Cold Enough For Ya

    GRAND RAPIDS — On a recent Wednesday morning when the thermometer struggled mightily to reach 7 degrees, 300 tradesmen showed up to work on the convention center construction project.

    Joe Erhardt, president of Erhardt Construction Co., told the Convention and Arena Authority that the frigid weather still was able to put a hold on a few aspects of the $220 million DeVos Place project.

    He said the standard type of cold the city usually experiences in January normally slows things down. But the don’t-put-your-tongue-on-the-pump-handle-type of cold that hung on for much of last month managed to push a few jobs back.

    Despite the portable heaters on site, Erhardt noted it was too cold to lay the building’s surface and the terrazzo in the exhibit area couldn’t be done until moderate temps arrived.

    “It’s almost warm in the Grand Gallery,” said Erhardt, who pegged the temperature at 40 degrees inside the main exhibit area.

    Regardless of the cold, work has continued on the building. Erhardt said that some of the structural steel was being painted and the pre-cast erection of the loading docks began. Matt Barnes, of the Hunt Group, which is co-managing the project with Erhardt Construction, said once the temperature rose the flooring would go down in the Grand Gallery.

    CAA board member and chairman of the building committee David Frey reported that the skylight framing was done and that roofing work continued during the bitterly cold and windy weather.

    Barnes said that most of the bids for the third stage of the project were awarded. All that were left were bids for the electrical work of the project’s final phase, which is set to start in June and finish by the end of 2004.

    Barnes added that he was pleased with the number of awards that have gone to minority- and woman-owned subcontracting firms. He said they wanted to have 12 percent of all jobs awarded to companies owned by minorities and women, and they’ve topped that goal.

    “We have now gotten the actual percentage up to over 18 percent on this project. We’re very pleased with that,” Barnes said.

    “We think the program is working and it has been a success.”

    Barnes also felt that the last phase of construction would come in under the $51 million budget that has been set for the work.

    “Right now, we’re there, if we have a perfect world and nothing happens. We’re kind of building in some contingences. While we think we’re going to get there, we’re not totally there yet,” he said. “We’re cautiously optimistic, I would say at this time.”

    Erhardt said there were about 250 workers, not 300, working on the project just a few months ago, and that a night shift was added. The date for crews to finish the exhibit space has been accelerated by five weeks to accommodate the building’s first convention, which is set for early December.

    Convention and Visitors Bureau President Steve Wilson told CAA members that 77 groups have been booked for the new building, that those bookings are worth $32 million to the local economy, and that 62 percent of those groups represent new business.

    Wilson also said the city has landed three important state conventions for DeVos Place: the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC), the Michigan Rural Water Association (MRWA), and the Michigan Chapter of the Business Professionals Association of America (MBPAA).

    MAC will be here in 2007. Wilson gave credit to past Kent County Chairman Steven Heacock and current county commissioner Ken Kuipers for bringing the group to town. Usually the association meets in northern Michigan.

    The MRWA and MBPAA will hold their annual meetings here for three consecutive years from 2004 to 2006. MRWA normally gets together in Traverse City, while MBPAA typically meets in Detroit.           

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