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25th Anniversary | From Gunfire to Blackhawk Helicopters

Estes Front And Side Cropped


Not every client asks you if you are carrying a gun. In Bailey Edward’s early days, one did. To keep our business afloat, we took on some challenging projects in some neighborhoods and buildings that weren’t the safest. Now we are doing work for the military who is keeping America safe. It’s a weird twist of events.

Once we were going to help a church renovate their retail establishment into a new church and as Robin parked his car he heard a pop-pop-pop sound and saw a guy standing in the middle of the street shooting an empty car across the way. Robin then understood why everyone was laying down on the sidewalk. As he slid down in the driver’s seat, the pastor motioned him indoors. Falling short of giving Robin the dope slap, the client then proceeded to ban Robin from the neighborhood. We were idealistic but naïve and needed a wee bit more street smarts.

Squatters were another part of the fun. While working on reviving some beautiful old, but empty buildings across the City of Chicago, we often were one apartment behind squatters as we measured out the existing conditions. It was like hearing ghosts or very large mice in a real hurry. One time they were more concerned with what we were chasing them away from, their stash, than who we were. We took a break and let them clear out peacefully. Finally, we had developed some street smarts.

One of the most heart rending moments for me was measuring an elderly gentleman’s apartment to resolve code violations. He was kind and gracious as he walked me around holding his one light source, a bare bulb in an orange construction light. He lived in abject poverty yet he maintained manners that any mother would be proud to have taught their son.

We still don’t have to carry a gun but we are designing buildings that house soldiers, guns, artillery and Blackhawk helicopters. This work, the Kankakee National Guard Readiness Center and Army Aviation Support Facility, is our biggest project to date at over $50 million. It’s a long way from where we started 25 years ago.

We have always wanted to transform lives through our architecture, no matter the community or location. It’s why we do so much public work. To help people. Our work is more glamorous now, but I still think of the pastor who protected Robin, the squatters who lived day-to-day and my gentleman friend. They taught us to understand that everyone, no matter their situation, deserves the best that we can offer and should be treated with kindness and grace.