No Room to Maneuver

By David Pinson, Walton Construction Company | September 28, 2010

When developing a hotel, anyone in the construction industry will say success depends on location, location, location. What if this location has a less than a desirable work area? In larger urban areas this situation arises often because undeveloped or vacant land is scarce in popular urban cores.

Downtown Dallas is the perfect example, thanks in part to the major face lift it has been receiving over the last few years. Since 2000, almost $573 million has been spent to redevelop the inner freeway loop into the ultimate spot for the 'live, work, play' mentality.

It is no wonder that owner and developer Behringer Harvard Real Estate Investments of Addison and Realty America in Dallas wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Their dream was to redevelop the 40-year-old Hilton Inn Hotel, located along Central Expressway at Mockingbird Lane, into the new and luxurious Palomar Hotel and Residences — a four-star boutique hotel with restaurants, a health spa, retail space, underground parking, and luxury condominiums.

The Site We're In

Once the construction team was selected, general contractor Walton Construction Company, LLC started pre-construction immediately to fast track the hotel and residences. However, the extremely tight space proved to be a test for the entire team.

The first test was the site itself. The land is a very odd triangular shape, which made the design planning challenging. Three Architecture along with the hotel operator Kimpton Group and its designer, Cheryl Rowley Design, pulled together a plan for this unique plot of land that was revised several times in coordination with the city in order to make site utilities and infrastructure work in the hotel and residences.

Secondly, the access to the site was extremely restricted with only one entrance off Mockingbird Lane, which is only 400 feet from Central Expressway — one of the busiest intersections in Dallas. Coordination of excavation, demolition, abatement haul trucks, material deliveries, concrete trucks, and parking for hundreds of employees required a full-time flag man in order minimize disturbing the flow of traffic.

Overcoming the Site

Access to the Palomar job site required major coordination by the entire team to avoid daily problems. Each member of the construction team had to make sacrifices at different times that are not normally experienced on job sites. For example, concrete pours were scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. to minimize traffic disruption of concrete delivery, and all major material deliveries were scheduled weeks in advance to prevent traffic and access congestion in the neighborhood and on the site.

As if having only one entry was not problematic enough, during construction that entry was damaged by a late night traffic accident. The gate and the adjacent fence were destroyed when a car left Mockingbird and careened into the gate and fence. With a communicative construction team in place, everyone worked together quickly to get the only access to the job site operational again.

The End Result

The Palomar Hotel opened on schedule and under budget thanks to the collaborative efforts of the development team and the cooperation of city professionals. The tight job site did create significant challenges, but these were conquered through communication and collaboration. This project is typical of an urban job site, making it important to remember to have discussions from the beginning to keep everyone on the same page. It might take more time during the planning phase, but will save time and money during construction.

Author Information
David Pinson is the president of the Dallas division of Walton Construction Company, LLC.