Depending on the needs of a given project, we are prepared to manage the entire development process or to provide a reduced menu of services. We provide only advisory, development and project management services. We choose not to offer brokerage, design or construction services in order to focus more completely on each client’s overall agenda. We are able to offer a range of additional services by partnering with or hiring consultants, as dictated by the client and the needs of the project. We maintain an active network of experienced professional colleagues in real estate brokerage, financial services, planning, architecture, construction and facility management.

On any project we perform a mix of the services listed below. In addition our clients often choose to draw on our depth of experience for assistance in unusual situations. For example, in order to help fill a temporary vacancy at the Peabody Essex Museum, one of our principals is providing administrative leadership to the Phillips Library.


+ Owner’s representation

An owner’s project manager must have a comprehensive understanding of the owner’s needs, goals and organizational culture. All projects present management complexities; an owner with a broad constituency needs a manager able to see the big picture and capable of developing a customized approach. Demanding clients with complex project requirements are at the core of the Smith + St. John practice.

+ Resource optimization

A primary task of the owner’s project manager is to assist the owner in identifying the resources – time, money and people – that a project will require, and to maximize their efficient use. We have achieved excellent results through a careful balance between expending and conserving effort – knowing how to manage time, select the right participants, and place the right emphasis in order to make the best decisions for any facet of a project.

+ Decision management

At Smith + St. John we take seriously our responsibility to research, organize and provide options for our clients, ensuring that they are in a position to make informed decisions. On each assignment we immerse ourselves in a client’s organization. Typically we are integrated as a member of the senior management team for the duration of a project. In this way we are able to effectively represent our client’s interests in all dealings with the owner’s stakeholders and with the project team.

+ Cost Control

A hallmark of the Smith + St. John approach is that we manage your resources as if they were our own. On a typical project we:

  • Develop and update the budget throughout the life of the project.
  • Review contracts and change orders from all team members, including the architect, engineers, specialty consultants and the construction manager. We obtain client approvals, process required paperwork, and ensure that no consultant takes action on change orders until approvals have been provided.
  • Review project invoices from consultants and vendors, including monthly contractor’s requisitions, ensure adequate back-up is provided, and confirm that charges have been properly accounted for in the project budget before submitting to the client for payment.
  • Track project costs, comparing them against the budget and preparing regular management reports for the owner. We have developed a reporting system that we customize to meet the requirements of each client.
  • Prepare cash flow projections as required.
+ Procurement

The assembly of a project team is a critical task. Each phase of a project is likely to require the expertise of specialists, and we help our clients identify the need, recommend candidates and establish a selection process. Our contribution to the process often includes:

  • Preparing and distributing requests for qualifications (RFQs) and requests for proposals (RFPs);
  • Establishing and maintaining communications with all parties;
  • Documenting selection criteria and guiding the evaluation process;
  • Scheduling and facilitating interviews;
  • Making a recommendation on the final selection.
+ Communications management

Without a well-managed communication strategy, professional and technical expertise will not be fully leveraged. We expend significant effort in developing the appropriate form for engaging members of the project design and construction team, as well as the owner’s management and staff, funding agencies, neighbors and regulatory authorities. We have been characterized by our clients as “high touch” for the range and quality of the communications on our projects.

+ Consensus building

Our skill at building consensus among disparate groups lies at the heart of Smith + St. John’s success. We have learned that collaboration and teamwork are the basis of a successful management approach. In our experience the best projects are produced through mutual respect and shared information; we do not believe in justifying the role of the project manager by making scapegoats of other members of the design and construction team. Early in each project we establish roles for each member of the team, with well-defined expectations effectively communicated.

+ Risk mitigation

A large part of our work involves evaluating and managing an owner’s exposure to risk.  When it comes to the expenditure of resources – time, money, or human capital – we place decisions in the context of an overall vision for the project or process, helping to ensure that management decisions are calculated, with predictable outcomes within a range of possibilities.

+ Team Assembly / Contract Negotiation

We have worked with many of the consulting firms in the Boston area, and have excellent working relationships with their principals and staff. We are experienced in negotiating design, consultant and construction contracts at reasonable, competitive fees to provide appropriate levels of service for any project. Our range of experience allows us to recommend the appropriate delivery system for each project – we are familiar with Lump Sum, Construction Management and Design-Build approaches and their infinite variations.


+ Project Feasibility

Smith + St. John is able to add maximum value when we are involved at the earliest stages of a project. To establish the viability of a project and to obtain financing, a project must be defined, a comprehensive program developed, a site and approvals secured and the project budget and schedule established. We have successfully managed these steps in a wide variety of projects. We are able to help with securing funding, including grant writing assistance, placement of debt and equity and, when appropriate, arranging historic tax credits.

+ Strategic planning

We are often asked to characterize the distinction between planning and implementation. Successful planning calls for an entrepreneurial mindset while allowing for flexibility in implementation. Implementation is the execution of the plan. Basic planning parameters include:

  • Defining a strategic direction for an organization, a creative act.
  • Outlining resources required for the organization to implement the plan.
  • Establishing processes and procedures to acquire the resources and implement the plan.

Smith + St. John brings to bear an approach and experience that further the goals of the owner at a macro level, while allowing for flexibility in project design and construction.

