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Rebuilding Block 89

Rebuilding Block 89

Extensive redevelopment project rejuvenates entire city block in Madison, Wis.

By By Dave Barista, Associate Editor | August 11, 2010
This article first appeared in the 200106 issue of BD+C.

When Urban Land Interests (ULI) purchased its first building on Block 89 in 1986 — a vacant J.C. Penney department store that ULI converted into the five-story, 86,000-sq.-ft. One East Main office building — Thomas Neujhar and Brad Binkowski, partners of the Madison-based development company, didn't have a grand scheme to redevelop the entire block, located across the street from the Wisconsin State Capitol building.

"We were content with just leasing office space in One East Main," says Neujhar, adding that tenants include several large law firms. "But we quickly learned that lack of parking and limited room for expansion for our growing tenants would be a major problem."

As a temporary solution to the parking and office space shortage, ULI acquired the adjacent, seven-story, 76-year-old Insurance Building. "At that point, we had 140,000 square feet of office space that was dependent upon 92 surface parking stalls," says Binkowski. "Initially we thought to build an above-grade parking structure in the center of the block. But we felt that we should instead do something more special to preserve the character of the block."

By 1995, ULI had acquired nearly every building on Block 89, and commissioned Chicago-based architect Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDT) to master-plan and design the block.

"My first thought was that it would be cheaper and easier to build one large building with parking on the first few floors," says Joseph Valerio, principal of VDT. "But I have to hand it to ULI — they were most concerned with enhancing the integrity of downtown Madison. They also had tenants such as Walgreen's and several law firms that had to stay operational through construction."

The scheme that VDT and ULI created was, by local standards, quite sweeping. The six-year, $32 million project was the largest ever undertaken in Madison. It involved multiple facets, from new construction and restoration to renovation and expansion. The major components included:

  • Constructing a five-level, 800-car parking garage underneath the block.

  • Building a new office structure, the 10-story, 188,000-sq.-ft. 10 East Doty.

  • Dismantling and reconstructing the 145-year-old, three-story Burrows Block building, and converting the interior into modern office space. The building's original yellow sandstone façade was replaced with new limestone.

  • Adding 40,000 square feet of office space to the upper four floors and 22,000 square feet of new retail space on the ground floor of the One East Main building.

  • Renovating the Insurance Building, including tuckpointing the brick façade, updating the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and replacing the windows.

  • Relocating a Walgreen's store and a restaurant to new locations on the block.

  • Constructing a single-story service structure at the core of the block that links to each facility for delivery of supplies. Future plans are to landscape its roof to provide a courtyard and break area for tenants.

The final piece of the plan calls for construction of the nine-story 33 East Main office building on the northeast corner of the block. Featuring a mostly transparent exterior of glass, steel and masonry, the building is expected to break ground in the summer of 2002.

Parking garage drives project

"The key to the whole block, and the real genius of the development, was creating an underground parking structure," says Neujhar. "It allowed all of the sidewalk levels of the buildings to be used for street life, like Starbucks, Walgreen's, banks and restaurants."

Financed by the city with parking revenue bonds, the parking garage extends underneath nearly the entire block. Only One East Main and the Insurance Building rest on their own foundations; the rest of the block is supported by the parking structure.

Construction of the garage began from the top down. Madison-based general contractor J.H. Findorff & Son excavated 5 feet depths of earth at a time, installing vertical soldier piles every 15 feet and tying them back with 35- to 80-ft.-long horizontal steel-tensioned anchors, or soil nails. Steel rebar was then installed between the piles and a 12-in.-thick wall was constructed using shotcrete, a quick-drying mix that is sprayed into place. The wall serves as both the garage perimeter and the soil retention wall.

"At one point, there was a giant 50-ft.-deep concrete box with an 800-ft.-long perimeter wall," says Thomas Delany, project manager for Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Carl Walker Inc., structural engineer for the parking garage.

Once the foundation was complete, the five parking levels and ramps were built.

"We also had to plan into the parking garage the elevator cores for 10 East Doty and the future 33 East Main building," says David Jennerjahn, principal and project architect with VDT. "So people can drive into the garage, park and take an elevator right to their floor,"

Moreover, says Delany, "We had to make sure the floors of the garage braced the perimeter wall, because the support anchors extend under city streets and adjacent property for which ULI doesn't have long-term ownership. In the future, if the city has to dig and cut through the anchors, it won't present a problem."

One of the more suspenseful moments of the project, says Binkowski, was during construction of the parking ramp below the One East Main building. The plan involved cutting off several of the building's concrete columns and transferring the loads to three concrete transfer beams in the parking structure. Eliminating the columns allowed for 55 more parking spaces in the parking garage.

"The structural engineer, Bob Darvas [of Kalamazoo, Mich.-based engineer Robert Darvas Associates], was so convinced the load transfer was going to work without a hitch," adds Binkowski, "that he stood underneath the building as Findorff severed the old columns. It turned out that the building deflected just 3/8 inch, which shifted a few doorways within the building, but that was the extent of the damage."

Pieces of the puzzle

Before construction of the parking garage was even completed, contractors were already working directly above, beginning to construct the 10 East Doty tower and reassemble the historic Burrows Block building.

"At one point, we were topping off construction of the 10 East Doty building while the 50-ft.-deep excavation for the below-grade parking garage was happening right next door," says Donald Jochem, job superintendent with J.H. Findorff & Son.

VDT's design for the block treats each building individually, yet links all the structures in function. The most striking example is on the south side of the block, where the Burrows Block building, 10 East Doty and the Insurance Building are essentially one building with floor plates aligned at certain levels. The aligned floors provide nearly 24,000 square feet of continuous leasable office space on a single floor, spanning all three buildings.

The same design philosophy was applied on the opposite side of the block, where the original One East Main and its addition, which includes two stories of office space above Walgreen's, is connected office space.

"No one desires to work in an office directly above Walgreen's," says Valerio. "So we created an infill building to break up the façade, and then accented the Walgreen's entrance with a sloping, stainless-steel wall, which we call the 'hat.' It's definitely one of the more unusual Walgreen's strorefronts around."

When completed, the 33 East Main building will serve as the "exclamation point" for the north side of the block.

A massive effort

Addressing the complexity of the project, Delany points out that five different methods of concrete construction were employed: Slab-on-grade for the lowest parking level; two-way flat slabs for the garage floors; shotcrete for the garage walls; waffle slabs for high-load floors on the lower levels of 10 East Doty and the One East Main addition; and two-way prestressed slabs for the upper floors of 10 East Doty, where alignment to the Insurance Building's shallow floor-to-floor height mandated a "thin" structure.

"This is a unique block," concludes Binkowski. "I'm not sure we'll ever have an opportunity to work on anything quite like it again."

Construction Costs

General conditions $3,136,577
Sitework 2,702,522
Concrete 10,447,699
Masonry 1,929,655
Metals 1,274,926
Carpentry 396,400
Thermal and moisture protection 864,060
Roofing 550,516
Doors and windows 2,427,182
Furnishings 2,172,298
Elevators 1,179,316
Plumbing 519,425
Fire protection 562,828
Mechanical 2,057,745
Electrical 1,814,029
TOTAL $32,065,178

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