CU Grow Helps All Renovation Construction Become a Strong Minority-Owned Developer in Harlem

Editor's note:

A version of this story was originally published by CU Grow.

August 13, 2021

In his desire to take his business to the next level, Allan Suarez, a principal, and chief operations officer for All Renovation Construction (AR Construction), joined the second cohort of the CU Grow Vendor Development Program in 2018. Through CU Grow, a Columbia University Facilities and Operations initiative designed to help minority-, women- and locally owned (MWL) firms expand their businesses, Suarez gained an expansive set of tools that have helped his business open doors and build capacity.

Using a SWOT analysis, a strategic planning technique that helps businesses identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, Suarez realized that he had an opportunity to expand his company by being both an owner and contractor for a project. For the development of One St. Nicholas Park, a newly completed nine-story mixed-use building in Central Harlem, AR Construction was an equity stakeholder along with the development team, and a significant support in the pre-construction phase and general contractor selection.

CU Grow also motivated Suarez to be more active and less apprehensive about maintaining his network of contacts. In a meeting with CU Grow partner Turner Construction, Suarez recalls a procurement officer telling him to stay in touch and stay engaged, he took that wisdom to heart, posting that advice on his office wall and realizing that the right kind of networking shows decision-makers that he is engaged and proactive in his business.

AR Construction performed a fit-out of a Columbia retail space on 2905 Broadway.

After graduating from CU Grow in December 2018, AR Construction has stayed in close contact with his fellow CU Grow alums. After being awarded his first Columbia project to renovate a bundle of five graduate student apartments, Suarez sub-contracted post-construction cleanup to CU Grow alum, Diane Moore, from CleanWork Solutions, and has continued to hire her firm for her services including for the One St. Nicholas Park project. AR Construction has secured additional projects with the university, including a fit-out of retail space on Broadway, for which he hired CU Grow alumni Muhammad Javed of New JD General Construction Inc. to complete the sidewalk masonry scope of work for the commercial renovation, demonstrating the value of the CU Grow network and relationships. 

CU Grow also connects participants to other resources throughout the university. Eager to keep learning and growing, Suarez has continued developing his company by participating in the Columbia Community Business Program run by the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center and Columbia Business School.

“The CU Grow program gave me the confidence to explore the opportunities in our network to make the development at One St. Nicholas Park happen,” said Suarez.  “Through this ground-up project, we have been able to hire locally and establish ourselves as a strong minority-owned developer in Harlem.” 

The CU Grow program matches participants with experienced coaches from the university and partner organizations based on the specific needs of the business and the coach’s areas of expertise. Over the course of the nine-month program, the coaches lead the business owners through a curriculum conceived by the Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS) designed to help the participants develop a three-year growth plan while also creating opportunities to expand their professional networks and to learn about bid opportunities at Columbia and other large partner institutions. AR Construction is one of 43 firms who have completed the program since its inception. Learn more at CU Grow.