+ Project structure

One critical aspect of successful project outcomes is the backdrop of a consensus that helps participants make choices in the larger interest of the project. An early task with each of Smith + St. John’s clients is the creation of a process framework – an armature developed through consensus of the project team – that will guide our efforts together.

+ Pre-design

An engagement for Smith + St. John typically begins well in advance of conceptual design.  Once an overall process structure is in place, pre-design tasks can include strategic planning exercises, the creation of flow or adjacency diagramming, visits to comparable facilities or precedents, or wide-ranging brainstorming retreats.

+ Programming

As the critical step between pre-design and design, the development of a project’s area program sets the stage for further work by carefully cataloguing, sorting and prioritizing the owner’s requirements.  Smith + St. John has directed the development of programs for a wide variety of organizations, becoming intimately familiar with their needs and goals. The resulting program document serves as a guideline for future design work, as a quantitative “recipe” and as an occasional check-in document to test original assumptions against current progress.

+ Schedule & budget development

Time and money are the foundations on which a project is developed. As your representative, we become responsible for your project’s schedule and budget. If they are not well managed, it is difficult to be successful in other processes. Some aspects are consistent from one project to the next, but our experience allows us to create project-specific schedule and budget approaches, supported by the latest software and web-based collaborative tools.

+ Funding assistance

Smith + St. John is experienced in grant writing, and has worked on a number of fundraising and capital procurement efforts.  Our role can range from the creation or compilation of documents and experts, to the administration of sensitive paperwork.  We are skilled presenters and can effectively manage funding advocacy meetings in both small private donor and large public settings.  We consider it a basic responsibility to help ensure adequate project funding.

+ Asset evaluation

Part of your process may involve formal assessment of your assets, and we have the expertise to create meaningful data on existing conditions to help in decision-making. We maintain extensive connections in engineering, construction, finance, and real estate brokerage, and we regularly tap their skills as appropriate.

+ Existing conditions documentation

Identifying a scope of work for evaluating and documenting the existing conditions of a real estate asset can be a daunting process. Smith + St. John has managed this important early aspect of a project, helping to identify and select the appropriate consultants. We manage tasks ranging from the creation of measured drawings to environmental site assessments, hazardous materials surveys, and neighborhood or Environmental Impact Statement processes.


+ Designer selection

Finding the designer best qualified for a project is a complex task, involving more than evaluating an attractive portfolio of relevant projects.  Smith + St. John has a comprehensive knowledge of the design process, and we are sensitive to the chemistry between owner and designer. Our experience with many firms across a span of years, project types and personnel changes adds depth to our recommendations.  We are excellent team builders and we are known for our collaborative approach.

+ Permitting

Securing project approvals and permits in a timely and complete manner has never been more challenging. Smith + St. John’s senior staff brings decades of cumulative knowledge in and management of the intricacies of permitting, ranging from building and site development to various public agency, board and regulatory compliance processes. Building and energy codes, environmental regulation and other time-sensitive procedures are all accounted for, as well as less common processes like variance applications to the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board.

+ Design Management

Our senior staff are all trained design professionals. At the core of Smith + St. John’s project management approach is an appreciation of the value of good design, whose basis is excellent client service. Having been on the design side of the table, we are skilled at managing the design process to produce effective solutions quickly. We understand what works and we collaborate with a wide range of designers to achieve appropriate, cost-effective, durable and marketable designs.

+ Contractor selection / bidding & negotiation

Smith + St. John brings a wealth of experience to the evaluation, interviewing and selection of contractors for projects of all types and sizes.  We work closely with you to develop an appropriate list of potential contractors, we manage the RFQ/RFP and interview process, and we review the owner-contractor agreement as part of a collaborative team that may include attorneys, third party reviewers, and financial partners. In addition we will:

  • Monitor bidding to ensure that contract procedures are followed.
  • Review bid tabulations prepared by the architect or construction manager.
  • Assist with developing value engineering alternatives and pricing.
+ Construction Oversight

After managing the contract negotiation process, during construction Smith + St. John acts as team leader, using our established management controls and reporting procedures to keep the project on schedule and within budget.  Discovery of hidden conditions or scope increased by the owner can result in legitimate changes to the budget or schedule. Identifying these unforeseen situations as early as possible  allows the owner maximum control. On a typical project we will:

  • Review contractor’s change requests with the project designer, verify costs and unit prices, and negotiate appropriate amounts for legitimate changes.
  • Monitor project closeout requirements and ensure that contractual provisions are met prior to milestones like substantial completion and release of retainage.
  • Review and process contractor’s requisitions. We have developed a number of customized tools to carefully track a contractor’s financial performance during a project, providing you with easy to understand, real-time feedback on the financial picture during construction, helping to minimize unforeseen costs or clarify unexpected changes that are an inevitable part of construction.
  • Provide regular cost reporting to the owner, summarizing all cost items in the project, their level of completion and a projected cost to complete the project.
+ Developer’s Requisitions

Some lenders require monthly accounting, tracking all expenditures against the budget. Smith + St. John has developed a report template that provides several levels of information for the lender, and can be expanded or simplified depending on the lender’s or the owner’s particular requirements.  Appropriate back-up materials are coordinated as required including, if necessary, copies of all paid invoices.