Upside-down cars strewn on the beach. The wreckage of a boardwalk – the heart of Long Beach, New York – floating in pieces out to sea.
When Steve Kenepp went to Long Beach after Hurricane Sandy laid a path of destruction in 2012, he went to reconstruct a boardwalk. What he found was that some projects are more than brick and mortar. He saw that architecture can become the heart and soul of a community. This boardwalk is where people walk their lives hand-in-hand with loved ones. It’s where memories are walked and love is held in hands. Where the ocean washes in healing waves, taking cares and tension out with the tide.
“It was more the human side of things, not just concrete on a wooden deck,” Kenepp said. The original boardwalk contained concrete piers and was wood on wood. Kenepp’s company provided the concrete substrate for the wood deck to mount to, and some areas also were converted to solid concrete planks.
For over 50 years, Kenepp’s Middleburg company, Architectural Precast Innovations Inc., has been making high-end custom architectural precast concrete building components for the commercial construction market.
For the Long Beach boardwalk, Architectural Precast Innovations supplied the pier caps, substructure planks and textured solid planks.
“It seems incredible that we make precast concrete in a cornfield in Snyder County and ship them to New York City and all over the Mid-Atlantic region,” Kenepp said.
Architectural Precast Innovations had been renting a crane to handle loads for shipment, but buying it would save on costs. SEDA-Council of Governments’ Business Finance staff helped Kenepp secure loans this year to buy the crane, halving Kenepp’s monthly payments.
His business will save $66,000 a year because of SEDA-COG’s funding partnership.
The $325,000 project was made possible by a $150,000 SEDA-COG EDA-RLF loan and a $100,000 ARC-RLF loan.
SEDA-COG helped Kenepp navigate the financing challenges, especially as a new business owner. He became owner and president of Architectural Precast Innovations last year after working there for over 20 years.
“SEDA-COG helped me realize many programs, loans, grants and support designed to help small businesses succeed. SEDA-COG’s friendly and knowledgeable staff recently helped me navigate the loan process to secure funding for an equipment purchase needed for our operations,” Kenepp said. “The loan secured through SEDA-COG allowed us to reduce our monthly payment by 50 percent, freeing up capital for other operational expenses.”
The modular structures are made from concrete, and come together quickly. Kenepp’s team did an entire building in New Jersey within nine days.
Kenepp describes the process like a big puzzle. “We basically make pieces of buildings and ship to the job site to assemble it,” he said. They pour the concrete into molds which create the form of the pieces. They all have internal steel reinforcement.
The structures last over 50 years, are fully recyclable, and are fire-resistant. “They’re perfect for college dorms; kids can’t destroy our product,” Kenepp said, grinning. “They don’t burn down.”
Although it’s concrete, they make the pieces mimic other building materials and use different colors. Another of his favorite projects was creating a parking garage near Little Falls, New Jersey. They cast brick into the job, and hand-laid tile mosaics into its base. Initially, some folks were against the project, but as they watched it come together, they held parties on its deck.
“It looked really neat because of the brick pattern and the different shapes used to create the look of the garage,” Kenepp said.
While the ruins left by Hurricane Sandy are forever stamped into his memory, one of the key benefits of precast concrete is that it’s made to withstand weather phenomena like hurricanes and tornadoes.
“When all other stick-built frames are gone, the precast buildings will still be there,” Kenepp said.
When they finished the last piece of the Long Beach boardwalk in fall 2013, over 200 people watched and celebrated, he said.
“That was pretty cool. The people that lived up there, that boardwalk was everything to them,” Kenepp said.
SEDA-COG’s Business Finance staff can help businesses and farms find the loan that’s right for them. Contact SEDA-COG today to start a partnership at 570-524-4491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.