By KERRY SMITH, Editor
(Jul-Aug 2019 Issue of St. Louis Construction News & Review Magazine)
Components of Ballpark Village phase two in downtown St. Louis – a $220 million venture – are on schedule to wrap up in 2019 and 2020.
The project represents a partnership between Baltimore-based developer The Cordish Companies and St. Louis-based general contractor PARIC. Phase two broke ground in December 2017. Included in the 700,000-square-foot phase two are: a 29-story, 297-unit luxury apartment tower, a Live! By Loews hotel, a three-story retail building, an 11-story Class A office structure and a Field of Dreams outdoor concert venue.
That 11-story office building – known as the PWC Pennant Building, to be completed in August – presented a challenge during construction, according to PARIC Project Director Tim Vaughan. “We had built our way up four stories of what will be the parking garage when PWC asked us to build an amenities deck on the top of the building,” Vaughan said. “The first seven stories are cast-in-place concrete that is post-tension, and then atop the seven stories is a four-story steel structure. As we were pouring the concrete, the steel structure had to change in order to hold the amenities deck on the roof, and we needed to modify plans so that the elevator could also reach the roof. These changes had to be completed in time to adjust the steel beams, so in effect we were providing just-in-time project delivery,” he added.
Another unique construction challenge associated with Ballpark Village’s phase two office building, Vaughan said, involved PARIC’s decision to build and install the glass and glazing that encircles the tower’s top floors prior to building the garage’s precast and metal panels for the bottom four floors. “Generally, a project is built from the ground up,” said Vaughan, “but our goal was to ensure that the top floors were watertight first so we could complete the PWC interiors package faster. To this end, we accomplished the glass and glazing work first and then tucked everything else (the precast work) in underneath.”
A high-tech collision avoidance system, one that prevents the project’s two 250- and 280-foot-tall tower cranes from colliding with each other, is a definitive project safety component. Vaughan said one tower crane is positioned near the office building, with the other stationed near the hotel construction site. Since the footprint for all the phase two projects is compact and multiple builds are occurring simultaneously near an active Busch Stadium, technology such as this is necessary to ensure safety. “We had to figure out which of the two tower cranes would be raised higher and exactly how the swings were going to go,” Vaughan said. “The system is programmed to enable each crane to swing in specific directions and at specific speeds, and the top crane is able to swing over the lower crane. The system prevents either crane from swinging into a structure.” There is a third tower crane that is currently 220 feet tall and it will undergo several “jumps” to reach a height of 440 feet before construction is complete, Vaughan said.
As with all large-scale, multi-phase construction projects built in urban environments, laydown areas and accelerated project schedules demand expert logistics. Ballpark Village phase two is no exception. Vaughan said carefully thinking through vertical transportation for all these building projects and managing crews to work safely yet swiftly remains a key challenge with these related jobs. “One example of this is building a buck hoist, an external (temporary) elevator that brings workers and materials up each floor of the building as it is being built. That has been vital,” he said. “We’re building on the equivalent of a postage stamp in terms of very small laydown areas.” To improve visitor access to phase one of Ballpark Village, PARIC removed its construction trailers to open the street. “Property here is scarce and valuable,” Vaughan said, “so many times we’re precisely delivery times so construction materials can be picked up off the truck and put into use immediately. There isn’t the space to store materials on site.”
The Field of Dreams portion of Ballpark Village phase two, an entertainment venue with a stage for live concerts and a giant scoreboard and video screen for watching the Cardinals games just outside the stadium, is on track for completion by mid-July.
A separate hardscape package that includes concrete pedestrian walkways, benches, pavers, statues, stairs, bleachers and a VIP section, is also being built by PARIC.
What visitors to Ballpark Village won’t see is all the materials testing work and construction observation expertise that has taken place in order to build out Ballpark Village during phase two. Geotechnology, Inc. Quality Control Testing Manager Matt Melly said ICC (International Code Council) special inspection work specific to building integrity included looking at rebar being installed on site. Geotechnology worked on what is now known as One Cardinal Way, the 29-story luxury apartment tower as well as the office building and hotel.
“We performed the role of post-tension inspector for this phase of the project,” Melly said. “Rather than building a deck with reinforced concrete, the method of engineering and building with post-tension cables was employed. This requires a lot less rebar and less steel as well.”
Geotechnology’s scope of responsibility was inspecting foundational elements during its construction and testing three sets of concrete used in phase two. “This project required significantly more concrete strength than is typically specified,” he said. “It required more than 8,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) compared to a typical 6,000 PSI. Our work involved monitoring and testing materials during construction to verify that they met the requirements.” The higher strengths of concrete used during phase two, Melly said, helps decrease the number of concrete columns needed in the apartment tower.
Due to heavier structural load inherent in a building with 29 floors, Geotechnology opted for a concrete foundation support to support that load. Rather than employing drilled concrete piers, construction utilized a combination of auger cast concrete piles and H piles – dimensionally square structural beams measuring up to six feet in diameter – driven at depths of 50 to 100 feet. Melly said this was done because soils in the project area are softer yet need to support the weight of the tall structure.
Another instrumental component of Ballpark Village phase two is the electrical contracting. Guarantee Electrical Co. has been the primary electrical contractor on the project’s hotel and apartment tower, according to David Gralike, president of GECO’s Missouri branch. In addition to Gralike, the GECO team included Project Executive Jason Wiegand, Project Director Tom Wischmeyer, Project Manager Dillon Wischmeyer and Superintendent Rich Kuchem. Bell Electrical Contractors, Inc. performed as primary electrical contractor for the office and retail components of phase two.
Also assisting on Ballpark Village phase two is Onsite Companies. The firm performed ground thaws on the project with Ceco Concrete Construction and provided five 1 Million BTU heaters to assist PARIC as it performed concrete pours.