Born in Shawnee, Kansas, twin brothers Ryan and Aaron Neighbors, wanted to explore a bit further from home and found their way to Colorado State University and the Department of Construction Management in the fall of 1996. Graduating from the program in 2000, they returned to Kansas to work for Neighbors Construction, their third-generation family business.
Both brothers knew from a young age they wanted to be a part of Neighbors Construction. They each worked their way up through the various aspects of the construction business.
“I grew up in the family business,” Aaron said. “From a very young boy all I ever wanted to do was to go to work with my dad. I started off as a laborer and worked in the summers through high school. When I was at CSU, I got a job with a home builder and worked as a carpenter. I took an internship with a construction company in Fort Collins my junior year. Moving home I continued in the field as a carpenter and moved up the ranks to superintendent and ran work in the field for about five years. I moved into the office and became a project manager in 2008. In 2020 I transitioned into more of an upper management role.”
Ryan said, “After graduation, my first project out of college was a chiropractic center, and looking back, it was extremely easy compared to what we do today. I have also had the opportunity to build mixed-use buildings that have a commercial component to them for various buildings that are well-known in Kansas City. We have been very fortunate as a company to have worked with some of the premier developers in the Kansas City area.”
Appreciation for the Construction Management Program
The brothers felt prepared for their careers through their education in the CM program. Ryan noted that CM offered a “perfect balance of hands-on training and education in project management” to allow him to work with the most demanding and premier developers in Kansas City, simultaneously delivering a high-quality project.
“CSU CM taught me to look at the project as a whole,” he said, “making sure I was able to do my part to make the project successful, whether I was behind a broom or overseeing the entire project.”
Aaron agreed. “Before attending the CM program at CSU, I only knew how things were done in my family’s business in Kansas City,” he said. “I learned from professors and college administrators who had experience from all over the country and from many different construction backgrounds, who had their own perspectives; they showed me the benefit of having an open mind.”
Their education and early experiences contributed to later business success with unique projects that, while challenging, were also rewarding. Ryan describes a current project, now in the early phases of construction that will ultimately have six buildings with 322 units plus a stand-alone clubhouse.
However, the most unique project that he had the opportunity to work on was one with multiple challenges that came from the mixed-use design with apartment units wrapping a parking garage. Half of the ground level was a structural concrete deck; the building was on an active street and a zero-lot line site. The on-site challenges in conjunction with high-end finishes in both the apartments and the clubhouse space, plus the ornate courtyard and pool surrounded on 3 ¾ sides, added a special wrinkle in how the job was sequenced and scheduled.
Aaron, on the other hand, cites the restoration of the Kansas City Power and Light Building as a highlight and defining project in his career. It was an historic renovation of an iconic skyscraper in downtown Kansas City completed in 2017. They transformed the 33-story office building, originally completed in 1931, into 211 apartment units. This beautiful Art Deco building was once very prominent in the KC region. However, it sat vacant for nearly 25 years and had many failed attempts at revitalizing it from many different developer or contractor teams. This is a building that Kansas City, Missouri, would not allow to be torn down.
“It was an honor that our company was the one who finally got to bring it back to life,” Aaron said. “The project was difficult, but I grew with the challenges. In the end the project won the Associated Builders and Contractors Heart of America Chapter ‘Excellence in Construction’ Award, the Capstone Award from the Kansas City Business Journal, and the Cornerstone Award from the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri.”
Growing the family business over three generations
Neighbors Construction Company was started by the twins’ grandfather, R.D. “Pat” Neighbors after World War II. From framing houses in the early ‘50s to building apartments in the early ‘60s, the company saw steady growth. Pat’s son, Roger was put in charge of running the first footing crew in 1977; in 1989, Pat sold the company to Roger.
Since 2000, Ryan and Aaron, who are Roger’s sons, have been with the company, where both now have central leadership and project management roles. In 2021, Neighbors Construction celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Ryan said, “One of my future goals is to develop properties and be able to truly integrate Neighbors Construction in the construction process from procurement of land, project design, construction, and project turnover.”
“My goal is to continue to grow this company and do projects that continue to push our company’s boundaries and our industry’s boundaries,” said Aaron. “Multifamily construction is a fast-moving market and things are changing. I want to position our company to have the right players in place to overcome the next set of challenges our industry will face. I would like to see Neighbors Construction make it to its 100th Anniversary.”
Asked what recommendations or advice they might offer students in the construction management program, Ryan said, “Always treat people how you want to be treated. Don’t be afraid to try new and different things. Whatever your goals, aim high – you don’t know where you’ll land.”
Aaron added, “Life is short – be BOLD!”
Ryan lives on Lake Lotawana, just east of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He has three children, ages 14, 12 and 9. Aaron lives in Eudora, Kansas on 25 acres with his wife and three children, ages 15, 13, and 10.