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PHOENIX-Former Opus West executives Jamie Godwin and Craig Zupancic have joined forces to form the Richard Solomon Group, a commercial real estate consulting firm that offers design-build, contracting and tenant improvement services. Since hanging its shingle in early July, the duo has stepped into construction projects such as the mixed-use, $49.3 million Tempe Gateway, on which Opus West had launched construction in Fall 2008.

RSG has also been retained to work with another Opus West project, the 170,000-square-foot Mill Crossing in Chandler, AZ. Also in RSG’s work pile is a $4 million tenant improvement contract for First American Title Co. at Pima Center, another former Opus West project, and conversion of units at La Siena and McDowell Village independent living centers to meet Americans with Disabilities Act specifications. RSG has also just entered into a design-build construction contract with the owner of Chandler Airport Center Phase I parking expansion.

“It’s definitely been busy,” Godwin says.

The busy days for RSG are a far cry from what Godwin and Zupancic experienced last May while still at Opus West. “It was no secret that things were starting to fall apart with Opus as far back as early 2009, and there was some speculation internally as to what was going on and how it would pan out,” Godwin explains. Godwin says he and Zupancic began having some discussion about their respective plan Bs. “I had enough contacts in the recruitment industry to know there weren’t any jobs out there, especially at the executive level,” Godwin explains.

As a result, Zupancic and Godwin decided to go it on their own. It was the middle of June when they learned that Opus West’s construction license was going to be terminated. Also at the time, the partners realized there were three projects still being built. With the projects in limbo, Godwin says he and Zupancic stepped into the gap.

“We were able to make some proposals to the right people and present our services with the idea that we could step in with this new entity and handle what needed to be handled,” Godwin comments.

In addition to taking care of the work already on its plate, Zupancic, Godwin and three other ex-Opus employees making up the new company are focusing on other potential projects, such as working with distressed assets. Receivers and banks don’t have the staff on board to handle design-build considerations, Godwin points out.

In terms of preferred product type, Godwin says RSG is opened to any project. At this time, he continues, the trend seems to be toward office tenant improvements, especially as companies are downsizing space and landlords are trying to class up second-generation buildings.

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