Although he has spent nearly four decades in the real estate and construction industries, Abraham S. Bolsky still hasn't lost his fascination with the grittier aspects of construction.
This was obvious as he talked with a reporter at the site of the Ronald Reagan State Office Building at 3rd and Spring streets in downtown Los Angeles. His firm, Tishman Construction Corp. of California, is construction manager for the $106-million, 825,000-square-foot project.
Bolsky, president of the Los Angeles-based unit of Tishman Realty & Construction Co. Inc., pointed out old storage tanks and foundation footings that were being uncovered by earth-moving equipment.
Even while interviewed about his company's 40 years in the Southland, he was checking with an assistant about the scheduling of steel for the twin towers that make up the massive project.
Civil Engineer Degree
Bolsky, who is also executive vice president of the New York-based parent firm, comes across as a no-nonsense construction man who hates to waste time and wants to make sure that the project stays on schedule.
Tishman's 1948 entry in Southland real estate development predated by eight years the arrival of Bolsky and his family. The native New Yorker was graduated from City College of New York in 1949 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering.
A licensed professional engineer, Abe Bolsky joined New York-based Tishman Realty & Construction Co. Inc. in 1954 and was transferred to California in 1958.
The Los Angeles firm, based at 10960 Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood, is one of four main regional Tishman offices: The others are New York-based Tishman Construction Corp. of New York, Chicago-based Tishman Construction Corp. of Illinois and Tishman Construction Corp. of Florida, Orlando.
Helped Transform L.A.
"Our first apartment was in the Mid-Wilshire area, around Normandie Avenue and 6th Street," he recalled. "It was within easy walking distance to our buildings in the 3400 block of Wilshire Boulevard. At one time, we owned nine buildings in the area near the Ambassador Hotel."
The Tishman firm, now 90 years old, came to Los Angeles just in time to help transform Los Angeles into a major city, with the construction of office towers in the Wilshire corridor from Mid-Wilshire to Westwood Village.
Bolsky has directed the construction of more than 50 major projects in the Los Angeles area, including the twin theme towers in Century City, the Broadway Plaza complex in downtown Los Angeles and the 48-story Wells Fargo Bank building downtown.
Nationally, the Tishman firm has been the construction manager for New York City's World Trade Center, John Hancock Center in Chicago and Epcot Center near Orlando, Fla.
"We're the only firm in the construction industry with our own research and technology unit, Tishman Research, founded in 1959," Bolsky said. "It provides in-house technical support to us and also serves a diverse public- and private-sector clientele that includes government agencies, utilities, product manufacturers and building owners and tenants."
Bolsky points to just a few of the many innovations developed by Tishman Realty & Construction and Tishman Research down through the years:
"We pioneered modern construction management, we developed the accessible acoustic grid ceiling system that is standard in offices everywhere, we were the first--in 1946--to construct a fully air-conditioned building on Park Avenue in New York; on the World Trade Center job in New York, we developed a drywall system for elevator shafts and utility cores which has become an industry standard, and we set a standard with our Infracon automatic lighting controls, which reduce energy costs by turning lights on and off according to room occupancy."
Although the well-known Tishman logo is the letter "T" formed by two I-beams, considering the company's history in the past decade or so an alternate logo could just as well be the Phoenix, the legendary bird that symbolizes immortality by rising from the ashes of its own funeral pyre.
"The original Tishman firm, founded by Julius Tishman in 1898, was reorganized in 1976," Bolsky said. "The company began to show a negative net worth despite extensive real estate holdings and, as a result, the stock was selling for only $9 a share. When the decision was made to sell real estate holdings and make a cash distribution to shareholders, the pay-out was in the $33-$34 range."
He added that the stock price was so low because of a number of reasons, including the near-bankruptcy of New York City, the building recession, the overbuilt office market and the energy crunch. The tax laws then--and now, for that matter--didn't treat publicly owned real estate companies favorably.
When Rockefeller Center Inc. bought Tishman in 1976 for about $7.5 million, the Tishman firm included a construction company and research division.