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Meeting Downtown Demolition Challenges

Image courtesy of the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center. This artist's conception shows the first-of-its kind Cleveland Medical Mart (MMCC)

Image courtesy of the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center. This artist's conception shows the first-of-its kind Cleveland Medical Mart (MMCC)

The first-of-its kind Cleveland Medical Mart (MMCC) with 12,200 tons (11,067 t) of steel and more than 24,000 steel beams make the largest project in downtown Cleveland, Ohio history.

When completed in the fall of 2013, the $465 million facility will consist of a four-story above-ground medical mart as well as a 230,000 sq. ft. (21,368 sq m) underground convention center with 60,000 sq. ft. (5,574 sq m) of meeting rooms and a 32,000 sq. ft. (2,973 sq m) grand ballroom.

Nearly 100 tenants, including health care providers, medical device manufacturers, health care educational institutions and health care technology companies have already signed up for space in the new MMCC.

As managed by Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., Chicago, the project is working to gain LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. MPPI has completed one of the largest LEED projects in the world at Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

Five buildings were demolished last year to make room for the new 1 million sq. ft. facility. The five included a parking garage, Sportsman’s Restaurant, the Court Annex Building, the Chicago Title Building and the eight-story 113 Building, all in Cleveland's central business district.

Promptly at 6:00 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2011, crews fired up demolition machines and began work. Demolition remained on schedule and was completed under an aggressive schedule, despite the wind, cold, snow and rain that a Cleveland winter and spring can bring.


More than the five above-ground buildings needed to be demolished. Much of the demolition took place down to 30 ft. (9 m) below grade at the old Cleveland Convention Center, Malls B and C, and Exhibit Halls C and D on Lakeside Avenue.

"The Cleveland Convention Center was basically a gigantic concrete bathtub on top of which was the Cleveland mall," said Dave Johnson of MMCC.

The first order of business was to scrape off the grass, dirt, sidewalks and trees that composed the top of the mall. When that was done, crews demolished within the building itself. They took down column after column and gutted the building.

Independence Excavating, Independence, Ohio, was one of the primary demolition contractors. "Our main function was the demolition of the existing convention center," said Ed Wilk, general superintendent with Independence. "At one time we had some 25 to 27 major excavators down there and 40 to 50 workers. We had a subcontractor helping us on some of the demolition, like the 113 Building and the small parking garage and the Sportsman's Restaurant.

"There was some demolition done on the existing public auditorium," Wilk said. "Part of that had to come down to make way for the new project. And then the convention center demo was probably minus 30 feet below finished grade," he added.

Richard Wilk, Ed's son and Independence's superintendent for the demolition, said the contractor employed several hammers for the huge demolition project. "We had a John Deere 450 with a hammer on it and we had a Hitachi 850 with an Allied hammer on it," said Richard. "We had several Bobcats with hammers and two or three other excavators with hammers."

The Hitachi 850 was fitted with an Allied/Rammer Model 7013 hammer, a 16,000-ft.-lb.-class machine. The 7013 model is the largest hammer Allied sells, and it requires a carrier in the 132,000 to 220,500 lb. (59,874 to 100,017 kg) class. The next smaller hammer is the Allied/Rammer Model 4511, which is a 12,000-ft.-lb. machine that requires a carrier of 88,200 lbs. (40,007 kg) and up.

Terry Tomasko, equipment superintendent of Independence, said the Allied/Rammer Model 7013 hammer was selected "based on our past experience and future needs for demolishing thick concrete."

One of the demolition tasks at the Medical Mart complex involved demolishing and removing a concrete floor that ranged from 2.5 to 5 ft. (.76 to 1.5 m) thick.

"They had some massive concrete that had to be demolished (at the Medical Mart site)," said Ed Wilk. "It needed some big guns to get it down and get it out. That's the only hammer we could use on the thick concrete. Once you find something that works, you go with it. The production of the Model 7013 hammer was very good. To my knowledge it met all of our expectations."

Ed Wilk said Independence planned a sequence of events to demolish the thick concrete floor, which supported a retaining wall that needed to be preserved. Alternating sections of the floor were hammered out while some sections remained to support the retaining wall.

Saw cutting came first, followed by the Allied/Rammer 7013. The floor sections being demolished were on the order of 35 to 40 ft. (11 to 13 m) wide, by 60 or 70 ft. (18 to 21 m) long. "We’d hammer out one section, skip 10 or 12 feet, then take out another section," said Ed Wilk.

Richard Wilk said the Allied/Rammer 7013 was also used to demolish part of the parking garage. It was a cast-in-place concrete parking garage with the convention center underneath it. Again, the Allied/Rammer 7013 had no problem taking down the heavy beams and columns in the cast-in-place concrete parking deck.

"The Allied/Rammer 7013 exceeded our expectations and helped us complete demolition on time," said Tomasko. The MMCC will use 20 to 25 percent of the crushed concrete on site for stone fill, sidewalk and roadway bedding materials. The remainder will be used for local Cleveland projects.

The goal is to recycle 95 percent of the construction and demolition material produced by the project. In addition to concrete, steel, aluminum, copper, reinforcing steel, brick, block, wood, gypsum, asphalt, plastic, cardboard and paper are all being recycled to help meet the 95 percent goal.

MMCC plans to recover 190,000 cu. yd. (145,265 cu m) of dirt and topsoil and 124,000 cu. yds. (94,805 cu m) of recyclable materials, leaving 6,000 cu. yds. (4,587 cu m) of waste. Ed Wilk said he has been involved in many projects in downtown Cleveland but not on this scale. "Working in downtown Cleveland is always a challenge because the rest of the world is trying to go forward while you are trying to build a building," he said.