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An NHL hockey rink finds a home on the roof of a midwestern former Macy's.

Byline: Brian Johnson

The ambitious overhaul of the former downtown St. Paul Macys store was rife with complexities that ran the gamut from an aggressive timeline to a constrained project site fronted by busy Wabasha Street. But arguably the most difficult and unusual task was crowning the 540,000-square-foot building with a 1,0-seat NHL-size practice rink for the Minnesota Wild hockey team. You are literally building a building on top of a building, said RJM Construction Chief Operating Officer Joe Maddy, who oversaw the project. It was kind of a fun challenge to try and figure out how to fit something in that obviously nobody ever thought of when they were building this building. A grand opening for the new Treasure Island Center was held in January. Besides the Minnesota Wild, tenants include Walgreens, Tim Hortons, Stacked Deck Brewing, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and TRIA Orthopedic. The redevelopment project also includes 00 stalls of parking, which served the former department store and other downtown visitors. Built in 1962 and 1963 as a single-tenant department store, the five-story concrete edifice at 393 Wabasha St. faced a murky future after the Macys department pulled up its stakes in 2013. At the time, some experts said it would be better to knock it down and start over. Blow it up, economic development consultant Michael Montgomery of Michigan told Finance & Commerce at the time. Instead, the St. Paul Port Authority purchased the building for $3 million in 2014 and spent another $5.5 million to prepare it for redevelopment. The Port Authority initially chose Excelsior-based Oppidan to redevelop the vacant building. But Oppidan and the Port Authority were unable to agree on a timeline. In April 2016 the authority switched to Minneapolis-based Hempel. As Finance & Commerce reported in 2016, the delays in moving forward with the renovation nudged the authority in a new direction. Hempel brought RJM on board in October 2016 to deliver the $70 million makeover. The project came together quickly. In 2016, St. Paul-based Shaw-Lundquist Associates worked with the Port Authority and Hempel on pre-construction services, including interior abatement and demolition. RJM started construction last February. A certificate of occupancy was issued for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency in September and the rink was open for skating in January. At least 30 companies subcontracted directly with RJM, and some of those first-tier subs employed specialty contractors of their own, Maddy said. The project team included Minneapolis-based Collaborative Design Group (architect and structural engineer), Hudson, Wisconsin-based Stevens Engineers(ice rink engineer), Eden Prairie-based Allan Mechanical, Rogers-based GR Mechanical, Fridley-based Elliott Contracting, St. Paul-based Gephart Electric, Little Canada-based Rink-Tec, Mounds View-based Empirehouse and St. Paul-based Custom Drywall. To manage the activity, RJM had tradespeople working throughout the day and night. The staggered shifts made it easier to move materials in and out of the tight job site, and gave people more room to do their work, Maddy said. We had some crews start at 2 or 3 in the morning. Other crews would be on normal day shifts. And we had some people start late in the afternoon and work in the evenings, Maddy said. The downtown location was another big obstacle. Access is restricted on all but the Wabasha Street side. But planting a large mobile crane on Wabasha was out of the question, because it would have shut down the busy street for eight weeks, he said. To avoid traffic disruptions, the project team hoisted a 0,000-pound mobile crane to the rooftop to lift structural steel and other supplies needed for construction of the rink. Temporary support structures extended all the way down to the foundation to support the load, Maddy said. It was quite an engineering undertaking to make that happen, he added. Maddy said the existing structure had the capacity to hold the rink. But the project team put eight inches of concrete on top of the existing slab to keep the rink from vibrating, he said. Hempel Principal Randy McKay estimates it would have cost $14 million to demolish the massive building, which he described as a concrete bunker. The structure was solid but virtually windowless, he added. Lack of windows in the original building made it a tough sell for modern users. In the 1960s, the windowless design seemed to make sense for a single-use department store. The idea was to get a captive audience of shoppers and encourage them to stay for a while. In those days with the department stores, everything was turned in, McKay said. Now all the malls are turning out. The theory was, you get the customer inside and you dont really want them to leave. The renovation made the building more appealing to modern users. Crews stripped off the brick veneer, cut out the concrete block in the middle, and replaced it with a structural glass curtainwall facing Wabasha Street. Inside the building, workers werent quite sure what they would find when they started digging in. Any time you work in an old building like that, you are going to run into a lot of unknowns, said Paul Worwa, vice president and licensed engineer for Allan Mechanical, an HVAC subcontractor on the job. Crews needed to erect an extensive network of scaffolding to work inside the open shafts, said Worwa, who had 30 to 35 people on the job including second-tier subcontractors. A crazy-quilt of building codes applied to the project and the different users, creating another complexity. There was a crazy amount of work to be done in a short window, Worwa said.  

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Publication:Idaho Business Review
Date:Feb 15, 2018
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