Case Studies

Pike Place Market

Cementing the anchor of Seattle's small business community

When the Pike Place Market’s (PPM) Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) got the go-ahead for some major infrastructural improvements, Turner Construction’s Seattle (Turner) office assembled a team to anticipate and tackle every conceivable challenge. To keep the publicly funded project on track Turner coordinated with the project’s architect, mechanical and electrical engineering firm, subcontractors and tenants to deliver the project with minimal disruptions. From the very beginning, the PPM team established priorities, planned ahead, and kept communication lines open to preserve PPM’s historical architecture while securing the campus structurally to survive another 105 years.

Turner Construction Company is one of the nation’s largest and most respected construction management companies and the Seattle office carries on the Turner tradition of pushing the boundaries of technology and collaboration for every project. Turner was hired as the project’s General Contractor and Construction Management team, to manage the project and deliver a strong result through coordination. “We have a team of 13 Turner professionals focused solely on the PPM Renovation project,” asserts Paul Scott, senior project manager. For the PPM project, Turner assemble a team to navigate around the logistical challenges of the project within the public project bid structure.

As with any project, the Turner team stressed over-communication even during pre-construction planning so that every subcontractor submitting a bid would understand the project’s specific requirements. First and foremost, the entire PPM team stressed the importance of minimizing disruptions to one of Seattle’s most active small business communities. Disruptions to utilities were avoided at all costs by working overnight or during off-hours and renovations inside the commercial spaces were staggered to enable leases to keep the businesses profitable.

Coordination and over-communication

“We take a lot of pride in coordinating with the tenants to address their specific needs because it the core of this project is an understanding that their livelihood is at stake,” expands Paul. The last major renovations to PPM were over 30 years ago and idiosyncrasies were bound to be plentiful. Even in pre-planning, Turner created a spreadsheet to keep track of tenant requests or tips and monitor progress. What started as one-page document quickly bloomed into an 8-page behemoth, but its contents came to become a new measure of the PPM renovation teams’ success.

Crews were challenged to work around a major tourist attraction during peak summer months, but the PPM team armed itself with comprehensive computer modeling software and borderline over-communication to deliver the project on a tight schedule and even tighter budget. “At the Turner Seattle office we’re huge proponents of BIM software and pushing the limits of computer modeling to ultimately save the client money,” says Paul.

From estimating to coordination with mechanical and electrical engineering counterparts, Turner employs BIM modeling software to isolate problems ahead of time and develop strategies to overcome them. According to Paul, the use of BIM is so pervasive that the Turner team even jokes that it will design a project twice. Ultimately, BIM serves as another tool in Turner’s arsenal against budget-busting surprises and scheduling setbacks.

Beyond Tenant Improvements

Especially during the project’s second phase, which required surgically precise structural and seismic upgrades, Turner would personally coordinate and keep tenants informed of even small disturbances. Matt’s in the Market, a PPM staple restaurant, remained open for business throughout. “One of our superintendent’s had the owner, Dan Bugge’s cell phone number and would call to let him know of any noise disturbances even if would only last 20 minutes. It might seem like a lot of extra effort, but it was the tone we needed to set to be successful,” asserts Paul.

Of course, no amount of planning could spare the PPM team from a few surprises and the team prepared a comprehensive safety pan to protect the general public while work was being done in highly populated areas. At one point, crews had a multi-story scaffolding tower in the very middle of one of PPM’s busiest areas at the height of the summer. “Our ability to accommodate tenant requests while working around the market’s historic features and keeping the public safe is a major accomplishment for the entire team,” asserts Paul.

Surprises and salmon

Additionally, not all surprises are bad. Over the summer of 2009, Crews were hard at work excavating the hillside along PPM’s Western Ave preparing the site for a new entrance to be added when excavators encountered something unexpected. At first it was just once concrete slab, but then crews found another and no mention was found of any concrete slab marked on the site’s plans. “It turns out there was once a hotel in that location long ago. It was absolutely one of the more memorable moments for this project and it really brings the mission of our work into perspective,” reflects Paul.

As work begins winding down, Turner will self-perform more of the work than in previous phases to cover everything from demolition to seismic and structural upgrades. Crews are wrapping up work on the renovation’s third phase to celebrate the markets 105-year anniversary in 2012. Turner Construction and SRG Partnership were honored as 2011’s recipient of the NAIOP’s Public Project of the Year Award.

Through teamwork, clear communication, and a comprehensive understanding of Pike Place Market’s mission, Turner Construction and the entire renovation team can celebrate in cementing the market’s place in Seattle’s small business community. Pike Place Fish Market’s fishmongers will continue to hurl salmon at one another and tourists will continue to flock to the market for its friendly mix of small businesses and to revel in horror at the Gum Wall for years to come.

