Hunzinger served as construction manager on Milwaukee School of Engineering’s new apartment facility, The Tower Apartments, located at 1150 North Water Street, Milwaukee, WI. The university purchased the Staybridge Suites which stood unfinished and almost entirely vacant since 2009, when financial problems halted construction of the planned hotel. The site remained dormant while a long legal battle ensued as contractors and lenders fought to recover money from the failed project. The result was an incomplete and damaged property that needed a considerable amount of testing and repair before the project could be completed as apartments and ready for students by September 1, 2014.
Uihlein Wilson Architects was the project architect for this complex conversion that was part renovation and part new construction. MSOE acquired the building in October of 2013 and Hunzinger first toured the building in late fall of 2013. After sitting dormant for 5 years and without the building envelop being sealed, the brutally cold winter meant that temperatures inside the building took their toll. One of the first things done was to bring in a Glycol heat exchange unit to pump 100 degree air into the building for 2-3 weeks to bring the temperature up to an appropriate level for system testing. We prioritized sealing the building and the re-caulking of the windows took about 10 weeks to complete.
The elevators were the next “first thing” that we needed to address because the one original working elevator had seized up. The other three elevators were in various stages of installation and all of them had to be completely refurbished. The rails were corroded and had to be hand sanded, new cables and belts, motors and circuit boards were installed which took months of meticulous work by Otis Elevator. The project had its first working elevator in June when one of the four elevators became operational, the other three were completed in August just before the grand opening.
In April and May, Hunzinger coordinated the electrical, plumbing, HVAC and fire protection testing and worked with subcontractors to execute the strategic plan for systematically covering every inch of pipe and wiring throughout. Two major pipes had shattered and had to be rerouted, one was a roof drain. Overall, 50% of the piping runs failed and had to be investigated, repaired or replaced. There was no real pattern to the damage except that the 4, 5 and 6th floors tended to be have more failures than the others. The electrical contractor, Uihlein Electric, did a fantastic job addressing all the multiple system failures and making repairs, according to Jon Jansen, Hunzinger Project Executive for the residence hall, “Uihlein performed exceptionally, they stayed ahead of the other trades which allowed us to keep the job moving at the pace needed to get this tough job done in time for the students arrival”.
By June 1st, the drywall and painting work was started on the 9 floors and within the 102 units. Common Links was the drywall contractor on the project and according to Jansen, “worked tirelessly with 25 person crews for 8 weeks through June and July to keep the job moving, without their exceptional efforts, I don’t’ think we would have completed the project by September 1”.
Hunzinger self-performed any needed demolition, all concrete, and rough and finish carpentry work. Our crews were really put to the test in August when the bulk of the finish carpentry work needed to be completed in a very short time. Doors, cabinets and all their accompanying hardware and toilet accessories had to be installed in all 102 units within a couple short weeks. The call went out company-wide to our carpenters and superintendents and on the weekends of August 2nd and 3rd and 8th and 9th, we had the most experienced group of 28 carpenters anywhere show up to accomplish the work. The guys had a terrific time working together as they rarely get a chance to because they are off running different jobs. It became a great source of pride and friendly competition to “hang the most doors” or install the accessories “in the most bathrooms” during a set time. It was such a great time that they all returned for the second weekend of spirited carpentry work.
This incredibly challenging project saw the major interior new construction completed in roughly 17 weeks. The project tested our manager’s and crew member’s skill as it was a little bit of everything including major repairs, extensive renovations, quite a bit of new construction all rolled into one. Our team brought their A game and with their expertise, team work and determination and completed this project on time. The students began moving in on September 1, 2014. The Studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments come fully furnished include all utilities (heat, air conditioning, electricity and water), as well as, a full kitchen and bathroom. We are anxious to begin work on Phase 2 which includes floors 11-14.