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August 19, 2014

Contractor's challenge: build 3 Pearl District towers in one shot

Journal Construction Editor

Photo from Andersen Construction [enlarge]
Andersen Construction has three jobsites next to one another in the Pearl District of Portland.

Working on one high-rise is tough but try building three — at the same time — right next to one another.

That's what Andersen Construction is doing in Portland's Pearl District. Here are the towers: the 28-story Cosmopolitan, 26-story Overton and 16-story Block 17. Together, they will be 1 million square feet with 150 condos, 565 apartments and 608 structured parking stalls.

Brad Nile, project executive for the Cosmopolitan tower, said one of the biggest priorities is keeping the public safe.

“It's a very lively neighborhood,” he said, with a constant stream of people visiting a nearby park.

Andersen has a traffic control plan and is coordinating deliveries of equipment and material to keep pedestrians safe.

Nile said the master delivery plan created truck routes for each jobsite.

A colored ticket system was developed for concrete truck drivers, since all three projects are using post-tensioned concrete. Drivers are issued red tickets for Block 17, green tickets for Cosmopolitan and orange tickets for the Overton.

“Our teams know each other from past projects and most have built in the Pearl District before,” said Nile. “Each of the three (teams) knows when one of the other projects is expecting a large delivery and our coordination couldn't be any better so far.”

Image from Portland Auditor’s Office [enlarge]
The 26-story Overton apartment tower is rotated 45 degrees above the base, giving tenants views down the block.

The Cosmopolitan
Address: 1075 N.W. Northrup St.
Developer: Hoyt Street Properties
Architect: Boora Architects
Project: The $108 million tower will be the tallest residential building in Portland when it opens in mid-2016: 28 stories, 150 condos, retail and above-grade parking for 169 vehicles

Block 17
Address: Northwest 11th and Overton Street
Developer: Wood Partners
Architect: Boora Architects
Project: 16-story high-rise, five-story low-rise and a garage with 211 stalls. The 281 apartments will open next year.

The Overton
Address: 1333 N.W. 12th St.
Developer: Unico Properties
Architect: ZGF Architects
Project: Up to 285 apartments, 3,500 square feet of retail and underground parking for 271 cars in a 26-story tower set to open in mid-2016

Andersen has a dedicated safety coordinator at each jobsite.

“The safety coordinators are constantly meeting and coordinating the work together to ensure the neighborhood's safety,” Nile said.

Nile said there also is close communication between each project's management team, superintendents and other field managers. He said project executives get together frequently to make sure the project managers are talking. “It's pretty much old fashion communication.”

Nile said it's easy because they all have the same goals and corporate values. He said having three adjacent projects is a great opportunity for younger engineers to have lunch with colleagues doing the same thing around the corner.

Operating three projects in close proximity also is giving Andersen ways to save. Nile said they are getting some discounts from concrete suppliers and for concrete forms.

But the subtrades were separately bid in each project's negotiated contract, and Nile said there is little overlap on the subtrades between projects.

Nile said each owner group is extremely protective of its turf, so Andersen has assured them that there will be no “cross pollination” between the projects. He said the owners' biggest concern is having the projects get intertwined — an issue that exists whether or not projects are geographically close. The solution, he said, is the integrity of each project team.

The Overton is a concrete shear wall building, and construction started last week. The Cosmopolitan started last month and Block 17 got underway in January. The Cosmo is a concrete moment-frame building, and Block 17 is a concrete tower and a low-rise building with wood framing over a concrete base.

Nile said Block 17 will be the first to finish in 2015. The other two should be finished in mid-2016.

This isn't the first time Andersen has built three projects at once in the Pearl District. In 2007, it built The Wyatt, Asa Flats + Lofts and The Lovejoy within blocks of one another.

Nile said the company is taking the same basic approach this time as it did in 2007, but the Pearl District is “a completely different place than it was five years ago.”


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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