Pike Place Market (PPM) regularly attracts over 10 million visitors every year and numbers amongst the oldest continually operated public markets in the country. What started as a small farmers market in 1907 quickly grew to become the anchor of Seattle’s small business community and today, the market provides space for 200 commercial businesses, over 190 craftspeople, 100 farmers, 240 street performers, and over 300 affordable housing units on just nine acres of space. By the early 2000s though, PPM’s Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) was ready to make the necessary infrastructural investments to bring the market into its next 100 years and called in SRG partnership to design a solution that struck a perfect balance in preserving the historic architecture and accommodating modern amenities.

“PDA brought us on in the very early stages to help identify the scope of the work needed and develop a very clear plan to provide the greatest benefit to the public,” says Duncan Thieme, principle. PPM represents very divergent groups of people including retail tenants, residents, and four social service agencies and SRG was on the front line of public relations. As early as 2006, PDA established priorities so that SRG could develop a focused design targeting PPM’s most essential needs.

PDA is a not-for-profit public corporation charged with managing and maintaining PPM’s buildings with the help of public funds. In years prior, PDA conducted some smaller studies that all signaled a need for some major infrastructural improvements to keep maintenance costs from skyrocketing. As an anchor of Seattle’s Market historical District though, PPM is also under the jurisdiction of the Market’s Historical Commission and subject to its criteria for historic preservation.

SRG Partnership (SRG) operates from two offices in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, and established itself early on as an able competitor in public and higher education markets.  SRG has always prided itself on developing research-based designs with particular focus on building performance and sustainability. Above all, PDA selected SRG as the head architect on the PPM renovation project because of its reputation for providing responsive service and innovative designs that last.

“Our Historical Commission has the right to disapprove not only of changes to historical buildings, but also to changes in use of the buildings, which posed a direct challenge to including things like elevators in our design,” expands Thieme. Ultimately, SRG and the PDA held numerous public forums, listening carefully and calmly to public opinions and highlighting the importance of replacing outdated mechanical systems with new, energy efficient ones, reinforcing PPM’s structural integrity, increasing access to the campus and providing more public restrooms.

“The most memorable experience for us was when the City Council held its final meeting before the Renovation project went to the voters. Dozens of market icons came forward to voice their support and the market community really rallied around us,” reflects Thieme. Ultimately, the $73 million project passed with overwhelming support in 2008.

Once the project got the green light, SRG coordinated with Turner Construction, the project’s General Contractor and Construction Management firm. The two had been coordinating for over a year, developing strategies to minimize disruptions to the market through all three phases of the project. During busy summer months, work was deliberately slow and crews would even work overnight so as not to disrupt PPM’s activities. “We spent our summers really working through every problem and Turner was an amazing partner throughout,” admits Thieme.

Together, SRG and Turner Construction hit the ground running, starting off Phase I with the installation of a new, central hydronic heating and cooling system. The new system provides enough power to cool PPM’s extensive cold-storage spaces and recirculates the heat generated in the process to other tenants to warm the building. Crews constructed a brand new entrance on PPM’s Western Ave for better access from Seattle’s waterfront and also installed a new elevator, a new electrical vault, new plumbing, and expanded the loading dock.

“We made it a point to really finish up construction between phases and reassess our strategy for the challenges ahead,” asserts Thieme. The second phase of work focused on reinforcing PPM’s structural core and bringing it up to modern seismic standards. Simultaneously, crews replaces the flooring, installed a new fire suppression system and replaced old plumbing, electrical systems, windows and doors in all buildings. The location of the work just happened to be in the heart of PPM’s busiest area and Turner, SRG, and the shop owners worked together to ensure disruptions were kept to a bare minimum so businesses could remain operating.

“In one case, a store owner called us because he was angry that he reorganized his schedule so crews could complete work in his space overnight. To him it seemed that the crews never came, but he was happy to know that actually they had replaced all the sprinkler heads in his space, replaced some of his old plumbing, and installed a new electrical panel without leaving a trace,” laughs Thieme.

Currently, crews are wrapping up the final phase of renovations, which also happens to be the smallest in scope. A new elevator and seismic improvements are being made to a building on the south side of PPM while new public restrooms are being installed with some peripheral mechanical work at PPM’s Soames-Dunn Building. Finally, PPM’s Stewart House will have its exterior repaired and reclad.

“The PPM Renovation was a little unusual because if we do a good job, then tenants and visitors might look around and not notice we have changed anything at all. If they do notice, hopefully they notice that it’s a little better than it was,” reflects Thieme.

As construction work wraps up on the new PPM, the wheels are already in motion to put the neighborhood front and center in Seattle’s waterfront community. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is scheduled to be replaced with an underground tunnel, similar to Boston’s Big Dig project, which would clear up valuable waterfront space in Downtown Seattle. “There’s a lot of interest in what could be done with that new property and how we can build up our waterfront and connect it to the city. I think the PPM is a big part of that question and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it unfolds,” says Thieme.’

Once construction is complete, Seattle residents and tourists alike will continue to enjoy the mix of attractions at Pike Place Market. Bolstered with new energy efficient mechanical systems and structural reinforcements, the Pike Place market will continue to provide a little something special for everyone and anchor the waterfront neighborhood.

Published on: June 15, 2012

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