As a general contracting and construction management company that employs more than 25 professionals, maintains a network of skilled subcontractors, and regularly generates more than $25 million in annual revenue, Pancoast & Clifford’s fingerprints are all over Greater Philadelphia.
For all the high-profile construction projects that the West Chester-based firm has overseen, and for all the awards it has won, the story of its humble beginnings is never far from the minds of its founders, Frank Pancoast and Chris Clifford.
When the two formed their company in 1995, they were looking to secure their first local project … and found it in their backyard. Pancoast & Clifford was hired to build the gymnasium and make other renovations to the YMCA on Chestnut Street in downtown West Chester.
“We’ve obviously grown a lot throughout the years, but back then, we were trying to earn our way into the arena, so to speak,” said Pancoast, a Radnor High School alum and engineering graduate of Bucknell University. “Like every business, you can’t do it all by yourself, and so we’ll always be grateful for the people who believed in us from the start.”
Gary Green, the former president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Brandywine — back then, it was known as the West Chester YMCA — and Mike O’Rourke, the CEO of O’Rourke & Sons, a West Chester-based steel company, were two of them.
“Gary allowed us to bid on the job and awarded it to us,” said Pancoast. “A less-courageous person probably wouldn’t have done that. And Mike picked up the phone and asked Gary to put us on the bidder list.”
In the almost 30 years since then, Pancoast & Clifford has been building and renovating commercial and institutional projects, many of which have a unique element to them. Much of the work is for repeat clients such as the YMCA of Greater Brandywine because they know that Pancoast & Clifford will deliver what it promises.
“By and large, we do work for private entities — not government work — in the Philadelphia area,” said Pancoast. “Our wheelhouse is projects in the range of $1 million to $6 million, although we’ve done jobs that are $20 million and $30 million. We do well with projects that have a measure of uniqueness to them, ones that aren’t too cut-and-dry.”
Among the more recent ones are:
- River House at Odette’s. The $32 million luxury hotel that recently opened in New Hope was recognized by The Philadelphia Business Journal as one of the Best Real Estate Deals of 2020. It won first place in the “Overcoming Challenges” category, as the property previously sat vacant for 15 years because of the difficulty in developing the riverside plot to avoid flooding.
- A 17,409-square-foot addition to the historic Hartshorne Mansion in West Chester. The mansion, a colonial revival Italianate building constructed in 1867 as a private residence, now serves as an office complex with 37 office suites, a conservatory lounge, and a wraparound deck overlooking the historic grounds.
- The Broomall Fire Company’s new station. The environmentally friendly facility won an award at the Eastern Pennsylvania Associated Builders and Contractors 2019 Excellence in Construction Awards Gala.
- An 88-unit, mixed-use apartment, retail, and parking development on Market Street in the borough of West Chester, at the site of the former M.S. Yearsley & Sons.
- The award-winning Rushton Conservation Center in Newtown Square. The facility advances the Willistown Conservation Trust’s research and education activities. The timber-frame building includes a library, field station, research and meeting spaces, and an open demonstration kitchen.
“It’s not a complicated business, but more of a complex one,” said Pancoast. “It’s all about getting stuff to come together in an orderly fashion. Our culture of planning is one of the keys to our success. No matter what you do, you have to plan the work, then work the plan.”
The roots of Pancoast & Clifford can be traced back years before the company formed, when Pancoast gained an interest in construction while working for his father and grandfather’s business, S.F. Pancoast, Inc. It was there where Pancoast did “a lot of hammer swinging and ditch digging” and eventually met Clifford, another Delco native, who was S.F. Pancoast’s Vice President.
With some prodding from Clifford, an architectural engineering graduate of Penn State, the two eventually struck out on their own, and decades later, the results have been remarkable, with so much of the company’s breathtaking work dotting the region.
“We have a very stable group that has been together a long time,” said Pancoast. “I don’t use this term lightly, but we really are a family.”
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