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Franklin’s Kite Sparks Demolition in Philly

Mon March 03, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

On Aug. 15, 2007, Ben Franklin snipped apart a 200-ft. long kite string to set loose a wrecking ball weighing more than 2,000 lbs. that smashed into the roof of a brick building on 13th Street in Philadelphia, Pa. This symbolic act inaugurated the largest capital project ever undertaken in the Commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) is in the process of expanding to almost double its size. According to Michael J. Masch, secretary of the budget for the Commonwealth, this project will provide almost 2,500 jobs over the course of its construction.

When the larger PCC opens for business in 2010 it will employ 19,000 workers, including 2,000 jobs related to the hospitality industry. New hotels are planned to accommodate the increased number of convention attendees and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau has already reported taking more than $1 billion in business bookings for the expanded facility.

It is estimated that the updated center will increase local and regional economies by about the same amount each year through increased business for restaurants, car hire, tourist attractions and the like from attendees of trade shows and conventions at the PCC.

Once completed, the PCC will boast 1 million sq. ft. (92,903 sq m) of “saleable” space, enabling it to host two major events simultaneously. The space will include 87 meeting rooms, the biggest ballroom — 93,000 sq. ft. (8,640 sq m) — in any East Coast convention center and the largest contiguous exhibition space — 541,000 sq. ft. (50,260 sq m) — in the same geographic area.

The $700 million project attracted bipartisan support and was formally kicked off in January 2006 when Edward G. Rendell, governor of Pennsylvania, presented PCC officials with a $16 million check. The first payment toward the cost of the expansion, it met expenses connected with the initial phases of the job, including construction documentation, acquisition of property and architectural renderings as well as setting up business, operating and financing plans.

Funding also is being contributed by the city of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority and the Commonwealth via its slot-machine revenues.

Current Operations

Geppert Brothers Inc., based in Colmar, Pa., is handling demolition for the extension.

“We are working on interior gut-out of reinforced concrete buildings at the moment and also carrying out conventional demolitions of a concrete building and a timber building, both of them nine stories high,” Geppert Vice-President Pasquale Marconi said.

“In addition, we’re preparing for the implosion of a twelve-story steel-framed structure and carrying out pad preparation for the recycling of concrete. Some 20,000 tons of concrete rubble will be crushed on this job.”

By late October, Geppert had already demolished three five-story buildings in preparation for earthwork activities. Geppert also will be responsible for caisson test pits.

The company is fielding a large fleet of equipment for the job, including a Manitowoc 100-ton (91 t) crawler crane, American 125- and 55-ton (113 and 50 t) truck cranes, Komatsu PC-400 and PC-300 excavators, Volvo 360 excavators, an Eagle 1400 impact crusher, a Caterpillar 973 front end loader and a Komatsu PC 450 long boom excavator.

A large number of Geppert employees are on-site, including two superintendents, a safety manager, 20 asbestos workers, between eight and 10 operating engineers, up to half a dozen teamsters and about 10 laborers.

“We began work on this project in July 2007. The estimated time of completion was within 240 days,” Marconi noted. “However, no problems have been experienced and completion will be in March 2008, a week ahead of schedule.”

About the Company

Founded by William A. Geppert Sr. in 1925, the company was incorporated in 1960 and relocated the following year to its current headquarters in Colmar, Pa.

Geppert Brothers Inc. offers clients in the Tri-State area industrial, residential, commercial, interior and selective demolition services as well as land clearing, site preparation, excavation, hauling and equipment rentals.

Major projects undertaken include demolition of the Connie Mack Stadium and the Liberty Bell Racetrack. CEG

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