Partnership. Performance. Promise.

Keeley Construction
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

As one of Chicago’s most respected design-build firms, Keeley Construction, Inc. prides itself on taking the vision of its clients and transforming them into reality. The 29 employee-strong company serves an array of markets, from the food industry to office space, commercial and industrial buildings for projects from $20,000 to massive, multi-million-dollar buildings for some of the world’s best-known Fortune 500 companies.
Detail-oriented and leaving nothing to chance, Keeley Construction strives to make every project run smoothly, whether it is performing construction management, renovations, new construction, sustainability, or green building. It works closely with customers, designers, owners, tradespeople, and others to ensure projects are completed on time, within budget, and with no surprises.

“We provide construction management on job sites,” Sean Keeley, Director of Business Development and the site manager. “We don’t have anyone doing the physical construction as far as tradesmen. We are the project managers who are the people running the budget, buying or ordering material, making sure the project is staying on budget, coordinating drawings, and everything like that.”

Sean grew up in the business. He officially came on board almost five years ago and has seen the shift in the market.

Keeley Construction is one of Chicago’s premier design-build companies, and new and repeat clients come to it for its diverse project capabilities, decades of experience, and overall outstanding performance.

“A lot of people see us and our signs and think we only do big buildings – which is about seventy percent of our business – but we also do a lot of work as far as renovations, redevelopment of properties, and things like that,” says Keeley. “While new construction development is the main part of our business, we also do small projects in the hundred-thousand-dollar range.”

The company is active in new construction, corporate interiors, education, faith-based projects, and many other works, but one of the biggest sectors today is for e-commerce customers. In recent years, the Internet has not only changed the way we communicate, but the way we purchase services and goods. Warehouses were once grey, drab, and uninspiring look-alike box-type buildings that were relegated to far-off industrial areas. That is all changing, thanks to consumer demand, the need for logistics, and giants like Amazon and Walmart selling everything imaginable online. As strip malls decline and disappear, massive state-of-the-art warehousing facilities are growing, and Keeley Construction is there to help facilitate the expansion.

“E-commerce is really big,” states Keeley. “No one is going to retail buildings necessarily like malls to buy stuff, but going online. The benefit for us is, industrial is basically what the new retail is as far as e-commerce, and these giant companies need more storage space.” As a result of changing needs, warehouses are being built taller than before; concrete slabs are engineered to be longer-lasting to extend the life of the structure, and ceilings and roofs are higher, so more product can be stored in the building.

Another growing sector is cold storage and food processing. The company has worked for clients such as Ruprecht Meats, Vanee Foods, Pure’s Foods, and many others. It even has project managers who focus specifically on cold storage, food processing, and the institutional food markets. These are not simple industrial buildings with four walls, a roof, and a concrete floor. Cold storage and food processing require a great deal of expertise involving freezers, coolers, blast freezers, cranes and conveyors, back-up generators, massive loading docks, thick insulated concrete slabs, production space, offices, washrooms, and more. Some projects require glycol heating systems in the floors.

The 170,000-square-foot project for Preferred Freezer involved factors like a sixty-five-foot ceiling height and unique freezer floor system. The LEED Gold project was awarded the NAIOP ‘Industrial Redevelopment of the Year’ award and required Keeley Construction to work with extremely tight tolerances and detailing in the freezer storage areas.

“Cold storage and food processing is something we specialize in,” says Keeley, “and we set ourselves apart in that sector because of the complexities that go into projects as far as design and processes. We are able to provide much more value for that than your typical standard buildings.”

Professionalism and unmatched client service have defined the Keeley Construction way since 1978 when the company was founded. Prior to creating the company bearing his name, Bill Keeley was a garbage truck driver who entered the construction arena through carpentry.

Jobs were small at first, as Bill began taking on modest tasks, like repairing screen doors for homeowners. In a short time, he grew connections with others in the industry and moved from carpentry to running the family-owned business. A few years later, with about forty carpenters, electricians, and other trades on his payroll, Bill had taken the small company and built it into one of the most admired design-build firms in the greater Chicago area.

For about the first twenty years, Keeley Construction focused on redeveloping old, previously unusable buildings on the south side of Chicago, where the company’s office was located. This led to bigger projects, including residential homes, office bays, and warehouses. Recognizing a change in the marketplace and wanting to take the company into another direction, Bill and his team relocated the business to the suburb of Villa Park, Illinois, entering more industrial markets, mainly new, massive warehouse-type buildings, while maintaining the redevelopment and renovation arm of the company.

The business is promoted through a combination of digital and print advertising and some social media; however, one of Keeley’s biggest drivers is the company’s big yellow signs seen on projects on which it is working in the Chicagoland area.

“I think that’s what actually gets us the most recognition, someone driving by and seeing a building going up with our name on it,” states Keeley. “A lot of construction is still face-to-face.”

In the Chicago area, competition for skilled workers is very intense, but Keeley Construction has a reputation for attracting and retaining qualified staff. Some have been with the company for ten to twenty years or even longer. “Our people is what drives the company. We are a company built on reputation, and our people carry that.” Five Keeley family members are currently with the company, including Sean’s mother and father, ensuring the Keeley name will be around for many years to come.



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