Shaabini Alford Balances Build-Outs

Two residence towers are erected as part of the renovation of an historic hotel in LA, to be completed by Murray Company. Portrait by Marta Martin

Shaabini Alford’s assertion that she bleeds yellow may prompt a medical emergency response if it weren’t also the color palette of Murray Company Mechanical Contractors, the vice president’s home for the past 16 years.

Shaabini Alford, Vice President of Murray Company Portrait by Marta Martin

Having helped grow an $80 million company to just shy of $350 million, Alford has an impressive résumé—as does Murray as a whole—even when it’s only pointing to the projects that are ongoing currently or recently completed. The renovation of the University of Southern California’s Los Angeles Coliseum was completed in August 2019, and the venue will play host to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Murray is also in the middle of building an exciting art museum that will focus on film and narratives, as well as a new stadium that will play host to local Los Angeles sports teams, which is set to open in July 2020. To accommodate visiting guests to these attractions, Alford has been deeply involved in the renovation and construction of a Los Angeles hotel, which also includes two 45-story condominium towers that didn’t exist prior to the renovation. The project has been Murray’s own white whale—it was awarded in early 2016 but delayed due to factors outside of the company’s control. With Alford’s intervention and a new team on the ground, the mammoth project is on track for the hotel to open in the early spring of 2020 and the towers to be completed in early 2021.

A New Century

The hotel’s renovation includes converting the 50-year-old building to include 63 condominiums and 93,000 feet of commercial and retail space. “Being a historic building, we’ve made sure not to alter the essence of this great building,” Alford says. Condos will sit on the second level, as well as the 12th through 16th, with hotel rooms occupying the bulk of the remainder of the space. The site also sits nearby the Westfield Century Shopping Mall which was also a Murray construction. “That mall is so iconic,” Alford says. “It’s really rewarding to see the intersection of projects that were ours.”

600 Feet Up

The construction of the 46-story, 600-foot tall condominium towers was initially supposed to commence after the completion of the hotel renovation. A lengthy delay eventuated with Murray managing both projects simultaneously. The team building the 290 luxury condominium structures is on the site with a separate team working the renovation. That means five architects, two project managers, two general foremen, and. . . Alford.

Shaabini Alford poses here in front of approximately 100,000 feet of cast iron piping that will be pre-fabricated for the waste, vent, and storm drain systems for two residence towers. Portrait by Marta Martin

Making Up for Lost Time

“The document control alone is enough,” Alford says, laughing. But the VP’s leadership is anything but a joke. “This was a $45 million project, and it could really make or break the year. I needed to be intimately involved and help push out in the field, whether it was our fabrication, cash collection, or just bringing leadership to our team.” She made sure to be on-site and let anyone know that they wouldn’t just be dealing with a project manager; Alford was there to put a face on the company.

Running two construction teams has been made more manageable by dividing and conquering with separate general foremen and project managers, Alford notes. But she is conscious of the hard work the hotel renovation team has put in on a project that has spanned longer than anticipated. “Just driving to that neighborhood is difficult let alone pulling onto Santa Monica or Wilshire Boulevard,” Alford says. “My team has been there for years and I want to be able to pull them out as soon as I’m able.”

The challenges kept coming, but Alford kept knocking them down. When the construction delay occurred, Alford spent nearly three months negotiating a multimillion-dollar settlement to keep the project moving forward. And in February of 2019, she brought in new leadership on the ground. “Since then it has been night and day,” Alford says. “It required a lot of team building, but I think I’m good at bringing people together and getting them excited about moving ahead.”

Loyalty Matters

And while the huge project certainly had its fair share of hardship, Alford still talks about her job with as much enthusiasm as a new hire. After 16 years, that means something. “I am Murray Company to the core,” Alford affirms. The employee-owned organization has opened offices in San Diego and the Bay Area. Its diversified portfolio includes union plumbing, HVAC (both wet and dry), a standalone civil engineering division, and an advanced technologies team that does builds for high-cleanliness requirements like pharmaceuticals and food and beverage.

Alford says she’s been allowed to take on as much as she was willing to at Murray and that she has the “100-percent-backing” of her leadership team. All of the leadership at Murray has been there for over 15 years. “They’re like my brothers!” Alford says. The family that builds Los Angeles together, stays together.

Editor’s Note: All pending construction dates mentioned in the article are reflective of plans at press time.