DavisREED Construction Inc. – Pendry Hotel

The new Pendry Hotel San Diego will be the latest jewel in the Montage collection and promises to bring the next level of lifestyle and culture to San Diego, but the site already has a long history in the city. Located in the trendy Gaslamp quarter, the Pendry sits on land that once was home to two saloons, one of which was reportedly owned by famous Western lawman Wyatt Earp. Ten feet below the ground, construction crews have found 100 year-old bottles and other miscellaneous trinkets from the city’s early days.

The historical significance of the land created a wrinkle for the hotel’s construction – one of several unusual circumstances the builder, DavisREED Construction Inc., has had to account for during the project. Paleontologists, historians, Native American groups and other organizations have conducted historical and geological surveys at the site. Whenever an ancient seashell or a human artifact pops up, experts come out to explore the area before clearing it for future work. “When you’re digging in a historical place, everybody wants an opportunity to find something historically significant,” Project Manager Mike Lyons says. However, Lyons adds those historical investigations have not significantly interrupted construction or delayed progress because crews easily move activity to other sections of the project until the reviews are completed.

Once it opens in October 2016, the Pendry Hotel is sure to surpass the luxury and entertainment of Wyatt Earp’s day. The hotel is aimed at marrying service with a design-driven approach to hospitality and will feature 317 guest rooms, an elevated pool deck, two restaurants, lounge, beer hall, 22,000 square feet of meeting space and a fitness facility opening up to the historic Gaslamp District on 5th Avenue. Construction on the building began in October 2014.

Leaning On Relationships

The project is a partnership between the Robert Green Company and Montage Hotels and Resorts. Robert Green Company chose DavisREED as general contractor because the two companies built a successful relationship and are both based in San Diego. Previously, DavisREED worked with Robert Green to erect a Four Seasons Hotel.

Although DavisREED is serving as the general contractor, the company has outsourced most of the labor to subcontractors. Lyons says utilizing subcontractors is helping to project stick to its budget. But, “there is inherently more risk with the schedule,” he explains.  “We lock down durations with our subs to make sure everyone is committed to meeting that schedule.”

For critical trades, DavisREED seeks out subcontractors it is familiar with and is confident can fulfill the job. As the project manager, Lyons’s role is to coordinate those subcontractors and ensure they are working efficiently to complete steps in a timely fashion. “We jump in with them,” Lyons says. “If they start slipping we find a way to help them.”

The Great Recession took a toll on the construction industry, forcing firms to evolve. Some were bought out and others consolidated, but many of the faces remained the same. Because DavisREED is based in San Diego, it already knew many of the people it hired to work on the Pendry Hotel, even if the company names have changed. “We have pulled together a good core group with many key players that we have worked with before,” Lyons says.

Overcoming Challenges

Construction of the Pendry Hotel is about half completed as far as time expended, Lyons says. About $20 million of the total $80 million budget has been spent, although DavisREED is still in the early stages of above-ground work. Until now, most of the work has occurred below the surface. The three underground parking levels are completed and crews have completed the surface ramp into the garage. Most of the concrete for the building’s first level is now poured and work is ongoing on the columns and walls. 

Many documented obstacles encountered presented an early challenge for construction crews. The project was originally planned to be completed on a 21-month schedule. However, concrete structures, burn piles and multiple fuel storage tanks leaking hydrocarbons were discovered underground. Remediation crews had to isolate the contamination, and haul away the materials for disposal. The process delayed work for 80 days, Lyons says. 

The downtown footprint of the site also poses a few obstacles to smooth construction. The future hotel will be sandwiched between Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play, and the San Diego Convention Center and the Gaslamp District. While those venues improve potential demand for hotel business, the traffic and crowds restrict construction activities. DavisREED has limited access to the road to stage concrete trucks and other equipment and adjust operations to avoid conflicts with community events. During Padres day games, for example, DavisREED could not pour concrete at all. To minimize those issues, the contractor is working with the city of San Diego and the Ball Park District to coordinate schedules and plan construction activities around major events. “It is like building a hotel in a theme park plus adding vehicle traffic,” DavisREED Superintendent John Baker says. 

The depth of the building has also created complications. Subcontractors had to dig down 40 feet in some locations, exposing the site to flooding from the underground water table. Twenty dewatering wells were placed around the perimeter and five in the middle of the site that combined are capable of pumping out 200 gallons of groundwater per minute. An onsite filtration system cleans the water, allowing DavisREED to pump the ground water directly into the storm drain. Onsite filtration was selected over pumping directly to the sewer because it was the most economical solution considering the dewatering duration required. “We’re always looking for ways to save money,” Lyons says. “We’re trying to deliver the best value for [the owner], too.”

DavisREED is proactive about controlling costs. By using a 3-D modeling system, the company accurately lays out not only the building, but all its internal systems, such as the ducts, plumbing, electrical and light gauge metal framing. Knowing precisely how each of these systems interact in 3-D model space DavisREED resolve problems before installation, reduce field coordination time and minimize cost impacts due to changes. “We’re getting it done in advance of when we’re pouring concrete,” Lyons says.

There is still a lot of work left but with the underground work and site issues now in the rearview mirror, Lyons is confident DavisREED will substantially finish construction by next fall. “From here going forward, everything is new and is in our control, so we don’t have to deal with unforeseen delays,” he adds. 

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