NY Steel Fabrication, Hudson River Pier, Direct Transloading, Steel Design & Fabrication


New York Steel Fabrication, Steel Design, Hudson River Pier, Hudson River Shipyard, Steel Bridge Fabrication

National Association of Government Contractors  

National Association of Government Contractors  


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Columbus Circle's towers start to tower
- The New York Times, By DAVID W. DUNLAP, Published: March 3, 2002

Shortly before noon last Wednesday, as Wynton Marsalis led six members of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in a rousing "Buddy Bolden's Blues," a steel beam was hoisted into the snowy skies over Columbus Circle on its way up to the south tower of AOL Time Warner Center.

It was, in almost every respect, a proper topping-out. The beam was ornamented with a small evergreen and a flag, as tradition dictates. Tribute was paid to the 400 workers who went to ground zero on the night of Sept. 11. The mayor made a little speech. Camelhair coats and hard hats mingled.

Just one thing about this topping out: the building isn't even half its ultimate height.

"This is the structural equivalent of a 1.8 million-square-foot office building and we're only about 350 feet high," said Stephen M. Ross, chairman and chief executive of the Related Companies, who is developing the $1.7 billion project with William L. Mack of Apollo Real Estate Advisors and Kenneth A. Himmel of the Palladium Company.

What was topped out Wednesday was the superstructure of a steel podium that will one day contain the first permanent home for Jazz at the Lincoln Center, AOL Time Warner headquarters, CNN and CNNfn studios and a multilevel shopping and restaurant arcade.

Still to come atop the steel framework are two concrete towers containing 198 condominium apartments and a 251-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel. These twins will reach a height of 53 stories, or 750 feet. Each will weigh about 84 million pounds, even before the Sub-Zero refrigerators are installed.

"We look forward to having you back in 18 months when we finish the building," Mr. Ross told several hundred people who gathered in the shell of the Allen Room, one of three performance spaces for Jazz at Lincoln Center, 80 feet above ground. The room will have a glass wall on its east end overlooking Columbus Circle through an even larger cable-net glass wall beyond. That larger wall that will create a portal at the end of 59th Street that is almost tall enough to accommodate two Washington Arches stacked one atop the other. This opening bisects a gently curving 450-foot-long shopping arcade that runs from 58th to 60th Street, crisscrossed by foot bridges at the third and fourth floors.

There is room in the 347,000-square-foot retail gallery, called the Palladium, for six restaurants and up to 60 shops. To date, 11 tenants have signed leases for 101,000 square feet, five of them since Sept. 11.

Sixty apartments in the towers, known as 1 Central Park, have been sold, 40 of them since Sept. 11. Among those available are a full-floor, 8,332-square-foot apartment for $27 million and a 1,283-square-foot, two bedroom apartment for $1.8 million.

Although Mr. Mack said in an interview last week that the developers were "very optimistic that this will be extremely successful," he could not help joking on Wednesday that the real purpose of the ceremony was to find more tenants. "We have a lot of prospects for retail and condominiums," he told the crowd, "so look around. It's great."

AOL Time Warner Center has survived one challenge already. The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, a neighborhood group, sued last year to stop or modify the project on the grounds that it far exceeded the scope of construction contemplated in a 1997 environmental review.

The center is to have a gross floor area of nearly 2.8 million square feet. The developers maintain that if the project is measured by zoning rules, which do not count mechanical and basement space, it will have 2.1 million square feet, as required.

On Dec. 21, Justice Rosalyn Richter of State Supreme Court ruled that the evidence refuted the opponents' claim that the project will violate the 2.1 million square foot limit. But she also reminded city officials that "some government agency must have the responsibility to ensure that this building, which is still far from completion, does not exceed the limitations."

And that will be impossible, said the opponents' lawyer, James J. Periconi of Windels Marx Lane & Mittendorf, because the city waived a requirement that the developers furnish the dimensions of the spaces to be built. Instead, it accepted the developers' own calculations of floor area. "We believe that the Department of Buildings has never checked the accuracy of any of the figures because it lacks the information with which to do so," Mr. Periconi said. "So really, no one can say that the project does not exceed 2.1 million square feet." He has asked the court to reconsider its decision.

