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Demolition Plan Proposed for Astrodome

HOUSTON, TEXAS – They say it’s more of a concept than a concrete plan, but the Houston Texans and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have developed a $66 million idea that involves demolishing the historic Astrodome.

A 37-page booklet mostly of artist renderings shows the domed stadium replaced with a green space and “Astrodome Hall of Fame.” A brochure shows a construction timetable that ends with the 2017 Super Bowl — but would have started work June 2.

Rodeo operations chief Leroy Shafer says, in reality, there is no timetable because the plan is not yet being placed before the Harris County commissioners for a decision on the county-owned stadium.  The plan was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.  The idea comes two months after Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who chairs the county’s board of commissioners, asked the stadium’s stakeholders to suggest what to do with it. The Texans and the rodeo have been eager to free up the space now filled by the derelict dome, which the Astros vacated in 2000. Opened in 1965, the dome was declared unsuitable for occupancy in 2009.

Although the concept has not been formally proposed to county commissioners, they have been briefed, Shafer said. No funding source has been identified, he said.

“This has to be developed further, but it is one more option,” Shafer said.  A Houston Texans spokesman referred all questions to Shafer.

The county commissioners have the final say over what to do with the Astrodome and no proposal is now before them, Emmett spokesman Joe Stinebaker said.

“Anybody has a right to make a proposal; this is just another one. The ball has not moved, and my guy remains opposed to demolition,” Stinebaker told the AP.

Various ideas over the years to overhaul the Astrodome — from a water park to a sports memorabilia museum — have gained little traction.

The stadium’s most prominent use in recent years was as a shelter for Louisiana residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Congressman Pushes for More Commercial Demolition Funding

FLINT TOWNSHIP, MI — With almost 400 blighted commercial buildings in the Flint and more than 2,000 in the Detroit area, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee continues to look for more funding for commercial demolitions.

Earlier this year, Kildee talked about how he wanted to bring a solution to the problem by freeing up more federal funds for commercial demolitions.  Last year Kildee, D-Flint Township, pushed for the U.S. Treasury to allocate $100 million of the Hardest Hit Funds to be used for demolitions. Genesee County received $20 million of that, but it could only be used for residential demolitions.   The next step would be to try and get some of those Hardest Hit funds to be used for commercial properties.  This week Kildee this week asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to allow a portion of the approximately $300-million remaining in a 2010 award to Michigan under the federal Hardest Hit Fund to be used to take down commercial buildings.  Kildee didn’t ask for a specific amount to be committed to demolishing blighted commercial buildings in Michigan. He left that to the Treasury Department to decide.  But he said — just as with the department’s decision in June 2013 to free up $100-million from the original $498-million award to take down abandoned residential structures in five cities — committing funds to commercial demolition would help stabilize neighborhoods.

“In first allowing these funds to demolish abandoned residential properties, the Treasury Department recognized the negative impact blighted properties have on housing values,” Kildee wrote Lew. “And It follows that commercial structures in the same communities have an identical detrimental effect.”

Dore Develops Unique Demolition Protection Method – OSHA Take Notice

DES MOINES, IOWA – Industrial balloons normally used to float sunken ships have been inflated along one wall of the scorched former Younkers building to keep it from collapsing onto an adjacent parking garage.

The challenge of removing the century-old building in a dense downtown area is forcing demolition crews to work slowly and to use techniques perhaps never tried before.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, and this is the worst burned building I’ve ever seen that’s still standing,” said Dennis Dore, a supervisor with Michigan-based Dore & Associates, the lead contractor on the demolition.

Last week, demolition crews inflated five massive balloons along the north wall of the burned-out building to keep it from collapsing into the Des Moines Partnership building, which was also damaged in the fire. The balloons, which measure 50 feet long, 20 feet wide and 15 feet high, were custom-made for the job.  Dore said to his knowledge it’s the first time anyone has used balloons like those for a demolition project. “They’re working like a dream,” he said.

The former department store burned in a massive fire three months ago today. Alexander Co., which owns the building, says the gutted east side of the structure will have to be demolished, but hopes to salvage the west side, which largely avoided fire damage.

A three-man demolition crew is using hand-held jackhammers to tear down the walls brick-by-brick on the east side of the building. Demolishing the structure more quickly could damage the surrounding buildings or the west side of the building, Dore said.  “If you toppled the walls onto each other … we wouldn’t have any control over it,” he said. “We’ve got to take her gingerly and persuade her a little bit here and there.”

Most of the fire damage is above the fourth floor. Dore said he expects to have the walls removed to that level by the first week in July. If Alexander Co. decides to remove the walls down to the ground level, demolition will likely take about another month, he said.  The city doesn’t have a timeline for reopening Walnut and Seventh streets around the burned building.

Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said it isn’t surprising the demolition is still ongoing three months after the fire, especially considering more than 1,000 damaged windows on adjacent buildings had to be secured before demolition could begin.

“We’ve never had a fire of this magnitude, so we didn’t really have any expectations,” he said. “There really isn’t a playbook for this.”

Click here to hear interview and job photo. It is a must view.

West Hollywood, California

 An extravagant Streamline Modern landmark on Santa Monica Boulevard that was built as a high tech animal hospital is set to be demolished for a new development and neighbors have organized to save it.

Architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket designed the shiny steel and glass brick dog and cat hospital with an X-ray room, pool, garden, and roof deck in 1938. It’s a stunner, but it’s been hidden behind large street trees for decades so you may not have noticed it on the stretch of Route 66 where West Hollywood meets Beverly Hills, across from the Troubadour and Dan Tana’s.

West Hollywood city planners recently approved the “Melrose Triangle” development, which would replace the entire block between Doheny and Almont with more than a quarter million square feet of apartments, office space, and retail. 

An Environmental Impact Report for the project indicates that the 1938 building is important enough to be a state landmark, and demolishing it would have a “significant adverse impact.” The city has overcame that unpleasantness by adopting a “statement of overriding considerations,” meaning that this new project is more important than saving the old building. Planners do not support integrating the buidling into the new project.

On their most recent “Preservation Report Card” the Los Angeles Conservancy gave the city of West Hollywood an “A” for their efforts at historic preservation. “In policy they’re good,” says Conservancy Director of Advocacy Adrian Scott Fine. “But in practice they’ve got some problems.”

The pets of Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, and Rudolph Valentino were all clients of Dr. Eugene C. Jones. Some of them visited his Santa Monica Boulevard animal hospital, others his Calabasas pet cemetery. Dr. Jones came to Los Angeles in 1924 and built one of the first (architect Welton Becket said the first) animal hospitals in Southern California. “He was a progressive veterinarian,” Dr. Norman “Lou” McBride told the Los Angeles Times a decade ago. “Who helped elevate the primitive dog and cat storefront business to a top-notch hospital.” Prior to World War I most vets were horse doctors, but new technology on streets and farms meant fewer horses, so dog and cat specialists boomed in the 1920s.

In 1938, Dr. Jones hired the architects of the Pan Pacific Auditorium on Beverly Boulevard, to expand and improve his hospital. The designers of that mammoth exposition hall utilized a similar style for the more modest hospital building. A central tower with shiny metal blades rose up between two flanking wings punctuated by glass brick that ran the length of the edifice. Rounded corners and horizontal trim highlighted the smooth lines.

The Pan Pacific was an instant landmark whose distinctive curved towers became an international icon of the style. After closing in 1975, and a cameo in the film Xanadu, it was destroyed by fire in 1989. Welton Becket and Associates would go on to design the Capitol Records building, the Cinerama Dome, and the Music Center. Much of their early work has been destroyed, including an epic Jai Alaistadium in Manila, whose demo

lition in 2000 sparked the National Cultural Heritage Act in the Philippines.

The demolition of the Edward Fickett-designed city library in 2011 and the current desire to take down the 1938 Great Hall at Plummer Park do not speak well for preservation efforts in West Hollywood. A Facebook page has appeared to help the effort. Will this be the next historic building to fall? The full City Council is expected to give final approval to the Melrose Triangle project at their regular meeting on July 21st.

Silent Partner

I was talking to my son Toby the other day and he recently finished a fire demo project in Quincy, MA pictured here. The building was the Quincy Masonic Temple and historic building in Quincy Square. I can remember it as sort of a forbidding building when I was a kid growing up in that city.

Toby got the job from an insurance company, it was time and material job, in the end the total cost came to a little over $300,000. That amount included $100,000 for fire details.

In Quincy you have to have a fire detail from the day you start till the day you finish, and the detail is around the clock, 24 hrs. a day.

Toby has another project to start in Somerville, MA and the fire department has already notified him they require a fire detail around the clock and during the day they supply you with pumper and crew to keep the dust down.

The motto of this story is you have a lot of silent partners in the demolition business and when you bid these projects make sure you exclude police and fire details.

Also exclude the costs of demolition permits. I had a project several years ago. It was in a small Massachusetts town, and the job was a small factory of around 25,000 square feet and I thought the demolition permit would be around $4 or $5 hundred dollars. I was shocked when they told me it would be $3,750.00.  I asked, how come so much? They told me I was removing a town asset and this would be the last time they would be able to tax it. Watch out for the silent partners.









Author: Herb Duane, IDE Retired Member

The content of this article represents the personal views of the author and nothing is to be taken as representing the views, opinions, policy or position of any other persons or organisations mentioned herein or of The Institute of Demolition Engineers.