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Convention Center to Transform Historic Downtown Lancaster

Mon June 23, 2008 - Northeast Edition
David Hunt

Retailer Watt and Shand maintained the crowned jewel of Lancaster, Pa., in a beaux-arts department store that bustled with life for much of the 20th century. Today, 18 prime contractors are building a new Lancaster County Convention Center around the façade of the former Watt and Shand building.

With earthwork behind it, Reynolds Construction, of Harrisburg, Pa., is moving ahead in its role as construction manager for the prime contractors on the project.

Tim Sullivan, construction manager of Reynolds, said the new structure, made of poured-in-place concrete, will stand 19 stories high and occupy one-half of a city block. When complete, the $170 million hotel and convention center will feature a 300-room Marriott Hotel with 35,000 sq. ft. (3,252 sq m) of meeting space, a 46,000-sq.-ft. (4,274 sq m) exhibit hall, and 9,000-sq.-ft. (836 sq m) ballroom with breakout rooms.

Sullivan said one-half of the site was prepared for construction through excavation, while the other half involved demolishing old buildings. He added that two historic buildings are being preserved within the footprint of the project.

Sullivan also said 200 caissons were placed to support the hotel and convention center. The 70-in. (177.8 cm) caissons were drilled and placed by Shelly Drilling of Avonmore, Pa.

The excavation and utility work were mostly completed last year by Horst Excavating, of Lancaster, Pa.

Ralph Carruthers, project manager of Horst Excavating, said about one-half of the excavation work was completed below grade, while one half was excavated at grade. He also said the firm frequently works in the city of Lancaster, and is accustomed to overcoming the difficulties associated with a city-based project.

“We hit a lot of hard limestone, weathered rock and groundwater,” Carruthers said. “Groundwater was an issue. We had to pump a lot of it.”

Horst used two Caterpillar 330 trackhoes. One of them was outfitted with a hoe ram attachment for breaking limestone. The other was fit with a bucket for loading standard over-the-road dump trucks to haul waste.

Carruthers also said the city location did not allow contractors to store construction materials on site. He said all construction materials had to be trucked in at the time they were needed by the contractors working on the project.

“We were limited with what we could get in there. There’s no place to stockpile materials and all the waste material had to get loaded and hauled away,” Carruthers said.

Carruthers said another challenge involved working on utilities when the city’s Central Market was open. Carruthers said the utility work involved installing new concrete and PVC pipe to upgrade the storm sewer lines under city streets.

Currently, a 220-ft. (61 m) P & J tower crane hovers over the city skyline as contractors work on the sixth level of the convention center project. The crane itself, with 1,160 lbs. (526.2 kg) of capacity, is being used to service the hotel footprint. Much of the time, the crane is moving structural steel, being supplied by Steel Fab Enterprises of Lancaster.

Sullivan, of Reynolds Construction, said coordinating the work of prime contractors is one of the most important parts of his job.

“Cooperation between the trades is extremely important,” Sullivan said.

In particular, coordinating the exterior structural concrete work and the placement of precast concrete exterior panels will be one of the most challenging parts of the project, Sullivan said. The exterior, precast panels are being supplied by High Concrete Structures of Lancaster. The structural concrete work is being handled by Miller, Long and Arnold of Baltimore, Md.

Sullivan said temporary roofs are being placed on every fourth floor — to cover the interior work — as the new building extends upward.

The prime contractors include:

• Empire Services, of Reading, Pa., demolition

• Caldwell, Heckles & Egan of Lancaster, Pa., façade stabilization

• Shelly Drilling of Avonmore, Pa., caissons

• High Construction of Lancaster, Pa., coordinating general trades

• Horst Excavating of Lancaster, Pa., site and utility work

• Miller, Long & Arnold, Baltimore, Md., concrete

• High Concrete Structures, Denver, Pa., precast concrete

• Steel Fab Enterprises, Lancaster, Pa., contract steel

• Gooding, Simpson & Mackes, Ephrata, Pa., roofing and sheet metal

• Schindler Elevator Corp., Lemoyne, Pa., conveying systems

• W.G. Tomko, Finleyvilla, Pa., plumbing

• King’s Fire Protection, Mechanicsbug, Pa., fire protection

• Rado Enterprises, Bloomsburg, Pa., HVAC

• The Farfield Company, Lititz, Pa., electrical

• Ray Angelini, Sewell, N.J., telecommunications/AV

Cooper Carry, of Atlanta, Ga., served as the architect on the project, retaining the historical nature of the project, while expanding the footprint far beyond the building’s original capacity. When complete, the Lancaster County Convention Center will serve as the home of a Marriott Hotel, exhibit hall, pool, expansive common areas, a ballroom, and breakout meeting rooms.

A virtual tour of the facility is available for download at CEG

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