50 Years of Building
Family-owned Hawley Construction Corp. inspires a stronger community in Danbury
Just about anywhere you look in Connecticut—especially in the Danbury area—you’ll find projects built by Hawley Construction Corp. It’s easy to do because the firm has built more than 2.2 million square feet of commercial and medical properties. Now in its 50th year of business—and led by the second generation of the Hawley family—the firm has built a little of everything, including retail, commercial, institutional and medical spaces.
Hawley Construction is one of three operating arms of its parent company, The Hawley Companies—a diverse commercial building and real estate development organization that also includes Hawley Management and Hawley Sweeping. About 70 percent of Hawley Construction’s work is performed for other facility developers and owners. The remaining 30 percent is done for Hawley Management, which controls 19 properties consisting of more than 1 million square feet of retail, commercial, institutional and medical space, says Gary Hawley, President of Hawley Construction.
Gary became President in 1979, replacing his father and company founder, Ervie S. Hawley Jr., who continued to work at the family business. “My father mostly built homes under The Hawley Companies’ umbrella. When I took it over, we went strictly to commercial; I really enjoy the commercial side of construction. For the first 10 years or so, I was pretty much on my own with my father in the background,” Gary says.
He shares additional insights about the beginnings of Hawley Construction. “My brother David joined the company after completing his education, and today handles the property management work. Charlie Van Zanten came on as Hawley Construction’s first non-family employee in 1991, and now serves as Vice President,” he says.
Two years ago, Ervie passed away at 89 years of age, surrounded by his loved ones. Known as “Bud” to his family and friends, this man with humble roots as a farmer and milkman spent his entire life in Danbury. His ambitious career journey led to the construction of more than 150 residences in his hometown and the development of over 1 million square feet of commercial space. A respected philanthropist and pillar of his community, this soft-spoken family patriarch inspired the high standards that Gary, David and the other leaders at The Hawley Companies try to follow.
Nothing but the Facts
Hawley Construction operates as a general contractor and construction manager. The firm does most of its work in Fairfield County and handles a diverse range of projects, from municipal and state facilities to private projects for building owners and real estate developers. “We look out for the interests of our clients to provide them with the best buildings that money can buy,” Gary says. “We think like owners because we are owners ourselves, and we use our decades of experience to provide on-time and cost-effective solutions for all of our clients’ building and remodeling needs.”
Hawley Construction works two ways, first in at-risk construction management. When an owner decides to share the risks, rewards and responsibilities of the construction process, the construction firm is happy to work with the owner in an “at-risk” capacity, Charlie says. In this role, Hawley Construction is actively and directly responsible for the execution of all field work. Consequently, the contractor can offer owners a guaranteed maximum price (GMP), which can be a very attractive selling point on bids.
Second, the firm offers traditional construction management services. In this capacity, Hawley Construction operates in a purely consulting, fee-based construction management role. The team advises owners throughout the design and construction process on how to maximize savings and minimize problems and how to get the building operational as soon as possible. The firm also works with architects and engineers to recommend the most cost-effective systems and materials that best suit the project’s building needs while assisting with subcontractor selection.
Throughout the construction process, with either project delivery method, Hawley Construction will ensure the project is being built according to plans and specifications and that no corners are being cut, Charlie says. “We’re a diversified company with a goal of saving our clients both time and money. It is the best way to grow our business and theirs,” he adds.
A Diverse Project Portfolio
Hawley Construction strives for a diversification in its projects, Gary says, adding that he’s proud of every project the firm does—from the smallest remodeling job for a medical clinic trying to provide affordable services to the less fortunate to Danbury Police Department’s $35 million headquarters on Main Street. His company served as the construction manager for the City of Danbury on the latter project.
“Our goal is to complete a job and hand the owner the keys to a perfect project,” Gary says. “Because of this, we do a lot of repeat business with our clients.”
Charlie adds, “We enjoy solving problems and doing the job as if it were our own. When we are working for other people, we still think of the project as if we’re doing it for ourselves with the same care and dedication.”
The firm’s most recently completed projects in Danbury include a new $6.45 million, 12,000-square-foot police station for Western Connecticut State University, and in the Berkshire Shopping Center, a new freestanding Starbucks, a 24,000-square-foot Sierra Trading Post, and a 26,000-square-foot T. J. Maxx.
And in Middletown, Connecticut, at Middlesex Community College, the firm finished a cafeteria-type addition with meeting rooms and dining areas in 2015 that will be used for fundraising events.
For the past 15 years or so, Hawley Construction has been building medical office facilities. Hawley Management actually owns five of the buildings, with a new 20,000-square-foot project on the drawing board for late this year.
In 2019, Hawley Construction will complete a new T.J. Maxx store in New Milford, Connecticut. “This is our second T.J. Maxx,” Charlie says. “We own the first facility that just opened in August, and this second project is for another owner, and from the ground up. For the last project, the retailer was moving into a 26,000-square-foot existing space. These big-box stores have very specific criteria for facility design; adhering to their remodel guide involved a lot of demolition to fit their prototype. It is always a challenge to remodel an existing store to accommodate a new theme.”
But, Gary says, when projects are successful, the firm can build up its reputation with owners, developers and retailers directly. The Hawley Companies is also in the unique position of directly owning certain properties. This enables the enterprise to develop relationships with tenants, which provides additional opportunities to earn construction business.
Currently, Hawley is renovating the St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut. The project entails adding a new steeple, enlarging the front of the church by creating a vestibule, and building a “Garden of Peace.” The team will also install ceremonial bells that have been donated to honor those impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, which took place just a mile away from the church in December 2012.
“It is an intricate project with a lot of structural elements that have to be addressed,” Gary says. “For one, we thought there was a steel column in one area, but it turned out to be supported only by masonry. So, we have to determine another way to support the structure while maintaining its architectural integrity.”
He adds, “The church will also be installing a new organ in the choir loft area. However, the new instrument is quite heavy, so we need to make sure the floor strength is adequate and there is enough space. We have to schedule all project activities around church services, funerals, weddings and any other church activities, which we are happy to do. We’re doing this $4.7 million project as a construction manager-at-risk with a GMP.”
Taking Care of Others
The Hawley Companies are very involved in charitable organizations, says Gary, who was inspired by his father’s support of charities. “Dad just enjoyed helping people; his generous spirit was contagious,” Gary says.
One altruistic cause that is close to Gary’s heart is the Western Connecticut Health Network Cancer Golf Tournament. He has served as co-chairman of the annual event and says the community is fortunate to have a hospital of this caliber.
“Everybody uses the hospital at some point in their life, so it is easy to support it,” he says. “I’ve co-chaired the golf tournament for about seven years. At our most recent event in June, the total raised was $340,000, which goes directly to the local hospital,” Gary says. Before this role, he served as co-chair of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce Annual Golf Classic event.
The Hawley organization is also a major sponsor of the Amber Room Run From the Sun 5K. This annual fundraiser supports Ann’s Place, a community organization in Danbury offering free cancer support services to those living with cancer and their loved ones. Six employees from Hawley Construction participated in this year’s August race.
The memory of Gary’s father lives on not just through charitable acts, but also through business leadership. “We try to follow his business practices,” Gary says. “Now, our third generation is here working for the company, including my son Matthew, who is involved in the day-to-day operations.”
He concludes, “Our organization strives to take care of people—be it staff, clients or community members. That was dad’s way.”