Rising from the former Detroit Tigers Stadium site, in the Corktown neighborhood, a $30 million mixed-use project, called The Corner, sports a modular design, speeding construction and ensuring quality. With tight tolerances, JJ Curran Crane Co. has lifted nearly 100 boxes of finished apartments into place.
“The use of cranes is critical,” said Walt Young, an investor in The Corner. “Placing the modular components accurately is key to the quality. You cannot be off a 10th of an inch. It takes a good crane operator and business to do it right.”
Larson Realty Group of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and the Urban Land Institute are developing the project at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Funding came through Goldman Sachs and other lenders and a loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
“For well over a century, this intersection was a place where people gathered and celebrated, where they came for entertainment and connections, and, all in all where they came together to enjoy the good things in life,” said Eric Larson, President and CEO of the Larson Realty Group, in a statement. “That is exactly what The Corner celebrates.”
The Corner will be 41 feet high, built with 96 modular units. The structure is four stories tall, including the platform. The lower floor will include 26,000 square feet of retail space, with 60 percent subsidized to 50 percent of market rate for local retailers. The top three floors contain 111 residential units – studios and one- and two-bedroom units – with an average size of 700 square feet. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan reported that 20 percent of the units will be set aside as affordable housing.
“People of all incomes will be able to live in this neighborhood and be part of this community,” Mayor Duggan said at the groundbreaking in May 2018. “We are going to go a neighborhood at a time and rebuild this city.”
Mayor Duggan also reported that The Corner will create 400 new jobs. The baseball team moved in 2000. The old ballpark was demolished in 2009. A ball field, called the Corner Ballpark, will stay on another section of the Tigers’ site for youth sports and other outdoor events.
Preparing for the Lifts
“We spend a lot of time with our 3-D lift plans, making sure the crane we are using is capable of lifting the weight that far out,” said Mark Wade, Vice President of Sales and Operations for JJ Curran Crane Co. of Detroit.
Wade selected a Grove 350-ton crane with a 260-foot boom for the Michigan Avenue phase of the job, due to the length it needs to reach out and the weight it must carry. The modular units weigh as much as 40,000 pounds.
“The crane lends itself well for these sort of picks – heavy loads, way out,” Wade said. “You need a hefty crane to get the modules up there.”
Lifting over the stairwell initially presented some concerns but, ultimately, was not a problem using the 350-ton crane. JJ Curran Crane did not know the exact weight of each modular unit until it was time for the lift, so it had to prepare for a variety of weights.
For the second phase of The Corner, Wade used a Grove GMK 6400 with the MegaWing configuration to allow the 350-ton crane to start work on another job.
Pat Farr, operating the crane, has been employed with JJ Curran Crane 26 years andoperating the 350-ton crane for two years. He reviewed the plans and checked everything multiple times.
“He is solid in the seat,” Wade said. “He is zoned in and good at what he does.”
Building the Corner
ROSSETTI of Detroit designed the project. The project broke ground in May 2018. The lifts took place in September.
“To accelerate the schedule, we simultaneously built the podium while the units were being fabricated,” said Paul Marcus, Chief Operating Officer with O’Brien Construction Co. of Troy, Michigan, the general contractor. “When the podium was finished, the modular were on their way. It decreased the overall duration of the project.”
Steven Ayscue, Project Manager for Champion Commercial Structures of Troy, the modular supplier for The Corner, anticipated that all of the modules should be set over a period of 16 to 18 days. In that time, “we will go from podium to 90 percent complete.”
The modular units were built in Liverpool, Pennsylvania, taking about 14 weeks to finish, and were shipped to Detroit.
“Since all of the units are built in a controlled environment, you have a higher degree of quality control inside the units,” Marcus said.
The steel contractor also used cranes, requiring co-ordination.
JJ Curran Crane operates throughout Southwest Michigan and surrounding areas, working on large construction projects and major maintenance projects at the area’s refineries and heavy industrial plants. The company was founded in 1950. Employees and leadership live by its slogan, “Good people, quality equipment, and fair pricing.” O’Brien has worked with JJ Curran in the past.
“We really appreciate the partnership with JJ Curran,” Marcus said. “They come to the table with solutions.”
Wade agrees, saying, JJ Curran Crane has had a good relationship, working with O’Brien on several past projects.
However, this is JJ Curran Crane’s first job with Champion.
“JJ Curran came highly recommended,” Ayscue said. “Everything is going smoothly,”
“Modular allows us to construct offsite and finish the interior of the units, without bringing in a bunch of trades,” Ayscue said. “We can control the quality. They never get wet. They are always in a controlled environment.”
Modular units can be used to build five-story structures, Young said. All of the interiors are complete.
“Modular housing and construction have been used for 34 years, mostly in urban settings where speed and quality are needed,” Young said. “This is the second modular building in Detroit in the last two years.”
Modular construction has also been used in other cities for decades. San Francisco, Young said, has about 20 such structures.
Wade hopes to do more modular projects, as they are gaining popularity in the area.
“It’s looking positive that we will do more of this work,” Wade said.
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