Challenges are merely opportunities in disguise.
That mindset has been a mainstay of my leadership journey. And this month, we celebrated another example of the amazing things that are possible when you view challenges for the opportunities they present.
Across the street from Barry-Wehmiller’s corporate headquarters in Clayton, MO (a St. Louis suburb), sits Shaw Park, a beloved 47-acre green space packed with amenities—playgrounds and ball fields, walking trails and fitness areas, picnic facilities and pavilions, a swimming pool and tennis courts, even an ice rink.
Unfortunately, the corner of the park near our offices—essentially, the entryway from the adjacent bustling business district–had always been plain and somewhat uninviting. Its steep hill, sloping sharply down from the busy intersection above, was used for sledding in the winter but had remained a design challenge to the city since the park was erected.
Almost five years ago, representatives from the Clayton Century Foundation and the City of Clayton approached me to discuss the Chapman family’s interest in development projects around the park in honor of Shaw Park’s upcoming 100th anniversary. Could something finally be done to the uninspiring northeast corner that our headquarters overlooked?
The St. Louis community has been a nurturing home to the Chapman family since my parents moved here from Iowa in the 1940s. As a child, I remember visiting St. Louis’ most iconic park, Forest Park, and the wonder and excitement it held for me. Furthermore, the St. Louis area’s people, with their strong Midwestern values and undeniable work ethic, have been central to Barry-Wehmiller’s success through the years. And, with our offices just across the street, Barry-Wehmiller team members were regular visitors to the park.
For the Chapman family, it was an honor to commit to the project and, in doing so, give a gift back to the community that had given us so much through the years. Working with the Clayton Century Foundation and the City of Clayton, we challenged ourselves to establish a vision that would transform the once-plain corner into a magnificent gateway, drawing in the area’s families, business people and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors.
After years of intense planning and design and, finally, construction, in early October we dedicated Chapman Plaza and Falls in memory of my parents, Bill and Marge Chapman. From the infinity fountain and pergola at the entryway plaza, down the sandstone stairs, along the boulder waterfall, lush gardens and meandering walkway, to the pavilion and reflecting pond, it is every bit as spectacular as I imagined it could be!
And the steep hill that, for decades, had been considered a challenge? It’s still there, not quite as steep, but enough to provide some winter fun for young sledders. It looks a lot different now, however. As it should. After all, all those years it was considered a challenge, it was merely a three-story waterfall in disguise.
Watch the video chronicling the transformation of Chapman Plaza & Falls:
Or read the local media coverage about it: