CU Grow Alumni Spotlight: All Renovation Construction (AR Construction)

Two years after completing the CU Grow Vendor Development program, Harlem-based AR Construction is reaching new heights with projects inside and outside of Columbia

June 01, 2020

Who: Allan Suarez, COO, All Renovation Construction

Status: Certified Minority Business Enterprise

Services: General contracting, carpentry

Headquarters: Harlem – 200 West 138th Street, New York, NY 10030


In his desire to take his business to the next level, Allan Suarez, a principal and chief operations officer for All Renovation Construction (AR Construction), joined the second cohort of the CU Grow Vendor Development Program in 2018.  

Through CU Grow – a Columbia University Facilities and Operations initiative designed to help minority-, women- and locally owned (MWL) firms expand their business – Suarez was matched with José Rosa, director of Residential and Commercial Operations at Facilities and Operations, who guided the firm through the nine-month program.

The program equipped AR Construction with an expanded set of tools that have helped the business open doors and build capacity. The SWOT analysis, a strategic planning technique that helps identifies business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, allowed Suarez to realize he had an opportunity to expand his business by being both an owner and contractor for a project. For the development of One St. Nicholas Park, a new nine-story mixed-use building in Central Harlem, AR Construction became an equity stakeholder along with the development team, in addition to performing carpentry work on the project.

AR Construction performed a fit-out of a Columbia retail space on Broadway.

“The CU Grow program gave me the confidence to explore the opportunities in our network to make the development at One St. Nicholas Park happen,” said Suarez.  “Through this ground-up project we have been able to hire locally and establish ourselves as a strong minority-owned developer in Harlem.”

CU Grow also motivated Suarez to be more active and less apprehensive in maintaining his network of contacts.  When Turner Construction’s procurement officer told him to stay in touch and stay engaged, he took that wisdom to heart, posting that advice on his office wall and realizing that the right kind of networking shows decision makers that he is engaged and proactive in his business.

After graduating from CU Grow in December 2018, AR Construction was awarded its first project at Columbia to renovate a bundle of five graduate student apartments. In completing those projects, Suarez sub-contracted post-construction cleanup to CU Grow alum Diane Moore from CleanWork Solutions, demonstrating the value of the CU Grow network and relationships.   By providing strong service and reliable delivery, AR Construction secured additional projects with the University, including a fit-out of a retail space on Broadway and renovation of faculty apartments on Morningside Drive.  

Suarez sub-contracted CleanWork Solutions to perform post-construction cleanup on renovation projects.

For Suarez, CU Grow was a starting point, not a final destination.  Eager to keep learning and growing, AR Construction has continued their business development through the Columbia University Community Business Program run by the Columbia-Harlem Small Business Development Center and Columbia Business School, which was introduced to them through CU Grow.

Through the CU Grow program, participants are matched with experienced coaches from the University and partner organizations based on the specific needs of the business and the coach’s areas of expertise.  Over the course of the nine-month program, the coaches lead the business owners through a curriculum conceived by the Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS) designed to help the participants develop a three-year growth plan while also creating opportunities to expand their professional networks and to learn about bid opportunities at Columbia and other large partner institutions. AR Construction is one of 43 firms who have completed the program since its inception.