It took three years of planning, revisions and discussions with city leaders before Freije Engineered Solutions Co. broke ground May 21 on its new headquarters in the Lawrence Trade District.
When discussions began, the trades district, which is the area bordered by I-465 to the west, Pendleton Pike to the south, one block east of Franklin Road to the east, and the CSX railroad to the north, was little more than an idea.
“It’s a highly visionary conversation, if you can imagine,” Freije Chief Operating Officer Jasen Coldiron said. “You do get to see some artist renderings. It’s a lot of vision-casting. You spend time talking with people about what the future might look like. It’s a pretty fun and interesting process to go through, and the finished product never looks like what the original vision looked like, verbatim.”
Freije, which provides construction and mission critical support services, is based in Fishers and was seeking to expand. It did not want to move too far from Hamilton County, where most of its leadership team lives. Freije worked with a consultant from Browning, an Indianapolis-based real estate developer, who suggested looking at Lawrence, a city considering the creation of a trades district. Freije officials decided it was a good fit.
As Freije designed its new headquarters, which incorporates corporate and warehouse space and a training center, the COVID-19 pandemic caused its leaders to revisit the scope of the project several times. Suddenly, they had to consider the impact on building size if employees are able to work remotely and what that could mean for the future of the project.
“There were definitely moments of doubt,” Coldiron said. “But (Freije President) Mike Webster would say, ‘We are looking at the next 50 years, not this last 12 months.’”
Freije remained committed to the project for two major reasons.
First, a bigger building made sense because there are aspects of the business that need a centralized hub.
“We have about 100 hundred service vehicles on the road, and that requires a pretty heavy return-to-base option,” Coldiron said. “The ability to grab tools (is important). We have a bunch of specialty tools that we keep in a tool crib.”
Second, Freije is a supporter of the mission of the trades district. The investment that Freije is making in the project is more than $6 million. The company and the city are aligned in the need to promote the benefits of skilled trade jobs. Coldiron has spoken at skilled trades programs around the Indianapolis area, and Lawrence offers the company a foothold to deepen those connections.
“Being surrounded by other skilled trades and folks that are on the same path as us, I feel like there is a gravitational pull that will bring all of those guys and gals together and build a community that is pushing in the same direction,” Coldiron said.
Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier said he is excited to see Freije become an anchor of the Lawrence Trades District.
“The redevelopment of this site along the Pendleton Pike corridor by a company like Freije Engineered Solutions Co., who is committed to promoting education and job growth within the City of Lawrence, is the right fit,” Collier said.
Construction on the new headquarters, one of the first in the new trades district, is expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
Who will be joining Freije in the Trades District?
City of Lawrence officials expect create a trade hub in the Lawrence Trades District, of which Frieje is a founding member. Mission Mechanical, Midwest Remediation and Amerifence are other founding members of what the city hopes will be a significant piece of its culture moving forward.
“The entire Lawrence community is excited for this major step in making the Lawrence Trades District a reality,” said Brad Klopfenstein, president of the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.