Keeping Up With the Pace
Streamline USA Construction & Mgmt. takes a bite out of the Big Apple
Few places move as fast as New York City or demand more from the general contractors working there. If you’re going to build in the Big Apple, you have to be able to keep up. Streamline USA Construction & Mgmt. (Streamline) is made to match the pace of the city it calls home.
“We’re always proud that we operate in the greatest and most difficult city in the world,” says Eric Ortense, Streamline’s CEO and one of its founders. “Working here, you deal with so many outside forces, and we manage to overcome them all. Our relationships with our clients, architects, designers and owners’ representatives are ironclad.”
Streamline’s three founders, Eric, Chief Operating Officer Liam Treanor and Chief Financial Officer Orin Zelenak share a history of competition as well as cooperation.
“I started Streamline as a carpenter in 2008,” Eric says. “I grew the company as big as I could without losing my hair. At the time, Liam had his own business and we were competitors, bidding against each other all the time. We decided to team up and make one great company.
“Liam knew I was a good salesman and he hated sales, so I offered to do the sales and estimating while he ran operations,” Eric says. “At the same time, my millwork operator, Orin, approached me to partner up. I was growing too fast to keep up, so the three of us met and decided to partner up. Orin brought the millwork shop into the partnership.”
The Shark Tank
Once the three men joined forces, the redesigned Streamline USA started growing by leaps and bounds. Today, the company works in both the residential and commercial sectors, with a portfolio that includes hospitality, medium to large restaurants, Broadway retail spaces, corporate offices, townhouses, design-build apartments and custom millwork projects.
“We do 90 percent of our work in Manhattan,” Eric says. “We’re in the shark tank over here. To do anything, you have to have a very high insurance rating, a minimum $10 million insurance umbrella. It’s a requirement that keeps out the mom-and-pops. The buildings are very strict on what they allow when you come in to work on their property.”
The Manhattan market is so difficult and demanding that Eric, Liam and Orin thought the daily struggles navigating it would make a compelling reality television show. After producing a trailer for the show, titled “Renovate USA: New York City,” they pitched the idea to Bravo. The network loved the idea, Eric says, but didn’t have room on its programming schedule for the show at the time, and Eric and his partners haven’t had the bandwidth to continue trying to sell it.
Make It There
Given how busy Streamline is, it’s easy to see where all their time goes. The company earned $22 million in revenue last year and is on pace to match that this year. It has done work in some of Manhattan’s landmark locations for a diverse portfolio of clients, including hospitality projects like Grand Ole Opry City Stage, Rock & Reilly’s in the Marriott Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, Boqueria restaurant, SUGARCANE raw bar grill, Momofuku Ko, Günter Seeger NY and Mexicue. Streamline USA has worked on the corporate offices of Indeed and Kith as well as retail locations for Urban Outfitters and Free People.
“We’re comfortable as a $20 million per year operation,” Eric says. “We’re not looking to grow much beyond that. We’re currently about 50/50 between residential and commercial. Liam was more commercial, I was more residential. The relationships we have on both sides, the ones we brought into the business, have grown at the same pace.
“We like to say we’re not mom-and-pop and we’re not Structure Tone—we’re somewhere in the middle. You get that personal attention from the principals if you’re our client, but have all the resources you need.”
Up for a Challenge
A good example of what makes the life of a general contractor in New York City challenging is Streamline’s 2017 experience building a flagship restaurant for the London-based Burger & Lobster. The location is in the base-floor tunnel connecting 42nd and 43rd Streets, in the 55-story Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park and above the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
“We walked into raw space with concrete floors and ceiling and delivered the finished product in 20 weeks,” Eric says. “Needless to say, we’ve overcome a lot of challenges in our day. We’ll work through the night if necessary to get the job done.” Set above the theater, working through the night was out of the question for this project, as Streamline had to contend with many noise constraints during the build-out.
Streamline’s crew had to battle unrelenting vehicle and pedestrian traffic and all the negative forces of Times Square. The project requirements included securing special insurance, monitoring noise during play hours, providing special security, and cooperating with local labor unions that operate the building’s systems. Strict building rules made the project much more complicated than a normal build-out.
Roots of Success
Streamline has grown dramatically over the last 10 years, as proven by landing a project as large and demanding as the Burger & Lobster job. There are now about 70 team members working under the Streamline USA umbrella as well as a large stable of subcontractors.
“Streamline exists and lives because of our subcontractors,” Eric says. “They are an awesome team of specialists. The Blue Book Network has done a great job helping us get more subcontractors to expand our business.”
Eric also credits the leadership team’s roots in carpentry and tradition of building longstanding client relationships for Streamline’s success.
“The relationships I’ve made over the years with architects are very valuable,” Eric says. “And the owners’ representatives we work for are the best in the business. These relationships give us the opportunity to capitalize on and build our portfolio. Another of our biggest selling points is our fast-paced schedules, which we can achieve because of our in-house carpentry and labor. We have in-house, certified site superintendents. Liam is hands-on on all projects. I run estimating, with a team of four estimators.”
“Now, Streamline is like a World Cup soccer team,” Eric adds with a laugh. “The management deals with all the strategies, to keep our players on the field to play the game. Everyone thinks about every move until it’s made. We follow up with the client to make sure everything was done right and that they’re happy. Every day’s a challenge, but we have the team to handle it.”