. Earl was renamed Sundt Construction, Northern California at this time to draw the Sundt business units into a more close-knit family.
Southern California’s Ninteman Construction Joins Sundt
San Diego-based Ninteman Construction Co. traces its roots back to 1947, when Lambert J. Ninteman established the company in Riverside. In 1954, he received a contract from the Catholic Diocese of San Diego to construct the Immaculata Chapel and other structures for the College for Men at the University of San Diego (USD). Lambert asked his younger brother, Vincent, to join him as a partner because of his experience with managing multi-milliondollar projects. Because of this work, the company relocated to San Diego a few years later.
San Diego was a growing city at the time, and Ninteman Construction played an important role in its development. In addition to the USD work, which lasted 13 years, the company built many churches, schools and other buildings. In 1970, Dean Ninteman joined the firm. He was Lambert and Vincent’s nephew, and when they retired a few years later he became president and ran the company very successfully for many years. Under his leadership Ninteman built several projects for American Assets, as well as the McMahan Corporate Headquarters, Great American Bank parking structure, Fifth and Laurel office building, and several major retail projects, including Del Mar Plaza and Plaza Bonita.
During the early 1980s Sundt unsuccessfully pursued several projects with Ninteman as a joint venture partner. In 1989, when Dean was nearing retirement age, he approached Sundt about a buyout. Sundt was agreeable, and shortly thereafter Ninteman Construction Co. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Sundt. Dean Ninteman stayed on until the early 1990s to help with the transition.
The company continued to grow along with San Diego, building such well known projects as a $21 million addition to the Malcolm A. Love Library on the campus of San Diego State University, a 975-space parking garage for the University of San Diego, the $14 million headquarters building for Insurance Company of the West in Del Mar, and several new buildings at Point Loma Nazarene University. Ninteman Construction also built the Neurosciences Institute at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. The $16 million project was completed in 1995. It involved very complex concrete work and the work of over 100 subcontractors. It won three awards for construction excellence. Notable medical projects during the 1990s included the Mary Birch Hospital for Women and the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Office Building.
Other significant contracts included the two-building General Instrument project, completed in 1997. The $32 million contract was Ninteman’s largest to date. The company also built the Balboa Naval Hospital for the U.S. Navy, as well as buildings at Camp Pendleton and on Coronado Island.
At the turn of the century, Ninteman transformed the landmark Hotel El Cortez into apartments. Originally constructed in 1927, the 16-story hotel underwent a massive modernization in the 1950s, but fell onto hard times and was vacant two decades before the conversion project was undertaken. Ninteman completely restored the historic landmark to its original design, a process that involved salvaging many building components and recreating elaborate exterior ornamentation that was stripped from the El Cortez during its modernization. Another major project during this era was Treo@Kettner, a 26-story, 328-unit condominium tower in the heart of San Diego. Ninteman was the construction manager for this $57 million development, which covers a full city block and includes parking for 441 vehicles.
Like Earl Construction, its sister company in Northern California, Ninteman was renamed Sundt Construction in 2000 to bring all of the Sundt business units together under one brand.