Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Always learning, always explaining, and an update

This sounds, to my mind, elegant: the construction company's marketing department works to get companies/ agencies/ people with money to hire us to build stuff. (Such stuff, by the way, has included Seattle's Experience Music Project, Seattle Central Library, and the McMinnville museum that houses the Spruce Goose. Each job we seek requires a Request For Proposals (RFP), where several construction companies sell themselves. Sometimes there's an earlier step in the selling process called the Request For Qualifications (RFQ). The shorter version of each:

RFQ: We can build this.

RFP: We should build this.

Again, I just find that elegant.

Speaking of building, we're building another big one! In, um, two years. This is pretty long lead and unusual, but here's what led to this point:

The company got hired several years ago to build a new downtown office tower, kitty-corner from the Fox Tower where our offices are, and by early 2009 when I first interviewed for this job, the company had already dug the hole where the new building's foundation and the underground parking would go. There was a crane and the start of the building core. Within a couple of months, though, the owner halted construction and ordered it to be redesigned: some 10 stories shorter and no longer with condominiums at the top, because the Portland condo market had collapsed. The owner was OK with keeping the crane up, hoping to restart when he felt it more reasonable to do so. The restart kept not happening. By the time I started the job for real in November 2009, the site had been idled. That's been true for my two years there so far.

Two years is a long time to leave a hole. (Boise, Idaho has it worse: its downtown has what's become known as The Boise Hole. It's where a building burned down in 1987. It's only now about to MAYBE get filled in with a building. Maybe.) But there really wasn't much more that could be done with it. In the office, we've cracked about what could be done with it: hanging gardens, a block-sized swimming pool, world's largest Jell-O mold...

The owner (yes, I'm being vague about what's easily-researchable public knowledge, but I should probably be vague, and it's a good writing exercise to be so and still get points across) feels that a 2013 start to finally filling in that downtown Portland hole would mean the building would be ready for tenants in 2015 and 2016, when some major leases in other downtown buildings will expire. Said owner would like to be able to say to those lessees, "Here's something better."

Soon this will mean I should get to see something I haven't seen before: a crane dismantling. On top of the unusually long wait for the work restart, the owner also has to deal with an already unhappy neighbor, which is the downtown Nordstrom. That company had complained about the tower arm swinging out over the department store. That's due to weather vaning, really the ideal way to stow a crane when it's not being used, where you just let it follow where the wind puts it. Sometimes that's above the store, so once a week or so we'd have someone go up in the crane and swing it into a different position. Recently the Nordstrom took a further step and filed a lawsuit. So the crane has to be locked into some position pointing away from the store, and that's less safe. Removing the crane will remove a headache, and maybe -- I'm not the technical expert, being as I've not had years of training in construction stuff -- the restarted project may get better use from a different crane, one going up more than a year from now. Heck, I look at the crane, and hear about the department store's complaint, and imagine the crane being used in a Mission: Impossible or Leverage heist-y way. Which would be, um, really freaking ill-advised...but it's fun to imagine.

In the meantime, we work. There's still plenty of things that can be built, and we hope to build some of 'em.

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