There are opportunities in this industry for companies of all sizes and disciplines. Some turn concrete and steel into skyscrapers. Others create the mosaic that is our transportation system. Still others that specialize in taking down the old to make room for the new. And those whose focus is the preservation of the old. Advanced Masonry Restoration (AMR) has found its niche as a preservationist.
In the 1980s, Tom Kromroy was running his own asbestos removal business. Tim Miller, whose background was in masonry, began working for Tom in 1989. Tom sold the asbestos company in the late 1990s and he and Tim went into partnership. They purchased the assets of a masonry business owned by Tim’s brother-in-law. Once they completed that company’s existing projects, they went to work building the new company. In just a few years, AMR has created a portfolio that includes several high profile, award-winning projects.
Repairing and Restoring Older Buildings
Repairing and restoring the facades of older buildings, some dating back to the late 19th century, can present many unique challenges. Is the building on the Minnesota or Federal Register of Historic Places? What were the original materials used on the building? Are those or similar materials still available? Will any special glazes or caulking be needed? How closely can the original brick, stone, marble, or terra cotta be matched to create a seamless blend of new and existing? Workers at AMR are true craftsmen, with an impressive number of years of experience among them. There isn’t a material, style of work, or potential problem at least one of them hasn’t encountered before.
While many AMR projects have had unusual aspects, two in particular stand out. The Midtown Exchange in south Minneapolis was an extraordinary undertaking. Due not so much to intricacies in the work required but because of the building’s exceptional size. And in order to stay on schedule and meet the project’s spring 2006 deadline. The project required working 10 hour days, 7 days a week – outside – through the winter. The size and shape of the Coughlin Campanile, or bell tower, at South Dakota State University, Brookings, presented a different kind of challenge. At 167 feet straight up, with a fairly smooth surface and no window openings or ledges, setting scaffolding and lifts and ensuring worker safety required extensive pre-planning.
Hard-working, reliable employees are the foundation of any successful company and AMR is no exception. The current office staff of eight includes Tim’s brothers, Tom and Bob, and several of the craftsmen can trace their connection to the Miller family back to employment with the Miller brothers’ father more than 20 years ago. Because AMR’s commissions are primarily exterior projects, the number of jobsite workers peaks between April 1 and November 30, during the best weather for outdoor working conditions.
On average, 45 workers are employed by AMR. Because the type of work performed by AMR requires not only specific skills and a great deal of patience but also an artistic sense, finding the next generation of workers, who have a desire to learn from the current workers, is something Tom and Tim have already seriously considered. They are involved in an apprenticeship program through Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local #1 to help find and train their future workforce.
The safety of all AMR workers, whether working on scaffolding halfway up the front of a building or tuckpointing near a foundation, is always at the forefront of job planning. Tom and Tim are proud of the fact that there has not been a work-related injury to an AMR employee in more than two years.
The AMR team has already been the recipient of several well-deserved awards from industry associations, architectural institutes, and preservation societies. Current projects include Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota. AMR workers will be involved in the planned restructuring of the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis. The 150th anniversary of Minnesota’s statehood is approaching, and there are many significant historic buildings around the state still in existence. Many buildings need restoration. There won’t be a lack of projects for the skilled craftsmen at AMR any time soon.