Driver Urban

Providing a higher-level product and service offering is what Driver Urban is all about. Specializing in the planning and construction of urban living environments in California, the company has been steadily making a name for itself in multifamily and mixed-use developments, senior and affordable housing, hospitality and student housing projects since it was founded two years ago. 

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Driver Urban has offices in California in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ontario, San Diego and San Mateo. The company has experience with a number of construction types including wood structures, steel structures and concrete superstructures. 

Its expertise includes wrap-style buildings, podium projects with subterranean parking, high-rise residential, urban infill projects and garden-style communities. Its services extend from preconstruction, quality control and safety oversight to building information modeling (BIM), lean construction and sustainability.

Strong Backing

One of Driver Urban’s differentiating characteristics is its relationship with C.W. Driver, a general contractor with more than 94 years of experience. Driver Urban is a spin-off of C.W. Driver, which has a long history as a general contracting and construction management company in education, healthcare/biomedical, entertainment, retail, industrial and civic industries.  

“We saw an opportunity in the marketplace for a builder that offered C.W. Driver’s sophistication and financial backing but focused on multi-family, mixed-use, assisted living, student housing and hospitality product types,” President Brian Chartrand says. “Rather than be under the company umbrella, we decided to create a separate entity with its own cost structure but with the backing of C.W. Driver.”

Driver Urban is able to take advantage of C.W. Driver’s service, technology, experience and financial strength by sharing resources, personnel and expertise. This has helped Driver Urban to quickly build a reputation for product expertise, relationship building and a commitment to quality.

“The biggest thing that we needed to get out there was our brand and getting people to understand our value proposition,” Chartrand says. “We leveraged relationships and took advantage of the sophistication of being allies with a larger company. Not a lot of multi-family builders have a complete BIM department, for example, and we have that at our disposal. We also have support services for our business development efforts.”

To help the company build a solid foundation, its primary investment has been in people. Driver Urban felt its success depended on an ability to bring in the best and brightest, providing them with autonomy and growth opportunities.

It also invested in its preconstruction services. Driver Urban believed it would increase the value of its services if it could provide an owner with predictability on projects before a shovel ever hit the ground. 

“From conceptual estimate to signing a contract, we have built a strong preconstruction team,” Chartrand says. “We are at our best when we’re involved from the beginning and can work through the details and devise a good, buildable set of plans.”

Since the company started, Driver Urban has seen a hot multi-family market and has been able to find downtown projects and larger projects in outlying area with well known REITs and developers. It has also seen the assisted living market start to come back to life and begun to venture into the hospitality arena.

“Our primary goal is to get involved with private student housing right now, and we’re seeing some life there,” Chartrand says.

Early Wins

Its portfolio is impressive. It is working on the Main and Abel Apartments in Milpitas, Calif., a high-density, urban infill project with 200 apartment units in a four-story, wrap-style development with a six-story, cast-in-place concrete parking structure. Its Beach Walk Apartments in Huntington Beach, Calif. is a wrap-style apartment project with 173 units in a four story, Type V wood frame building with a six-level parking structure.

Its Torrance Assisted Living & Memory Care Facility is on a three-acre site and includes 70 units in a two-story, 52,000-square-foot building. The K2 LA project in  the Koreatown District of Los Angeles is a 92,037-square-foot project with 130 market rate apartment units in a single building with five levels of Type III wood- framing over two levels of underground parking.

The Gibson in Santa Monica is a two-building, mixed-use development with 106 market-rate apartments in Type V wood frame buildings on 7th Street and Arizona Avenue. And the Avant in Los Angeles is a 203,000-square-foot mixed-use development in downtown Los Angeles across from the LA Convention Center and near the Staples Center and Nokia Live. It includes 247 market-rate apartment units. The project consists of two buildings connected by a pedestrian bridge, each with five levels of Type III wood-framing over two levels of Type I concrete above-grade podium with two levels of underground parking.

“Avant is one of our most prominent projects,” Chartrand says. “We also just broke ground on our East Village project in the Los Angeles arts district. That will be an upscale mixed-use project, which has challenges based on the site’s tight logistics.”

Looking ahead, Driver Urban is also moving forward with a project in Goleta, Calif. on a 20-acre site. It will be a mixed-use project with 22 garden-style apartment buildings and some retail. In addition, the company is pursuing growth in San Diego. The company understands that diversification of product types and geography will be key to its future as it strives to become a leading planning and construction company in the multi-family, assisted living, student housing and hospitality sectors throughout California. 

“The biggest factor in our expansion is finding the right people who fit our culture and can develop the different markets where we want to grow,” Chartrand says.

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