Taking Flight

By Curt Grandia | September 28, 2010

Working so close to Kansas City International Airport (KCI) that its equipment operators can often feel the jet engines throttling up for takeoff, McAninch Corporation also geared up to move at top speed on excavation and grading for Phase I of the KCI Intermodal BusinessCentre.

Dallas-based Trammell Crow Company, one of the nation's largest developers and investors, is working with the Kansas City Aviation Department on the 800-acre, multi-use development at the southeast corner of the airport. Plans for Phase I call for the site to feature four buildings comprised of approximately 1.8 million square feet of commercial space for companies involved in intermodal distribution, logistics, air cargo, and light manufacturing.

Phase I includes excavation, grading, and the installation of roads and utilities on 176 acres fronting Interstate 29 and Prairie View Road along the east edge of the property. West Des Moines, IA-based McAninch Corporation, which also maintains an office in Kansas City, is general contractor on the $16-million Phase 1 to be completed this summer.

According to Jim Didion, a principal in development and investments with Trammell Crow in Kansas City, the speed with which McAninch mobilized and got to work on the excavation and grading is a key to the project's success. "In a long-term lease for the development of publicly owned property like this, we had to work under the Federal Aviation Administration to get approval to change the Airport Land Plan," says Didion. "There were about 20 regulatory agencies that had to approve the project in an environmental assessment, and it took us about a year to get that approval.

"We had hoped to get started in July to get the mass grading done during the summer," Didion notes, "because if you try to do that kind of work in the winter it costs a lot more. When we didn't get started until about the middle of October, McAninch just picked it up and ran with it. They mobilized an army of operators and equipment and were there the very next day after we had permit in hand."

Using some of the largest earthmoving machines manufactured by Caterpillar, as is its hallmark, McAninch started work on the project Oct. 13.

"Phase I of the project includes about 180 acres, and we'll be moving 1.6 million cubic yards of dirt," says McAninch Project Manager Matt Dykstra. "It's a great site, a dirt site with some of the rolling hills we're used to in the Midwest and very minimal clearing involved."

The site includes some low-lying areas that had to be de-mucked, Dykstra says, but otherwise was wide open, allowing McAninch to run upwards of 40 pieces of equipment including nine Caterpillar D10 dozer/641 pull scraper tandems, six Caterpillar 9L dozers, and five Caterpillar Challengers pulling 631 scrapers. In addition to a number of smaller machines for compaction and fine-grading, McAninch also moved in a massive Caterpillar 5110 excavator and several articulated haul trucks.

"The 5110 loads a truck with two passes, so we brought that in for efficiency in some of our larger 'cut' areas," explains Dykstra. "We had to try to get as much dirt moved as quickly as we could because of the weather. Speed and efficiency are really important now, and that's why we have so much equipment out here."

While McAninch works to complete Phase I infrastructure with underground utilities, roads and lighting, Trammell Crow is finalizing plans for subsequent phases of the development and the site's first building. "Our plan is to go vertical with a spec building," says Didion. "The economy is a little crazy, but we hope to get that going once the infrastructure is complete."

That building will be a state-of-the-art distribution center with 494,000 square feet expandable to 988,000 square feet.

"We've been really pleased with the quality of work and the way McAninch has approached the project with their equipment," says Didion. "Everybody does a project like this a little differently, but I'm impressed with McAninch and the logic behind why they do what they're doing with the equipment they're using. They are doing exactly what we asked them to do and that is to get in there and get the work done."