With Savarino out, Rodriguez Construction steps up on Housing Authority projects

The sudden closure of Savarino Companies last month has created a host of dilemmas for construction projects across Western New York.

For one local firm, it created something else: an opportunity.

Rodriguez Construction, an 11-year-old minority-owned construction firm, has stepped in to fill a void on kitchen and bath remodeling effort at five Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority properties valued at more than $27 million.

The company is taking over the full job instead of serving as a partner or subcontractor to Savarino.

“It’s a tough industry, and a tough business,” company CEO Luis Rodriguez Jr. said. “But it’s exciting that we’re able to showcase our work and build confidence in what we’re doing in the community.”

Rodriguez, a veteran civil engineer and contractor who is also a Buffalo native, worked at LPCiminelli for 10 years, including on projects like the expansion of Erie County Medical Center and renovations to the former New Era Field, now Highmark Stadium.

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Savarino and Rodriguez – which is not connected to BMHA Chair David Rodriguez – had been hired to complete apartment renovations at the F.A. Sedita, Stuyvesant, LBJ, Msgr. Geary and 515 Clinton apartments. The modernization project includes overhauls to kitchens and bathrooms, as well as the replacement of elevators. It’s been underway for almost two years, and is expected to continue into mid-2025.

Luis Rodriguez

Luis Rodriguez, founder and chief executive officer of Rodriguez Construction Group.

The work on the five communities had been split between the two firms, with Savarino taking on the largest portion of the overall project.

But then Savarino announced abruptly on Aug. 22 that it would be shutting down operations and laying off 30 employees, after sustaining more than $3.3 million in losses and being unable to obtain insurance for more than $110 million in new jobs once it was dismissed from a state-funded SUNY construction project.

That left a host of construction and development projects in limbo, including BMHA’s. The BMHA terminated its contract with Savarino on Aug. 31.

“The termination from BMHA was not unexpected and was done with our acquiescence,” Savarino Companies CEO Samuel Savarino said Friday. “We worked with them to make sure that the transition going forward would be smooth and would not result in any adverse effects on the projects.”

Rodriguez, since it had already been properly hired according to BMHA procedures, was able to step in and take up the slack, even hiring several former Savarino employees who lost their jobs. The BMHA board on Thursday approved a $652,000 contract amendment with Rodriguez to expand the scope of its services. The firm’s original contract had been for $250,000, but will now be $902,800 in total.

“Rodriguez Construction Group has demonstrated it has the skills and capacity to take over the additional work on these ongoing modernization efforts,” said BMHA Executive Director Gillian D. Brown. “We are very pleased the Rodriguez team is willing and able to step up and keep these multiphase projects on track.”

Rodriguez-Buffalo Niagara Convention Center

The exterior of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center is getting a facelift, a project led by Rodriguez Construction Group.

The contract marks another major step for Rodriguez Construction.

According to the company’s website, Rodriguez has managed more than $200 million in site work, renovation and other construction projects for clients including ACV Auctions, Child & Family Services, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Crowley Webb, Great Lakes Orthopedics, People Inc., Roswell Park and University at Buffalo.

Most recently, it’s handling the facade renovation of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, where work is nearly complete, and will wrap up in the next week or two.

“We’ve got a lot of projects in the works,” Rodriguez said. “In the coming years, you’ll see some more high-profile jobs that we’re working on.”

Northland Central

Rodriguez Construction Group renovated offices for its own use inside the Northland Central complex.

The firm was previously located on Seneca Street in Larkinville but outgrew that space and moved its headquarters in late 2020 to 8,500 square feet in the Northland Central building at 683 Northland Ave., where it shares the vast building with the Western New York Workforce Training Center and Buffalo Manufacturing Works. It employs 75, and offers general construction, construction management, site work, demolition and post-construction cleanup.

Meanwhile, Savarino said it continues to work on efforts to transition its remaining projects.

For its redevelopment of a fire-damaged industrial property on 1 Howell St. in Buffalo into a 50-unit apartment building, on the banks of the Scajaquada Creek, and for its redevelopment of the former Welch’s Building in Westfield into 46 apartments and retail space, “we are actively speaking with a few potential entities that would either join with us or take the primary role in taking on those projects,” Savarino said.

With the DL&W Terminal at Canalside in Buffalo, which is owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, “we continue to work with them to advance the project as much as we can,” he added, noting that the building was just listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Savarino was responsible for repairing, restoring and building out the second floor into a waterfront music venue with a public market.

In Lockport, where Savarino had planned to redevelop the historic F&M Building into 30 apartments, “we are not proceeding ourselves with that,” he said. “But we have heard there are others picking up where we left off with that, and we’ve been as helpful as we can.”

And in Batavia, where its Ellicott Station mixed-use project is 75% completed but now suspended, “we continue to work with all the concerned parties to come up with a workable plan going forward.”

Reach Jonathan D. Epstein at (716) 849-4478 or jepstein@buffnews.com.

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