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Fields of opportunity

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  • | 6:19 a.m. May 10, 2013
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Here's something you haven't heard in a while: Developers are planning to build residential condo towers in Southwest Florida.

And Bruce Fields is just the man to build them.

Manhattan Construction recently named Fields, 53, senior vice president and division manager for South Florida. Manhattan acquired Naples-based Kraft Construction in 2008, which was one of the biggest condo builders in the region during the boom.

“I've been around long enough to see when a market is about to take off,” says Fields, a 30-year veteran of the construction business. The rebounding economic cycle is boosting residential sales and prices, resulting in declining inventories of condos.

Fields is no stranger to big projects. He recently oversaw the construction of the $250 million George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. Five U.S. presidents gathered there a few weeks ago to dedicate the center. “That's on my personal highlight reel,” says Fields. George W. Bush and Laura Bush were frequent visitors to the job site throughout construction, posing for photos and bantering with the workers, he says.

The key to completing the Bush Center, Fields explains, was assembling the right people. “Every project is built by a team, and my strength is building teams,” says Fields, who oversaw a staff of 30 supervisors and 600 workers.

“My management style is more like a coach,” Fields says. He insists on two things from his team: respect for one another and top performance. “There was a long period of time when we worked seven days a week,” says the Louisiana native. “You suck it up and you do it.”

The pressure to complete the Bush project was intense, but the team Fields assembled were veterans with decades in construction. “I like to call them bad-ass builders,” Fields says. “These guys thrive in that environment.”

One challenge of the Bush project was that the surrounding 23-acre park had to be completed six months in advance so it would look more grown when the center opened. Workers had to take care to finish construction without disturbing the park.

What's more, many details inside the Bush Center were unique. For example, the woodwork was made of Texas pecan, which was hard to find in such quantity. And an auditorium had to be built underground, below Texas limestone floors. “We created an exact replica of the Oval Office and the Rose Garden,” Fields says.

But Fields cut his teeth early in his career on large urban office and residential towers in places such as Chicago and Dallas. He's built hospitals, airports, shopping centers and mega-churches.

Currently in Fort Myers, Manhattan is building student housing at Florida Gulf Coast University, a connector to a future second runway at Southwest Florida International Airport and upgrading the stadium for the Minnesota Twins baseball team. This is setting the stage for future growth, Fields says. “You can see the infrastructure really pick up steam,” he says.


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