By Randall Bradley
On March 15, Thor Construction excavated its first bucketful of soil from the vacant lot at the Southeast corner of the intersection of Plymouth and Penn Avenues North in Minneapolis.
The entire site is under construction for Thor’s new project. Permits have been obtained to relocate sidewalks and traffic lanes so that they can remain in use during the construction phase.
The idea for the redevelopment of this site was 10 years in the making. Since 2007, Thor has been in discussions with several entities and individuals to bring this project to fruition. After years of meetings, phone calls, agreements, disagreements, deals falling apart, one-step forward, two-steps backward, the site at 1228 Penn Ave. N. was finally selected. The transformation of this vacant lot into a shiny new urban development project was agreed upon by all.
The real estate development process is comprised of several competing and sometimes, conflicting agendas. Site factors, legal issues, agency jurisdictions, material selections, time, costs, owners, financial structures, tenants, availability of materials and personnel and consultants are all a part of this process. There are other situations, often unknown that have a tendency to reveal themselves at inopportune times (see Murphy’s Law). The development process is more circular than linear and adds many layers over time. These circular layers break apart more than they remain together. Tenacity, optimism, and the ability to endure lots of arithmetic and negotiate ambiguity are essential to create a successful inner-city urban real estate development project such as this one.
The excavators moved on-site after the clearing of all brush, trees, topsoil and the erection of the perimeter chain link fencing and gates. Construction work has challenges and can present dangers to the untrained. Thor has both a fence to maintain the safety of the public, as well as, signs indicating the requirements for safety gear for site visitors. These precautions shall remain in place for the duration of the construction period.
Immediately following the initial excavation work, and undertaken simultaneously, the perimeter piling began on March 20. For this and most urban sites, pile drivers are noisy, dirty, and vibrate intensely. They are also necessary.
Piles are driven in at the original surface of the site. The tops are left exposed to a dimension between four to eight feet high. Between the piles, wooden timbers are attached. This creates a foundation barrier between the site and the surrounding properties. This is called the earth retention system, which allows maximum square footage for staging of materials and equipment at the surface level.
Piling has two serious functions. The first is to keep the soil from collapsing into the excavation. A hole that is shored and stable will allow for the best construction environment.
Secondly, and equally important, is to keep the surrounding properties from experiencing any lateral movement. This will protect adjacent foundations and keep all the underground utilities below the streets from damage. This piling and shoring system will remain in place until project completion.
Architect Randall Bradley will be writing a multi-part series on the construction of the new Thor property at the corners of Penn Avenue North and Plymouth Avenue North in Minneapolis.