Although the Buildings Department would not respond in detail because the case is still pending, a spokeswoman, Ilyse Fink, said, "The information provided by the applicant is sufficient to satisfy us that the limitations imposed by zoning and the environmental review have not been exceeded."

While the legal battle plays out, the project continues to advance. Crews have erected 22,500 tons of steel since groundbreaking 330 days ago, laid 1.5 million square feet of decking and poured 50,000 cubic yards of concrete, said Peter Marchetto, the northeast regional president of Bovis Lend Lease, the overall construction manager.

Its is all made possible by a $1.3 billion loan from the GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation that closed just six weeks before the attack on New York. The balance of the financing, $400 million in equity, comes from Related, AOL Time Warner, Mandarin Oriental and two Apollo entities whose partners include state and corporate pension funds, college and other private endowments and wealthy individuals.

Of the five retail leases signed since Sept. 11, one is for the largest single block of space yet: a 32,000-square-foot Equinox Fitness Club. Others are a 12,500-square-foot restaurant by Thomas Keller, chef and owner of the French Laundry in Napa Valley; a 5,300-square-foot Cole Haan shoe store; and two small body and beauty shops. Jean Georges Vongerichten will have a 9,000-square-foot steakhouse. The apparel stores Hugo Boss, J. Crew, Joseph Abboud, A/X Armani Exchange and Eileen Fisher have 41,000 square feet among them. In three to four months, Mr. Himmel said, the Palladium space should be 75 percent leased.

AOL Time Warner is "very happy with the progress of the construction," said Philip R. Pitruzzello, vice president for real estate projects. Two years from now, 2,000 employees will be working at the center, which will include corporate headquarters, CNN and CNNfn studios, CNN offices, the CNN New York bureau and the Turner Broadcasting advertising sales office.

The tone is upbeat at Jazz at Lincoln Center. "After Sept. 11, things got very quiet in the philanthropic world," said Jonathan F.P. Rose, the chairman of the building committee. "They have, at least for Jazz at Lincoln Center, come back. Our donors have seen stability return to the world."

Jazz at Lincoln Center is receiving the 100,000-square-foot core and shell at no cost but is responsible for completing it at a cost of $115 million. About $82 million has been raised so far, Mr. Rose said. The entire space will be called Frederick P. Rose Hall in honor of his father, a developor and a major philanthropist, who died in 1999.

It helps immeasurably that donors can begin to see what it is they are paying for. "It even looks pretty without anything in it," said Mr. Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, as he prepared to christen the place with music.

On his brief visit last week, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called the hall a "seminal event in the history of jazz."

The Allen Room, named in honor of Allen & Company, will accommodate 300 to 600 people. Couples on the dance floor will be able to gaze over Central Park to the twinkling towers of the Upper East Side.

Outside the Allen Room will be the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, named in honor of the record producer Nesuhi Ertegun, who died in 1989, by the donors, Ahmet and Mica Ertegun. The Jazz Cafe is thus far unnamed, though a gift of $8 million to $10 million could change that. A full-scale theater, also called Frederick P. Rose Hall, will seat as many as 1,230, with two tiers of horseshow balconies and a 60-foot fly loft.

The 1,200-ton auditorium structure is isolated from the rest of AOL Time Warner Center on a field of 26 large pads atop concrete footings. These giant gaskets are nine-and-a-half-inch sandwiches of steel plates and a synthetic Neoprene rubber. There are smaller Neoprene pads between the sides of the auditorium and the surrounding walls, a distance of two to three inches, to stabilize the inner structure.

"The analogy is a small carboard box in a larger cardboard box packed with Styrofoam peanuts," said Steven H. Sommer, senior vice president of Bovis Lend Lease and the construction project director.

Although Bovis has overall responsibility, it is not the only construction manager. Turner Construction will complete Jazz at Lincoln Center and AOL Time Warner headquarters after Bovis builds the core and shell. There are 80 to 100 subcontractors and about 1,200 workers now on the job.

