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For MDM Builders, Revitalizing Downtown is a Family Affair

By Eric Richardson
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011, at 02:06PM

MDM Builders' Tommy, Michael, Moshe, and David Librush stand in front of the National City Lofts, The Chapman and the Great Republic Lofts, three buildings they were involved in opening.

The economic downturn famously killed Downtown’s residential boom, taking a massive toll on the area’s construction industry. In spite of that, family-owned construction company MDM Builders opened two projects.

And these weren’t just any two projects: the Spring Arcade and Jewelry Trades were two historic properties that had spent years stalled in the adaptive reuse process. For Michael Librush, complicated historic projects like these bring a special sense of accomplishment.

“It just feels good,” he says. “It feels good to know that so many people tried and couldn’t do it and you came and did it with hard work and making sure that things are done the Michael joined his father Moshe and brother David, 25, in the family business once he finished high school. Together, they have been involved in completing nine residential adaptive-reuse buildings Downtown, totalling 696 units. Three more projects are under construction, two residential and one intended to house creative office space.

The company is a true family business. Father Moshe is the President and CEO, while sons Michael, 22, and David, 25, carry the title Vice President. All three manage projects that the company has in-progress.

Along the way, the company has shown a knack for opening projects that had long been stalled in the conversion process.

The Haas Building had been in the residential conversion process for four years before MDM was brought on board. “We got it open in under a year—ten months,” says Michael. “We were able to find all the problems and all the corners that people had cut.” It is a similar story with the Spring Arcade and Jewelry Trades buildings, both of which opened in 2010. The first conversion permits for those two projects were taken out in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

While the company does all types of construction, Downtown’s historic structures are special. “We do new construction and we do retail spaces, but we have a special thing for these historic buildings,” he explains. “It’s passion. You come in and you see these beautiful details and lobbies, and really you can see how differently they were building back then.”

“It’s definitely a challenge, but if you spend enough time thinking about how to do it the right way you can get it done.”

Michael and David joined their father in business in 2005.“We basically walked into his experience,” Michael says. “He taught us everything.”

At first, Michael was a little vague about telling clients his age. “I couldn’t tell them 20 or 21—it was unprofessional,” he explains. “But when I say ‘I’m in my twenties’...” Now the three are passing on some of that experience to Tommy, 19, the latest Librush to join the family trade.

The economic downturn forced MDM to scale back its crew, but Michael thinks the market is starting to turn. “Starting in 2011, it feels so much better,” he says. “People see that things are starting to move.”

The company has just recently started work on the Chester Williams Building, an 88-unit conversion at 5th and Broadway, and the Winston, a 43-unit project at 117 E. Winston. It expects to complete both in 2012.

Michael and David are also partners in Silo, a vodka bar that will open this Spring on the ground floor of the Haas Building. “This is exciting. It’s our first project as owners,” Michael says. “We want to show that we’re not just here for the work.”

Having multiple job sites in the same neighborhood gives MDM plenty of chance to get to know the buildings around them and imagine the possibilities.

Michael sees plenty of promise on Downtown’s streets, and hopes to see even more change in the years to come. “Not even by me! It can be someone else [doing the work], I just want it to get done.”

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