Builder Putting His Stamp On The Valley
By JIM SKEEN | Valley Press Business Editor
J.P. Toneman’s work can be seen throughout the AntelopeValley.
In recent months, his J.P. Toneman Development Corporation built two medical buildings in front of Palmdale Regional Medical Center, built a medical office complex in the Trade and Commerce Center, and performed a major remodeling of Robertson Honda.
It’s an impressive list of projects in a valley where commercial construction has virtually come to a halt in the Great Recession.
“We’re the only ones flipping over rocks right now,” Toneman said. In front of Palmdale Regional Medical Center are two Toneman built buildings, one 8,100 square feet and the other 10,140 feet, housing doctor offices. The project showcases the kind of development city officials had envisioned would come to Palmdale because of the hospital.
“They got a high criteria for their design,” Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said of the new medical buildings. “That’s the quality we’re looking for.”
Toneman had gone to the city looking for property to develop, leading to discussions about the property in front of the hospital. The land for the project in front of the hospital. The land for the project, about two acres, was bought by Toneman for $546,000.00 from the city in November, 2010.
“The Toneman project is part of the economic engine that has been created with the arrival of the Palmdale Regional Medical Center,” Ledford said at the time of the land deal. “Palmdale and the South Valley have the higher population numbers but have been underserved by the hospital and medical facilities up until now. What Toneman will be building is just a sign of the kind of development that is to come to the area.”
Toneman formed an investment company to finance the project, attracting Dr. Kanwaljit Gill, a cardiologist, as one of the investors. Gill established an office in the smaller building. Toneman is looking to do similar projects.
“The city wants a medical campus. There are some buildings available for doctors, but they are for lease. These guys want to own,” Toneman said. “My mission is to build those buildings and bring in those doctors.” Doctors who have been renting for the last several years can now afford to own their buildings, Toneman said.
“The time to buy is now,” Toneman said. “The interest rate is as low as it’ll ever be in our lifetimes. Building materials are as low as it can be. People are buying land and are able to build.”
Toneman has about three decades of construction experience. Toneman was doing residential projects when he got a call in the early 1990s to see if he could do the concrete work for Smith’s Food store in Lancaster, now occupied by an Albertsons store.
That was the start of Toneman Concrete Corporation, which has since gone on to do a number of big box projects, including, Toneman estimates, about 60 Wal-Marts up and down the state and several other big box stores including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Best Buy.
“I hate residential,” Toneman said. “Wal-Marts – now those are statements.” The concrete company has been involved in recent years in hospital construction, including facilities in Barstow, Marietta, and Thousand Oaks. Toneman said those projects gave him the background to start with medical buildings with the development company. The development company was established in 1992. In 2007, Toneman ramped up that company’s work. Two of Toneman Development’s projects were the Romi’s Fine Dining and Ginza restaurants at the Antelope Valley Mall. Both restaurants ultimately failed, but the buildings, especially Romi’s, were sticking.
The Romi’s building, now occupied by Sushi Zen Bistro, features a distinctive cupola, had a banquet room that could accommodate 68 people, a private dining room, and an outdoor patio with wine lockers.
“We’re a design and build company. We bring a different flavor than a general contractor,” Toneman said. “We have our ears to the ground and know what the community wants.” Two of the development company’s projects were the Wayside Church in Rosamond and the Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster. In the case of Wayside, another contractor had started the project and then left.
Eric Kelly, Toneman Development vice president of construction, said they were able to come in, bring in additional amenities and keep the project on budget.
“We put our customers first,” Kelly said. The company makes every effort to hire locally on projects, Kelly said. “They have 50 to 200 people on a job,” Kelly said. “The medical building was on the higher end.”