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Kroc Center Construction Begins in Augusta

Tue June 15, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Cindy Riley


The historic Sibley Mill, pictured at right, is across the Augusta Canal from the Kroc Center site.
The historic Sibley Mill, pictured at right, is across the Augusta Canal from the Kroc Center site.
The historic Sibley Mill, pictured at right, is across the Augusta Canal from the Kroc Center site. Hard at work on storm drain excavation. So far, things have been smooth onsite, with no  weather delays or surprises. The site of the Kroc Center’s future gymnasium. The church in the background was built in 1880 and will be renovated as part of the Kroc Center campus. Work has begun on the gymnasium, which will feature basketball courts, workout space and studios for yoga and aerobics.

After years of evaluations and a frenetic fundraising campaign, a multimillion dollar Salvation Army complex in Augusta, Ga., is finally getting off the ground. The Kroc Center — named in honor of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and wife Joan — is under construction, with a targeted completion date in July 2011.

In 2004, the estate of Joan Kroc made a $1.7 billion bequest to The Salvation Army earmarked to build and endow a series of Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the country. Two years later, The Salvation Army in Augusta was awarded one of them. The approved proposal included $33.9 million for construction and another $34 million for an operational endowment, provided Augusta provide significant funding as well.

Located along the Augusta Canal, the center campus centers on the one main building and a 10,000 sq. ft. structure that will house the First Stop Family Service Center, which will provide housing, food and clothing assistance, child care needs, as well as veterans and government benefits. In addition, the Kroc Center will include a state-of-the-art recreational facility with cardio equipment, a pool, aqua therapy, basketball courts, outdoor running trails and studio space for yoga and aerobics. It also will serve as a center for the arts, with a 400-seat theater complete with an orchestra pit, available for rehearsals and performances. Music classrooms, office, meeting and storage space for local arts groups are included in the plans as well. The Kroc Center also will conduct weekly worship services.

“It’s extremely fulfilling, because this is definitely one of the largest projects going on in this area,” said Salvation Army Community Relations Director Derek Dugan. “We’re at just over 20 percent of completion right now. So far there haven’t been any rain delays or surprises, other than having to reroute a sewer line. I can watch the progress each day right from my office window, and it’s very rewarding to see what’s happening.”

The Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center contains more than 100,000 sq. ft. of programming space, including a 77,000 sq. ft. complex situated on a 17-acre site in the mill community of Harrisburg, Ga. The total investment, including a permanent operating endowment, will be $98 million. When finished, the Center will provide facilities, programs and services for youngsters, adults and senior citizens.

Putting People to Work

“The Kroc Center is an extremely important project for Augusta and the Central Savannah River Area from a construction standpoint,” explained Chuck McRee, director of pre-construction services for general contractor RW Allen LLC , headquartered in Augusta, Ga. “It’s putting local contractors to work in a very difficult economic time. Right now the project team is performing very well and is currently on schedule. We broke ground February 15, 2010 and will complete the project in July 2011.”

McRee added, “We are excited and proud to be a part of helping the Salvation Army expand their mission to serve the community, and to be a part of Augusta’s revitalization efforts.There are several aspects to this project.”

“The First Stop Village, which is located on the same property as the Kroc center, consists of several relocated house structures. There’s a new 12,000 square foot building to host various social service representatives. The major structure onsite is the Kroc Center itself, which is approximately 70,000 square feet. The facility houses an indoor/outdoor water park/pool, weight training areas, gymnasium and community events hall, along with a commercial kitchen and administrative space.”

One of the biggest challenges of the project, said McRee, is the construction of the water park/pool.

“The water park includes a slide feature that exits and re-enters the building and empties into the indoor pool. The location and coordination of this slide feature is extremely critical. The pool subcontractor also wants the structure completed prior to their mobilization so that all the other trades are out of the way for the pool/slide installation.”

Equipment on the project includes all-terrain forklifts, along with hydraulic excavators, tractor pulled scrapers, self-propelled scrapers and heavy dump trucks. Various personnel lifts also will be used to access elevated work.

“The Center is being constructed on vacant property and there should be no impact on traffic other than some minor traffic control issues in areas where we are making curb cuts onto Broad Street and Eve Street,” McRee continued. The most time-consuming operation on the project will be CMU and brick masonry construction, along with completion of the stainless steel pool/slide/water park features.”

“The building, which will have a brick veneer finish, is a single story structure consisting of load bearing CMU masonry with steel trusses and steel bar joists. The roof is a combination of metal roof panels and a single-ply roof system,” concluded McRee.

Mid-State Masonry Contractors Inc., Columbia, S.C., serves as a subcontractor for the project.

“We started work at this site about seven weeks ago,” explained Mid-State Masonry owner Joel Temples. “One thing that has been a great advantage to us has been the use of the Hydro-Mobile Scaffolding System, which has allowed our productivity to increase by at least 10 percent beyond what we had figured for this job. We have six months remaining on this project.”

“The biggest obstacle has been trying to mobilize and man the project so quickly after being awarded the project. We are happy to be a part of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, as our company shares the same values,” said Temples.

Undisturbed History

In addition to site work and masonry walls, many of the houses acquired for the project had to be renovated and are being used as offices and training facilities. Keeping the work respectful of the area’s history also has been extremely important.

“We acquired a church dating back to 1880 on the corner of the property and directly across from the two historic mills,” said Dugan. “We’ve always been sensitive to the historic nature of this district. Building the Kroc Center is a way to restore and renovate these important structures.”

Richard Fletcher, a partner with Cheatham, Fletcher, Scott Architects, Augusta, Ga., viewed the project as a unique opportunity. The design process, he added, was truly a team effort.

“We searched nationwide for a partner with experience in recreation projects and found Barker, Rinker, Seacat Architecture in Denver. They led the charge in planning the Kroc Center, while we worked to make the massing relate to the historical architecture of Augusta. Cheatham, Fletcher, Scott Architects also designed the First Stop Center that will provide connections for people in need to dozens of social agencies all in one place.

The main challenge for the architectural firm was dealing with this historically significant site.

“It dates to the Revolution. We worked closely with The Augusta Canal Authority, Historic Augusta and Augusta Tomorrow to ensure our building design and its placement on the site are respective of the Sibley Mill, King Mill, Ezekiel Harris House and an open grassy area known as Chaffee Park, which is situated next to the Augusta Canal.”

Seven cottages dating to around 1900 were located on the site of the main building. Fortunately, they were in relatively sound condition and were moved one block to the east, where they will be clustered together in a village to provide support spaces for the First Stop social services center.

According to Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, “The Kroc Center represents a nearly $100 million investment in Augusta’s historic Harrisburg neighborhood, and I fully expect it to be a transformational project for that area of the city.

“Having studied the halo effect to the surrounding area experienced in other cities through the development of these facilities,” Copenhaver explained, “I feel very confident the Kroc Center will draw further investment into the area while serving as a catalyst to our ongoing revitalization efforts. The architecture of the facility being developed with the historic nature of the surrounding neighborhood in mind will help to further strengthen the image and sense of place of the surrounding community.”

The construction project has created more than 100 jobs so far, and Dugan agreed that the overall economic impact could be substantial in the long run.

“Kroc Centers tend to be located in lower-income areas with higher-income surroundings. This project can inspire other development. This beautiful area has been neglected over the years and it’s long overdue for a transformation.”

Dugan added, “I’m amazed by what’s taking place. I never thought we’d be here, to be quite honest. This will be a single location where all the community can gather to learn, work out and be exposed to the arts under one roof. It’s going to be a truly remarkable place for the residents of Augusta to experience.”