East Village Construction Update

East Village Construction Update

Home construction has begun for Phase 2 of East Village. This project is located in Downingtown at the border of Caln Township off Woodbine Road and across the street from Bishop Shanahan High School. D.L. Howell and Howell Kline Surveying have worked closely with Southdown Homes creating permit plans and staking out buildings for 44 single-family dwellings, 12 twins, and 7 townhouse buildings. Three entrance drives will be utilized to enter the development from Woodbine Road. Here are a few photos from the construction in progress.

A Personal Fortune

A Personal Fortune

This January, while we all said “Good Bye” (and perhaps “Good Riddance”) to 2021 and look forward to 2022, I celebrated a personal milestone. It was 35 years ago last week that I began my career as a land surveyor. The year was 1987. I had recently graduated with an Associates in Applied Sciences (AAS) in Forestry from that most illustrious of institutions, Paul Smith’s College (nestled among the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State). I had hoped to land a job with the Natural Park Service, but they had a 10-year waiting list at the time. I had considered putting my tree cutting skills to work for a paper company in Maine, but they were only offering $10,000 annual wages.

So, at the advice of a former classmate, I reworked my resume to emphasize the one surveying class that I had taken in college. I loaded all of my worldly possessions into my 1980 Toyota Corolla hatchback and made for Morristown, NJ, where I accepted a position as a “Rod Man” with Richard F. Smith (not to be confused with Richard F. Kline), earning a whopping $6.50 per hour!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was in love. Not just with my girlfriend, Jessica (who is now my wife of 30 years), but with the profession of land surveying. Being an outdoors enthusiast, I got to solve puzzles outside at a different site every day (if the weather was nice). On rainy & snowy days, I learned new skills in the office, such as drafting and practical applications for Geometry & Trigonometry.

A lot has happened since then. During the recession of the early 1990s, Jessica “encouraged me” to return to college and earn my BS in Surveying because many states (including New Jersey) require that to be eligible to apply for the PLS exam. So, the two newlyweds liquidated all of their assets (sold a car and their bar-be-que grill), and Tom enrolled at The Ohio State University.

Fast forward to 2015. As the world found itself emerging from yet another recession, armed with licenses to perform land surveys in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, I accepted a position as an “Assistant Survey Manager” with Howell Kline Surveying. Instead of being the “Green Horn,” you might say that I am now the elder statesman of the company. That makes me sound old, but I don’t feel old. It helps if I try not to think that I’ve been surveying longer than many of my coworkers have been alive.

I’ve learned lots of things along the way: I’ve gotten so good at finding boundary markers that I swear I can almost smell them. One of the latest tricks I’ve learned is to keep dog biscuits in my pocket because you never know when you’re going to meet a canine who thinks you’re a bad guy. Meanwhile, Jessica has gotten quite adept at finding those tiny little deer ticks on my backside each night. Finally, land surveying is not a profession for those who aspire to be millionaires. But it’s true that you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do. I have been, and continue to be, so fortunate.

Not Your Father’s Engineering Firm!

Not Your Father’s Engineering Firm!

That’s right, I’ll say it. D.L. Howell & Associates is not what people envision when they think of a typical engineering company – and that is a good thing! Why should you pay attention? Because we’re hiring – BIGTIME. Gone are the days of lined up drafting tables, white shirts, black ties, pocket protectors and running endless pipe calculations for years on end (don’t be that guy…). 

We are on an all-out mission to find quality folks looking for long-term, well-paying, stable career positions in a setting that doesn’t put people in a corner – we’re not about that. What’s the catch, you ask? You’ll need to have a healthy thirst for challenge, possess the desire to lead others and… enjoy a fast pace. Interested? Read on…

Why we are different…

The Environment

Sure our corporate culture is casual, we are in the construction industry after all. But we dress it up when we need to. As civil engineers and designers, we work with the full spectrum of customers, from individual homeowners and site contractors to real estate investment trusts. It is essential that our employees be able to adjust how they communicate based on a client’s level of experience with the regulatory world. I love being able to say that our team is exceptionally well versed in adapting to different clientele. You’re probably wondering why that’s important. It is important because we are also dead set on getting our team members technically proficient and interacting with clientele as soon as they are comfortable to do so. That’s not the case with most firms. As a matter of fact, at some firms, you could find yourself in a situation where you rarely even see a client for years. 

The Opportunity 

“The opportunity for advancement”. Many firms may say it, their job ads will state it over and over, but be careful. Most of the time, firms are just telling prospective employees what they want to hear. Now, if there is one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it is that here at DL Howell, we are eager to run people up the chain of command – so long as they are up for it. “Eager” is an understatement. We are dying to advance capable team members into positions where they answer to nobody but their clients and themselves. Stop and think about that for just a second – it is a big deal and not an opportunity you’ll see often. All you need is drive, determination and a desire to run your own show. Not quite technically there? No problem, we’ll help get you there. Demonstrate you can handle the task at hand and you’re on your way.  

The People 

Like to laugh? Well we do plenty of that here, and our team members get all the credit for that! I can’t imagine working in an environment that was so uptight that you couldn’t have a little fun. The work we do as civil engineers and designers comes with great responsibility. We are literally charged with ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the general public – super serious stuff. And because we operate continually with such focus, we also need some downtime to decompress. Our team gets this done and it is absolutely essential to our ability to do what we do every day.  

So, back to the hiring thing. If the above glimpse into what we do here interests you or you think it may interest someone you know, call the office and ask for me. I’d love to chat about how we can help you and how you can help us.  

