The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, May 17, 2019

Trades fill in the gap at One Campus Martius

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT - With so much of the available real estate space in downtown Detroit's already occupied or accounted for over the past few years, it was just a matter of time before an empty, w-shaped cutout section of the One Campus Martius building would get filled in. 

The wait is over. Over late last summer and into this spring, the building trades have been erecting a 310,000 square-foot addition that will fill in floors 4-15 in the back "wedge" of the landmark building at Woodward and Monroe. Originally built as the headquarters for Compuware, the office/retail building today has largely been taken over by Detroit investor Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans company, which will use its new space to expand its operations on site.

The project is being managed by Walbridge, the company that originally oversaw the construction of the 15-story building, built for Compuware in 2003. At the time the building was prepped for the addition, which is taking place 16 years later.

The project began last August with Iron Workers Local 25 members employed by Midwest Steel making the penetrations into the existing building. Structural steel erection began Nov. 12, and was completed with a topping out ceremony on April 5. It was a long, cold, dark winter for the iron workers, operating engineers and laborers on the project, who worked a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift during those months so as not to disturb the business operations inside the building.

"We had a core group of about 20 guys out here from start to finish," said Midwest Steep Project Supt. Fred Hetzer of the Iron Workers Local 25 crew. "We missed a week because of the weather, but we finished right on time. We worked through the dead of winter, and whatever temperature it is on the ground, it's always colder up there. But these are union iron workers, we got it done, safety and smoothly."

Hetzer said the existing beams and columns were prepped and ready for the expansion. Access was gained to the connection points by removing exterior aluminum panels and insulation, and in some spots by cutting into the huge murals that decorated that side of the building's exterior. "Some connections were tight, some were loose, and sometimes we had to beat them with a hammer," Hetzer said. "But overall everything worked out pretty well, we learned how to make it work. We tied in with slotted connections, so the ability to make those adjustments really helped."

While night-time, winter-time steel erection is extremely rare, the project was sufficiently lit to allow the raising gang to do its job safely. The bigger issue, Hetzer said, was logistics. On one hand, the lessened street traffic at night and the ability to block streets made steel deliveries easier. On the other hand, the tight site meant the raising gang couldn't move up to work on the next floor without each floor below being completed: bolted together, hand-railed and decked. Tools and materials hand to be handed up through small openings remaining in each deck.  

Operating Engineers Local 324 member Mark Watkins, operating a 320-foot tower crane at the site, did "a pretty amazing job," Hetzer said, lifting a total of about 2,000 tons of structural steel and 30 flatbed loads of decking into place.

Having topped out the structure, iron workers are continuing to work nights at the building, because their current task of installing staircases is occasionally noisy and requires the use of the crane. The rest of the trades are fitting out the building on day shifts, with the glaziers using the crane to install windows.

With the south face and main entrance of the building facing the refurbished Campus Martius Park, the 2003 completion of the original Compuware Building was, as it turns out, an early harbinger of the resurgence of downtown Detroit. It was erected at a time when Detroit's downtown was still moribund, and added about 1 million square-feet of Class A office space to the area, as well as a 10-story, 2,700-spot parking deck. 

“The Compuware Building has served as the nucleus for 21st century Detroit for more than a decade thanks to the vision of Peter Karmanos and the Compuware team’s commitment to transform downtown Detroit into a dynamic, high-tech corridor,” said Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, when he bought the building in 2014.

THE 1 MILLION square-foot, 15-story One Campus Martius Building in Detroit at Woodward and Monroe Streets is undergoing an expansion that will make the landmark building about one-third larger. Walbridge has led the construction team, and Midwest Steel’s iron workers carefully crafted the new structural steel into the existing structure of the former Compuware Building.

A NOIR PICTURE: Working in the dark hours, Iron Workers Local 25 members employed by Midwest Steel toiled over the winter and topped out the placement of 2,000 tons of structural steel, filling in  floors 4-15 at the One Campus Martius Building in Detroit on April 5. Photo by Nick Sabaitis