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North Lake Puts Fresh Face on Riverbank Zoo

Wed September 06, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Barbie Perkins-Cooper

Riverbank Zoo, located in Columbia, SC, is involved in a major construction expansion project. The transformation of the zoo includes an entrance to Riverbank Zoo through the Botanical Gardens, and improvements to the birdhouse and elephant exhibits. These updated improvements will be state-of-the-art and will assist in making Riverbank Zoo one of America’s most exciting zoological parks. Construction began in 1998 and will conclude in the summer of 2002. Total cost of the zoo and botanical garden expansion is projected at $18 million.

The expansion begins at the west entry renovations where ticketed entry, parking areas and botanical gardens are under construction. Contract Construction is responsible for this phase of the project.

North Lake Construction Company Inc. of Lexington, SC, is the general contractor responsible for the bird pavilion and entry renovation project; construction of the lemur exhibit; new flamingo display; the new birdhouse, and the elephant and gorilla exhibits located at Safari Village. North Lake started the projects in August 1999 and will complete the construction in October 2001. The Riverbank Zoo construction is ahead of schedule presently, due to good planning, management, and the supervision of Jeff Wilkerson and Ed Bonjour.

Janet Lehman of North Lake Construction is the project manager for the Riverbank Zoo project, partnered with Royce Lehman. General superintendent is Barry Westlake.

Construction begins at the entry plaza, which includes the snake sidewalk, consisting of 18,000 bricks and tile. The head of the snake is placed at the entrance of the zoo, curving along the sidewalk, and ending at the tram stop. The public may purchase a brick for engraving purposes.

Ponds are scheduled for the expansion, including a muskrat pond; elephant pond; lemur pond, and a pond inside the bird pavilion for penguins. The bird pavilion will be pre-cast construction.

The penguin exhibit is maintained at 55 degrees, filtered by an ozone generating system. The pool consists of a saltwater pool, with wave machines and a viewing area.

The gorilla building will serve as a holding area for the gorillas and a public viewing area. The gorilla viewing structure will be a peeled log structure. The masonry stucco structure will consist of 6,500 sq. ft., surrounding 1.5 acres. The gorilla building structure is extremely rustic and will have an African atmosphere. The gorilla building is scheduled to be the first part of the exhibits to open. The expected completion date is 2001.

The entire design of the gorilla, elephant, and Safari Village is planned to give the impression that the viewing public is walking through a safari village in Africa. Tropical plants will be planted to authenticate the traditional values of an African setting.

The elephant building is a pre-engineered metal building, consisting of 800 linear feet of 14-ft. retaining walls throughout the exhibit. The elephant barn contains approximately 6,500 sq. ft. The elephant exhibit will be contained on approximately 1.5 acres. The elephant pool is designed to resemble a pond, and will allow the elephants to have availability to walk into the pool, serving as a natural habit for elephants.

Because of the atypical construction, every day creates a new challenge for the contractors and North Lake. “We deal with these problems on a day-to-day basis and work them through,” said North Lake Construction’s Janet Lehman. “This is not your typical construction and every day is quite a challenge.”

Construction equipment has performed well and was available through a variety of resources. Carolina Wrecking Company provided much of the equipment used.

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