|Project New Leaf was announced to the public in February 2017. One month later, Cantigny selected Featherstone, Inc. as project manager. The firm, based in Downers Grove, coordinates and oversees all aspects of the project, including planning, budget estimating, bidding, value engineering and construction management. Featherstone works closely with Cantigny’s landscape design partner, Sasaki Associates, to ensure the precise execution of Project New Leaf.
With the project well beyond the halfway point, Tom Featherstone, president of Featherstone, took time to reflect.
Q: Of all the big projects you’ve taken on, how does this one compare? What sets it apart?
A: We’ve been blessed to work at some of the most iconic outdoor venues in and around Chicagoland and it was critical to our brand to be involved in Project New Leaf. While each of the sites are unique, the friendly, collaborative staff at Cantigny sets this project apart from the others we’ve worked on.
Q: Thinking about the finished elements or areas of the park so far, do you have a favorite?
A: The beautiful thing about the park and Sasaki’s designed improvements is that you can experience unique moments in various areas around the site. I enjoy sitting on the east steps of Gold Pond early in the morning as the sun breaks over McCormick House and the trees. I like walking through the display gardens in full bloom and watching the visitors take it all in. I also enjoy seeing the children play on the tanks and in the playground area. It’s hard to say I have a favorite when each area creates a different experience.
Q: What’s been the most challenging aspect of Project New Leaf?
A: Initially it was gaining the staff’s trust that our delivery model and experience would best represent the McCormick Foundation’s interest through the entire process. We also encountered permit delays while working towards proper horticultural schedules, and unforeseen underground site conditions. These are things that we are used to dealing with but perhaps take for granted that everyone else has been through it, too.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the project?
A: We’re fortunate that the State of Illinois deemed construction essential, so we’ve been able to continue working. The size of the site and being outside in an open park setting makes the social distancing requirement very manageable.
Q: Imagine your last day at Cantigny, when everything is finished, including the final punch list. What will that feel like?
A: We’ll feel a strong sense of pride and accomplishment to have been involved in such an iconic garden restoration, and we’ll appreciate that Cantigny had the confidence in us to deliver their largest undertaking. The completion might bring a little sorrow, too, since we’ve really enjoyed working so closely with the entire team.