Crews Prep 705-Ton Downtown Building For Move
POSTED: 1:42 pm CST February 29, 2008
UPDATED: 2:52 pm CST February 29, 2008
A specialty moving crew is preparing for the largest building relocation project in the U.S. this year, and it's happening this weekend in downtown Des Moines.
The Murillo Building at 533 14th St. is being moved to make way for the new headquarters for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The new building will span two blocks on Grand Avenue.
The project will cost close to $1 million.
"The Murillo will easily last 200 more years," said contractor Mike Kinter. "It'll be the biggest structure moved in the United States this year."
But how do you move a 705-ton century-old brick building more than three blocks away? That's the project a Des Moines developer presented to the moving crew.
Iowan Jeremy Patterson is tacking the gigantic job.
"You know, we go nationwide. We hunt the big jobs," Patterson said.
Patterson's crew has been working for 17 days to prepare for Saturday's move. The crew slowly jacked the entire building up off its foundation and then moved in an enormous dolly with 192 wheels.
"Now our dollies have motors inside them. We plug in and they actually drive theirself," Patterson said.
Saturday morning, the wheels will start rolling, very, very slowly. They will move the Murillo only 3.5 blocks, but it will take eight hours to get there.
The new site for the building is at 16th and High Street.
"We'll have less pressure per square inch than a semi rolling down the road," Patterson said.
Patterson said anyone who wants to watch is welcome.
DES MOINES, Iowa -- A TV crew is also documenting the mega move. The video will be shown on the National Geographic Channel later this year.
Mud messes up moving day for 2 old buildings
By TONY LEYS ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ REGISTER STAFF WRITER ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ March 2, 2008
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Who knew that picking up and moving a 705-ton, 105-year-old brick apartment building out of a muddy construction site would be so hard?
Workers had spent weeks readying the Murillo apartment house for a three-block trek from its downtown Des Moines location, a site that will be the future home of Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Workers had managed to lift the three-story building off its foundation and onto steel I-beams that rested on 184 specially designed wheels.
Experts said this probably would be the biggest building ever moved in Iowa, but they figured it would take only an hour or so to ease it onto High Street, then a few more hours to roll it to its new home up the way.
But when the move-out moment came shortly after dawn Saturday, all those wheels started sinking into the ground, and the building refused to budge.
Several dozen onlookers watched as two giant front-end loaders, the kind you see at gravel quarries, tugged on chains attached to the makeshift undercarriage.
The loaders' wheels spun and smoked. The building creaked and hunkered down.
Mike Kinter, the general contractor overseeing the project, used his cell phone to call a tow-truck company and ask for help. The person on the other end of the line started explaining the available options. "Just send the biggest thing you've got," Kinter said.
An enormous tow truck pulled up to the scene about 15 minutes later, drawing applause from the gathering crowd. The truck, built on a semi-truck chassis, backed up to the building and was hooked on with a thick cable. The truck began pulling, along with one of the original loaders. The Murillo moved a couple of feet forward. The onlookers cheered. The building stopped. Kinter got back on the phone.
The Murillo had to be moved to make way for construction of new corporate headquarters for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The insurer, which helped finance the Murillo's move, had set Saturday as the deadline to get the apartment house off the site or see it demolished.
Kinter had no doubts the crew would succeed, somehow. "By tonight, we'll have this (male offspring of a female dog) on the street, and Wellmark can go to (an extremely hot place)," he said. "And you can quote me on that."
Another, smaller structure, a row house at 1106 High St., was moved from its site overnight without any complications. That building was sometimes referred to as the Henshie-Briggs row house, a reference to Isaac Henshie and Moore Briggs, the developers responsible for building a string of eight connected row houses between 11th and 12th streets on High Street in the 1880s.
But mud bogged down the Murillo's early morning trip. Kinter shook his head as the construction machines slid on the greasy ground. "We dumped 10 loads of rock on there, but you can hardly tell," he said.
Audience members stayed put, despite the morning's cold, damp weather. Kimberly Brown had come from Ames, and she'd dragged her sister and 29-year-old son to the historic scene. "It was a struggle," she said, as her companions rolled their eyes. "It was more of an argument, really." They remained for hours, transfixed by the process.
A second big tow rig showed up and added its power to the effort. At first, everyone thought the Murillo might win again, as the trucks' winches dragged the trucks toward the building instead of the other way around. Then the wheels underneath the apartment house rolled, and they kept rolling. Every now and then, the Murillo would shed a brick or two. But, foot by foot, it kept creeping forward.
Camera crews from local TV stations and from the Discovery Channel documented every inch of progress.
The building's weight was spread out over dozens of special dollies, with hydraulic jacks that went up and down to keep the whole package level over uneven ground. The ride was so steady that workers could set their coffee cups on the I-beams underneath the building and not spill a drop as the contraption rolled along.
Jeremy Patterson, owner of the Washington, Ia., company that moved the building, said he'd undertaken a few bigger projects. "We moved a whole shopping center in Louisiana last year," he said nonchalantly.
The Murillo was finally out of the mud after more than four hours and headed safely up High Street to its new home. A local developer plans to renovate it and reopen it as a Sherman Hill apartment house.
Patterson said he never worried that the building would remain mired in the mud. "We always knew it would go," he said. "The only question was how much equipment we would have to hook up to pull it."
Reporter Tony Leys can be reached at (515) 284-8449 or [email protected]
By tonight, we'll have this (male offspring of a female dog) on the street, and Wellmark can go to (an extremely hot place)," he said. "And you can quote me on that."
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