Strong partnerships are the key to success for Gamma International. After 37 years in the curtain wall industry and participating in several high-profile projects worldwide, Elliot Kracko retired, but his partners weren’t quite ready to let him go. So in 2007, he joined them when they purchased Gamma International, a 40-year-old company that provides curtain wall, recladding and window wall services in the eastern United States and Canada. The company is headquartered in Miami and has locations in New York City, Quebec, Montreal and Toronto.
Before acquiring Gamma, Kracko was chairman of the board and majority owner of Glassalum International, a company that provides similar services as Gamma. He and his management team decided to leave that firm after it was acquired. “They were going to start from scratch and we found out about Gamma, which had a fairly large facility in Quebec and had a presence in Miami,” he explains. “The partners were all from Miami, and they approached me. They thought I was too relaxed, so they brought me back.”
The relationship the management team has with each other sets the company apart. The owners have worked together since 1984. “Gamma is the only major company [in the industry] whose team of owners and partners have worked together as a management team for such a long period of time and who now still lead every aspect of the firm,” spokesman Tony Katz adds.
At least one owner in the company participates in each project. “It’s a benefit to the developer and it’s a very major help to the whole [project] from start to finish,” Kracko says, adding that a project usually takes 30 months to complete. “Having a partner involved, a client can call and say, ‘I spoke with the owner.’ That’s big business.”
That approach helped Gamma grow significantly. The largest projects Gamma did before Kracko and his team took over were valued between $12 million and $15 million. Currently, the biggest project it is working on is 3 Columbus Circle in New York City, which is valued at approximately $38 million and is considered one of New York City’s most difficult reclads.
Currently, it is recladding 3 Columbus Circle, which encompasses 240,000 square feet and has 29 floors. It is scheduled to be completed this summer. “There, the Gamma team is changing the building from a dated masonry structure to an iconic modern glass structure on one of the city’s premier street corners,” the company says. “Logistical challenges due to location require overcoming complications for delivery, load and installation.
“An additional complication is that the exterior masonry of this older brick building was not well maintained over time and, as such, does not now present a sufficiently sturdy anchor for the new [facility],” the company continues. “Gamma has taken the unusual step of designing pockets in the exterior masonry for anchoring back to the main structure of the building.”
“Gamma had a good reputation before our management team was in place, but the company was reluctant to get involved in the New York City market because of union complexities,” he says. However, Kracko and his partners have a lot of experience in that market and excellent relations with ironworkers, and they were able to bring Gamma into the region successfully.
“Over the last 25 years, Kracko and his team – dating back to their Glassalum days – have completed some of the most recognized buildings in the real estate industry for some of the most recognized owners and developers,” Gamma says. “The buildings include virtually every high-rise in New York City’s Times Square, [as well as the] Conde Nast headquarters – one of the first green buildings – [and] the AOL Time Warner Building; the [Embassy of the United States of America in Ottawa]; The Marquis Miami – [the city’s] tallest building at 67 stories – the Bell Atlantic Tower in Philadelphia and Boston’s 111 Huntington.
“Today, Canada is quite busy,” Kracko adds. “New York has started to open up a bit to certain types of jobs and in south Florida, Gamma remains the standard of quality.”
New construction opportunities have decreased substantially because of the weak economy, so a majority of Gamma’s projects involve recladding, Kracko says. “There is no construction money for new [projects],” he explains. “Owners instead take down a building, retrofit it and reclad the exterior, redo the lobbies and elevators, and make a totally renovated project. That’s really where the market has changed.”
Over the next two years, the New York City market is going to see between 10 to 15 recladding projects – which will equal to about $200 million to $300 million – because a majority of the existing buildings in the city are more than 50 years old and economic conditions cannot support new construction, Kracko explains.
To meet that demand, the company introduced “The Gamma Total Reclad Service” package in March. An industry first, this package bundles six essential services that are normally contracted out to separate subcontractors. This helps the firm complete projects 30 to 35 percent faster, and save 25 to 30 percent on costs by combining all the services in-house under one roof. The services in the package include sidewalk bridges, scaffolding, rigging, demolition, abatement and waterproofing. Kracko predicts it will be able to take advantage of these opportunities.
“In the last 25 years, the Gamma leadership has completed more reclad projects in New York City and other cities on the eastern seaboard than any other company,” the company notes. Two of the most high profile recladding projects the company has done in New York City are the Chrysler East Building and the Trump International Hotel and Tower. Gamma also provides bomb-blast resistant curtain walls, window walls and storefronts.