It’s all Steel and Concrete

Written by Anthony Macuk.  Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review – 6/30/16.

“In a nutshell, we dug a gigantic hole, shored it, and now we’re bringing it back up.”

That’s how Ryan Browne, one of two project superintendents, describes the last eight months of construction on the Wizer Block in downtown Lake Oswego. Redevelopment of the area at the corner of First Street and A Avenue — known officially as Block 137 — is scheduled to be completed in late 2017 and will add three new mixed-use buildings on the site.

The new buildings will provide just under 43,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground level and 200 apartments above. A two-floor garage will sit under the buildings, providing 430 parking spaces, of which 135 will be for public parking.

At the moment, only one of the three new buildings has risen high enough to be seen from behind the black-cloth fencing that surrounds the site. The most visible parts of the development are still the two 171-foot-tall tower cranes that stand above the block. But down at the garage level in the middle of the worksite, all three buildings have begun to take shape.

“We’re really just in this phase of structure work,” says Browne, who works for Lease Crutcher Lewis, the project’s general contractor, “where it’s all steel and concrete.”

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A construction worker helps assemble the temporary platform that will hold up the concrete for the second floor while it hardens.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE – A construction worker helps assemble the temporary platform that will hold up the concrete for the second floor while it hardens.

Buildings A and C, located along the east side of the block and in its southwest corner respectively, will share a two-story underground parking garage. The garage floors are still under construction for building A, but crews have already finished the garage levels and ground floor of building C and are currently preparing to pour concrete for the structure’s second floor.

That’s the most visible part of the structure to see from outside the site — the metal poles and platform on the east side of the block are the formwork that will allow crews to pour the concrete for the second floor. Once the concrete hardens, the formwork can be pulled out and the floor will stand on the main support columns.

“It’s 28 days for full strength on concrete,” says Browne.

The wait time is long, but the actual pouring process takes just a few hours for each of the three sections of one of the building’s floors. The wet concrete is pumped from trucks at the edge of the site to a green crane arm with a hose attached. The upcoming concrete pour for the 21,000-square-foot second floor of building C will require approximately 18 cement trucks.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ALVARO FONTAN - From the air, you can see all three footprints of the buildings going up in the Wizer block.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ALVARO FONTAN – From the air, you can see all three footprints of the buildings going up in the Wizer block.

Browne says the project has been proceeding without any major challenges, although he says the team did run into some large rocky material when digging out the site. The project impact was minimal, but the area requires a bit more backfill now than what was originally anticipated.

“We had an abundance of large boulders on site,” he says. “We expected some, but we found a lot. A couple of them were the size of a small Fiat or a Volkswagen.”

Lake Oswego endured a particularly wet and rainy winter season this year, but Browne says the rain didn’t have a huge impact on the pace of construction — although it did mean the crew had to deal with a lot of mud. At this stage of the project, Browne says, lightning or high wind conditions tend to be more of a problem than rain, because they can force the crew to shut down the tower cranes.

“Rain, especially in Oregon, you work through,” he says.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ALVARO FONTAN - An aerial drone takes a bird's eye view of the Wizer block.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: ALVARO FONTAN – An aerial drone takes a bird’s eye view of the Wizer block.

Still, all of the extraction work was completed by the end of 2015 and the crew switched from digging to building at the beginning of January. Browne says the concrete work is about 25 percent complete, and the project is about a third of the way into its overall timeline.

“We’re in the structure phase of the project,” he says. “Then we put on a roof and start (exterior walls).”

In the immediate future, Browne says residents can expect to see numerous cement mixer trucks entering and leaving the site as the crews continue to pour concrete. Once the crews move on to building the roof and walls, there will also be scaffolding around the perimeter of the site.

“There’s a logistical challenge here just based on the amount of traffic and pedestrians — we’ve got a city on all four sides of us that’s continuing to operate,” he says. “We’re always doing our best to try to be a good neighbor.”

Those efforts include trying to stick to the designated work hours and scheduling trucks and other deliveries to avoid blocking traffic, and Browne says public feedback shows that residents appreciate the effort. He says the team knows that the project was a large source of controversy when it was still in the planning stages, so the positive reception during construction is a relief.

“We’ve had some complaints, but the feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “There were some concerns about how much pushback we’d get, (so) it’s rewarding for us, and the guys like the hear it too.”

Contact Anthony Mack.  

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