A creative approach to creating union construction jobs is paying off for the construction trades in Missouri. The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust is using pension funds to build its “crown jewel project,” Cortona at Forest Park Apartments.
This $45 million project will be a five-story, 280-unit, multi-family complex that includes what developers refer to as a "Euro resort." The resort area will include a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse, multi-level saltwater swimming pool, outdoor kitchen, outdoor pavilion with a fire ring and multiple lounging areas and cabanas. More importantly to the region's workers, it is a union-funded project that will create jobs and stimulate the local economy:
Developer Balke Brown Transwestern; Washington, D.C.-based AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust; the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO; and PRIDE Labor/Management all worked together to make the project a reality. the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust is providing equity capital for the project, putting union pension funds back into the community to fund the building of the Cortona.
At the same time, these pension funds, once they’re put back into building projects, are providing hundreds of union construction jobs. During the last 20 years, real estate funds sponsored by the AFL-CIO have invested more than $500 million in union pension dollars to launch construction projects in the St. Louis area.
“This approach has paid off in St. Louis. It’s help to rebuild Missouri,” said Jim LaMantia, executive director of PRIDE Labor/Management
Creative uses of pension money to spur development when local governments can not or will not engage are a necessity. This collective of contractors, developers, and unions is providing the jobs that are so badly needed.
“The unions are investing in St. Louis, something that puts people to work. It’s been a strong relationship, and all it’s doing is getting stronger.”Ground broke on the Cortona at Forest Park Apartments in early October. Now, the AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust is looking for new land to develop. According to Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary and treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council,
"We have been reaching out to businesses and working quietly behind the scenes to advance economic prosperity for all in our region. We aren’t waiting for credit markets to come back, but are actively partnering with civic and business leaders who share our vision of selling St. Louis as a great place to live, build and grow a business.”