Crane Enables Tight Site Success

Edited by Matthew Phair | September 28, 2010

A renaissance of sorts is taking place in downtown Pittsburgh. More than $3 billion in development is planned or under way in and near Downtown. The hope is to take an area long known for failed starts and vacant storefronts and turn it into a 24/7 neighborhood. Key to this effort is the conversion of the former 265,000-square-foot Lazarus-Macy’s Department Store into a mixed-use project.

The project is located in the heart of the retail district, with a 500 car-parking garage below. Known as Piatt Place, the building will have 180,000 square feet of office space on three floors. Three additional floors were added to house 65 residential units. Heartland Homes is marketing the 65 condominiums with prices ranging from $320,000 to $1.25 million.

Millcraft Investments commissioned Strada to design the new Piatt Place. Millcraft started construction work at the site in late 2006, though Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl smacked a makeshift wall with silver-headed sledgehammers in January 2007 to mark the official start of construction.

Reinforcement work started in June 2007. The tight, urban job site prompted a local lifting services provider to specify a Potain HDT 80 self-erecting tower crane. Local Potain dealer American Contractors supplied the crane to Century Steel Erectors to help it add the three stories to the project.

Century Steel was also involved in the construction of the original department store back in 1998. The 150-foot-by-150-foot square building was initially 70 feet above street level. It increased 35 feet with the addition of the extra floors.

For this project, Chuck McKee, project manager at Century Steel, said a lack of space forced the company to look at alternatives to its normal lifting choices.

“We chose the HDT 80 because lifting work had to take place in a narrow street. Space was very limited,” he said. “But with the small outrigger footprint, we could set up the crane and keep pedestrians moving.”

Construction work took place in 30-feet-by-30-feet bays. The heaviest loads were header beams, weighing up to 4,500 pounds each. The crane also lifted 1,500-pound infill beams and bundles of metal floor decks weighing up to 4,500 pounds.

Century also took advantage of the crane’s remote control, which allowed them to save on labor costs by eliminating the radio man.

Portability was another selling point for the crane, McKee said.

“At one stage we had to move the crane to another location, which took just five or six hours, which was much faster than a normal top-slewing tower crane.”

Including Piatt Place, Millcraft is investing $150 million in several Downtown projects, including converting the vacant G.C. Murphy store along Fifth Avenue into Marketplace, with 50 residential units, 25,000 square feet of retail and 50 parking spaces.