BIT Apartment Project Breaks Ground in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – The Oct. 9, 2012 groundbreaking of the $42 million Cortona at Forest Park Apartments symbolizes a creative team approach to reinvesting in St. Louis to energize building projects and create jobs. Developer Balke Brown Transwestern, Washington D.C.-based AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (BIT), the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and PRIDE Labor/Management united to launch construction of the first-of-its-genre Cortona. AFL-CIO BIT is providing equity capital for the project, plowing union pension funds back into the community to create Balke Brown’s new Euro-style living concept and hundreds of union construction jobs.
“We are excited to again be investing in the St. Louis community, said Kevin McCarthy, president of PNC Realty Investors, the investment advisor to the BIT. “By bringing together what St. Louis has in abundance – a great development concept and the added value of union labor – we believe Cortona will prove to be a sound investment for our pension plan participants.”
Over the past two decades, AFL-CIO-sponsored real estate funds have invested more than $500 million in union pension funds to launch projects in metro St. Louis.
“St. Louis labor and management pension trustees and AFL-CIO-sponsored funds are an unheralded asset to our community,” said Jim LaMantia, executive director of PRIDE, the pioneering St. Louis construction labor-management organization founded 40 years ago. “They have teamed on countless occasions to fund local job-generating construction projects that not only provide a good return on investment, but add to the quality of life in St. Louis.”
According to Steve Brown, managing development principal, Cortona will become the first apartment community in metro St. Louis to address the unique lifestyle preferences of Generation Y. The five-story apartment will emerge from a five-acre site at The Highlands mixed use development across from Forest Park. Cortona will be a gated community hosting approximately 280 apartments – 70% one-bedroom models and 30% two-bedroom plans – enlivened by a lush, one-quarter-acre Euro-resort with a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse, a multi-level saltwater swimming pool, and an outdoor kitchen plus multiple lounging areas and cabanas, gardens and a pavilion with fire ring. The clubhouse will have a demonstration kitchen, a professionally staffed, fully equipped wellness spa and a multi-purpose gathering space, among other amenities.
“We have been reaching out to businesses and working quietly behind the scenes to advance economic prosperity for all in our region,” said Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer, St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. “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.”
The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust is an open-end commingled core commercial real estate fund with $3 billion in gross assets as of June 30, 2012. Since beginning operations in 1988, the BIT has invested over $4 billion for the development and acquisition of more than 160 office, retail, multifamily, hotel, warehouse, and mixed use properties across the country. The BIT is managed by PNC Bank, National Association (PNC Bank), as Trustee. PNC Realty Investors (PRI) provides investment advisory services to the BIT. The AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation provides marketing, investor relations, and labor relations services.
PRIDE, founded in 1972, is an acronym for Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development & Employment.   PRIDE works to maintain harmony and build cooperation among the key players in the St. Louis building industry. The organization promotes construction productivity, cost-effective construction, safe and drug-free job sites and work force training and development. Find out more at www.prideconstruction.org.
The St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO (www.stlouisbuildingconstructiontrades.org) represents 20 union construction trades in St. Louis and is dedicated to advancing the highest levels of skill, safety and productivity in the construction industry. Its members invest more than $30 million annually in training the St. Louis construction workforce of the future. 
Founded in 1979, Balke Brown Transwestern is one of the largest commercial real estate firms in metro St. Louis, with a portfolio of 56 projects totaling more than 6.4 million square feet. The firm employs 50 people who provide brokerage, investment, property management and development services in the office, industrial, medical and multi-family sectors.