Despite Challenges, Grant Park is High Quality and On Schedule

Coordination has proved critical at the Grant Park Village project site, where time and site constraints have challenged construction crews.

In the first phase of the Northeast Portland mixed-use development, workers are erecting five buildings that will hold a New Seasons Market, ground-floor retail space and 211 apartment units. Also, parking for 270 vehicles is being built at the site formerly occupied by Albina Fuel Co., between Northeast 32nd and 33rd avenues, and Broadway and BNSF Railway tracks.

The transition from shell work to tenant improvements is complex, said Jeff Sackett, principal at Capstone Partners LLC, which is developing the $60 million project.

“It’s a very complicated project,” he said. “Any time you have mixed use, it’s complicated by nature. Add in partially subgrade parking and retail on top of that and three levels of housing on top of that (and) basically, three city blocks are being built at once.”

Construction of the first phase started June 3, 2013, after a permitting-related delay, said Bennett Barnwell, superintendent at Walsh Construction Co., the project’s general contractor.

Walsh had to hand over the New Seasons portion of the project to R&H Construction Co. by April 30 so that R&H would have six months to make the tenant improvements, Barnwell said. New Seasons signed a lease to occupy the first floor of buildings one and two by Nov. 1, he said.

“We would have ideally liked to have built east to west, but the permit delayed us a couple of months,” he said. “That altered the way the formworks were created and increased the number of alterations needed on the formworks.”

Walsh would have normally used the same mold from Building Five on the site’s east side for buildings three and four in the middle; instead, the mold from Building Five had to be remodeled for buildings one and two and remodeled again for buildings three and four, Barnwell said.

“Because we couldn’t just do a concrete slab in one steady flow, we essentially left the whole center part of the (project),” he said. “We would have liked to have done the concrete planter walls and waterproofing in one steady flow.”

Walsh’s build-out was further limited by the site, which allowed a construction crane’s giant arm to fully reach only buildings one through four. That means “a lot of mule work” for Building Five, Barnwell said.

Despite the challenges, the handover of the New Seasons shell took place on time; R&H will make the tenant improvements over the next six months. All five buildings will be completed by the end of the year, Barnwell said.

Jim Longo, left, and Bob McElroy, both sheet metal workers with American Heating Inc., mount an outdoor air conditioning unit at Grant Park Village. (Sam Tenney/DJC)

While Walsh set up the formwork, R&H and its subcontractors began penetrating the site’s post-tension concrete slab. Coordination is critical because any mistakes – such as drilling into a cable – could cause an accident, said Gerhard Penner, R&H’s project superintendent.

Sharing subcontractors has improved coordination, he said.

“We worked hand in hand with Walsh, using the same mechanical, electrical and plumbing subs,” he said. “Therefore, since the plumber was already on site, he already knew he was going to do the build-out. He’s going to make sure the sleeves are in the right place.”

While some neighbors are shocked by the size of the project, they are happy with the result, said Brittain Brewer, chairman of the Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood Association. Traffic is expected to increase, but the development also will provide upwards of 80 jobs as well as additional shopping options.

“It was a mudhole before, and now we can walk to New Seasons,” he said. “These architects and developers have done an excellent job.”

A new traffic signal will be installed on Broadway at 32nd Avenue, Brewer said. Also, signals at 24th and 37th avenues will be improved.

“You can go on Broadway downtown and there’s a light at every block; why should Broadway at 32nd be any different?” he said. “With greater density and greater traffic, lights are to be expected. I have no problem with it. I am content with the way things worked out.”

The project is expected to have two or three phases. The remaining space on the 4.9-acre property is zoned for high-density residential and commercial use, Sackett said.

“It’s still too early to tell what that’s going to look like,” he said. “The site has a lot of potential.”

Tim Carpenter, a glazier with Culver Glass and a member of Local 740, performs an installation for a Grant Park Village retail space. (Sam Tenney/DJC)