Andrew DeFonzo, P.E.
Director of Engineering

The Yards at Malvern Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Yards at Malvern Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The Yards at Malvern, formerly Frazer Lanes, officially opened last month and all those involved with the project were invited to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The final completion of the project started almost five years ago, and DL Howell was involved from the very beginning. GMH Communities, the property owner, initially approached DL Howell to prepare sketches for a 5-story apartment building with an attached parking garage on the properties occupied by the Norcini Trailer Park and Frazer Lanes Bowling Alley. The plan’s development required changes to the Township Zoning and a new district was created to allow for the use. DL Howell worked closely with the project team including Riley Riper Hollin and Colagreco Attorneys, Lessard Design Group Architects, Stuart and Associates Landscape Architects, and Traffic Planning & Design Traffic Engineers to refine the site layout and renderings after review and approval from East Whiteland Township Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Once approved, the plan moved into the construction phase, where D.L. Howell worked with Elford, Inc. General Contractors and their team of professionals. Construction continued for the next two years, and despite some challenges with sitework, highway improvement, utilities and a worldwide pandemic, the project finished right on schedule.

The outcome of all this hard work and dedication is a beautiful apartment building with all the modern amenities one could imagine. The complex offers a variety of apartment size options that provide studios, one and two-bedroom units, and deluxe suites. There is an open courtyard loaded with amenities that offer relaxation and entertainment. The building is complete with meeting spaces, a golf simulator, an exercise room, a pet grooming room, and a bar area. D.L. Howell was extremely honored to be a part of the development team and recognized for our efforts.

For more information on The Yards at Malvern visit www.yardsatmalvern.com

Eye to the Future

Eye to the Future

Everywhere I turn it seems as if I read about people leaving the workforce. I’ve heard it termed “The Great Resignation.” While I try to come to terms with what factors are driving the millions of workers to quit their jobs in the last 12 months, the field of Land Surveying has been dealing with a talent void for many years.

During the recession of 2008, quite a few seasoned surveyors left the industry, taking valuable knowledge and experience with them. This loss of talent was compounded by the fact that the surveying industry offers a very limited number of formal training opportunities. In other words, for a while, there has been no talent pipeline unless you created it yourself.

In the last couple of years here at Howell Kline, we have pivoted who we are targeting for new team members, and it is beginning to pay dividends. We are proud to have team members from all backgrounds, from mechanical engineers to schoolteachers. The resounding response we receive is that now they come to work every day enjoying what they do. We encourage the idea of training, educating, and promoting from within, so we most often hire the entry-level position of Junior Field Technician. The qualifications for this position are minimal, yet the opportunity for advancement is excellent.

Every new employee is mentored by a more experienced member of our team. Beyond learning skills and increasing knowledge, every individual at every level needs to be invested in improving themselves and the company. When the entire team buys in, training starts to turn into culture.

Technical skills and processes are certainly a high priority. People need to learn the right way to assemble project data, understand job site safety, and care for the equipment. Furthermore, they also need to understand why customers value a relationship with us and what each customer expects from every interaction with Howell Kline. These intangible assets are unique to our brand and critical to earning customer loyalty.

In addition to our own weekly mentoring meetings that cover surveying fundamentals, we are committed supporters of the Certified Survey Technician (CST) program administered by the National Society of Professional Surveyors. Each year a group of our newest team members travel to the annual survey conference for a study course and sit for the CST test. Not only is gaining certification a metric for measuring technical competence, but it also provides our team members with a sense of achievement as they are recognized for their accomplishments. We believe that we are gaining a competitive advantage by encouraging all technicians to become certified.

This growth and depth are achieved not by licenses and certifications alone, but by people–valued people who are given opportunities to excel and contribute to the success of the organization and the industry. This is how we do things, and we believe this will set us apart in an ever-changing and more complex labor future.

Why So Blue?

Why So Blue?

For many of us, when someone says there’s traffic on the Blue Route, we know exactly what they’re referring to. The highway isn’t referred to as the Mid-County Expressway, the Veterans Memorial Highway (its official name), or even 476. It’s just known simply as The Blue Route. But why is this 20-mile stretch of highway called the Blue Route? Well, read on to get the answer to a question you didn’t even ask.

The thought of a road along the current day route dates back to as early as 1929. Urban sprawl from Philadelphia was in its infancy, so nothing really came of it until President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956. This act authorized $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. The act was basically the jumping off point for the creation of all the highways we see today. In turn, this Act transferred responsibility for the expressway to the then-Pennsylvania Department of Highways.

It was at this time that the Pennsylvania Department of Highways drew up three possible routes to connect Interstate 476 (later known as the Northeast Extension) to I-95 just north of the City of Chester. The three options were a Red (later yellow) Route, a Green Route, and a Blue Route. The Red Route was the eastern-most path and cut through high-population areas along the western section of Springfield Township. The Green Route was the western-most path which would have taken the route West of Media. The Blue Route basically split the difference.

Eventually, after much deliberation, the Red Route was deemed to be too expensive and would affect many densely populated areas. The Green Route, although the cheapest alternative, would provide the least amount of service or relief for traffic. The Blue Route was selected as the most practical alignment. To say the construction of the highway would see it’s fair share of difficulties would be an understatement. The project would encounter many obstacles along the way, including environmental impact concerns, land acquisition delays, conflicts with local municipalities, and a budget crisis that would drag the construction out for years. The Pennsylvania Department of Highways broke ground on the project in 1966, but the highway wouldn’t be fully complete and connected from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-95 until 1991. Compared to that timeline, D.L. Howell gets plans approved at lightning speed.

So, the Blue Route is called the Blue Route simply because it was a color someone chose to outline a path on a conceptual highway plan. A nice, simple answer to a project that was anything but during its development and construction.

Photo by Wikipedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/I-476_Blue_Route_Map.jpg