"This is not one building," said Silvian Marcus, executive vice president of the Cantor Seinuk Group, the overall structural engineers on the project. "These are five buildings stacked on top of each other with five users. Each user has his own architect and each wants to maximize his space."

David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill led the overall design. Rafael Viñoly Architects designed Jazz at Lincoln Center; Perkins & Will, the AOL Time Warner headquarters; Elkus/Manfredi Architets, the Palladium; Brennan Beer Gorman Architects and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; and Ismael Leyva Architects and Thad Hayes, 1 Central Park.

"When I began this work, I was a younger man with much darker hair," a gray-haired Mr. Childs said at the topping out. "And about one inch taller."

AOL Time Warner Center is so complex that it does not even have something as elemental as one single uninterrupted column line from bottom to top.

Instead, column positions change constantly as they run through the structure to accommodate the needs of every space they penetrate: 60 foot clear spans for the CNN studios, 45-foot clear spans for the AOL Time Warner offices, 20-foot spans and four different floor plans in the residential towers. They have to skirt the theater and cannot land smack in the middle of a highpriced retail space, nor can they interfere with any one of the building's 24 entrances.

Because the columns shift in location, the loads they carry must also be transferred from one area to another. That is accomplished by the use of angled steel columns, stepped concrete columns and even hanging columns, suspended from the truss above rather than rising from footings below.

Most noticeable are the concrete-clad steel trusses, massive and rigid enough to support more than 42,000 tons, taking shape on the 22nd and 23rd floors of the south tower (starting 314 feet above the street) and the 17th floor of the north tower (starting 248 feet above the street).

They are, in essence, foundations in the sky, taking the weight of the concrete towers and spreading it to the exterior columns and core below. But they are not merely structural elements. Threaded through the angled steel girders in the trusses will be pipes, ductwork, elevator machinery and passageways leading from the tower stairwells to the podium stairwells.

It is hard, at first, to envision the process of "pouring" concrete hundreds of feet in the sky, but Mr. Sommer pointed to several four-inch riser pipes snaking through the structure. Through these risers, a highly viscous concrete mixture is pumped under high pressure into the waiting forms above.

Contrasting with the massiveness of the structure will be the membranous glass and cable net wall suspended from a white truss that is already in place over the central portal. It was designed by James Carpenter Design Associates and engineered by William F. Baker of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Jorg Schlaich of Schlaich Bergermann und Partner in Germany.

At a height of 149 feet and a width of 86 feet, it will be the largest such glass wall in the world, Mr. Carpenter said. "its goal is to be delicate, transparent and diaphanous as possible," he said, "both to afford views in and simultaneously views out."

The wall will be made of stainless-steel cables spaced seven-and-a-half feet vertically and four-and-a-half feet horizontally. Within this net will be laminated panels of water-clear glass, three-quarters of an inch thick, designed to stay in their frames if broken. The whole net will move ever so subtly under wind pressure. Such an open spirit may seem to contrast with the security-conscious tenor of the times, but Mr. Carpenter said, "You're not going to be designing to a bunker mentality."

Yet there is no getting around a question so sensitive that it is discussed in lowered voices, if it is talked about at all: just how perilous is it to be building an iconic twin-tower skyscraper these days?

The engineers and construction managers answer confidently. "The building is safe," Mr. Marcus said. "We have two concrete backbones supported on rock."

At the heart of each tower is a concrete core, 40 feet wide and 140 feet long, with walls two feet thick at the base, reaching down to Manhattan schist. "None of the buildings on Sept. 11 had concrete cores of this magnitude," he said. Concrete towers stand up better to dynamic forces."

That is not to say that the project is unaffected by Sept. 11. Among other measures, security systems will be upgraded, especially in entrances to the loading docks and underground garage, said Bruce L. Warwick, president of Columbus Center L.L.C., which is overseeing development.

As a structural augmentation, Mr. Marcus said, the amount of concrete cladding has been increased around the major columns, called boomers. But the concept is not new. "The original design always indicated that the boomer columns were to be encased in concrete," Mr. Sommer said. "You can't do any better. People ask, 'What can you do?' We've already done it."

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