Webcor Building – Metropolis Phases 1 and 2a

Webcor MetropolisThe Metropolis megaproject in Los Angeles demands a huge fast-track effort from Webcor and its project partners.
By Jim Harris

Typically, general contractors working on a project the size of the Metropolis project in Los Angeles are given several months of preconstruction time before breaking ground. Webcor, however, had roughly four weeks between the time it was awarded the mixed-use project and when work actually began in 2014. 

“Another contractor had broken ground; Greenland, USA decided they would talk with other contractors about the actual construction so they came to us. Per their request, we provided them with a general conditions and fee proposal based on our available staffing,” Project Director Bill Lee says. “They awarded to us at the end of May 2014 after interviewing us and on the basis of this proposal, then informed us we needed to start new construction before July 4.

“We did not have a preconstruction period at all and had to begin to procure critical subcontractors immediately,” he adds. “This job has been a sprint from the start; usually jobs this size take their time, but here we had to run, and we have never stopped running. The owner desired that this project to move quickly on the premises of safety and quality, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Fortunately, Webcor is more than equipped to build megaprojects the scope and size of Metropolis. The project occupies two city blocks just north of LA Live, a 26-acre development that includes hotels, restaurants and condominium buildings. Webcor completed that project in December 2009.

The company is one of the top 100 contractors in the United States, as ranked by Engineering News-Record, and has in the past been recognized as the publication’s California Contractor of the Year. Its portfolio includes a number of megaprojects in California. Webcor Metropolis box

Once completed, Metropolis will be the culmination of decades of planning. The first plans for a development spanning the six acres and two city blocks between LA’s South Park and Financial District neighborhoods were proposed in 1987. Several years of legal wrangling, multiple developers and recessions followed before developer Greenland USA acquired the land in 2014. The project is the first in the North American market for the owner, an arm of China-based Greenland Holding Group, which has more than 20 years of development experience in its homeland and around the world.

Current Progress

Webcor in December marked a milestone in the progress of the $1.1 billion project when it received a temporary certificate of occupancy for a 38-story residential tower with a five story above-ground parking and sixth floor amenity level. The 308-unit building is a major component of Metropolis Phase 1, which also includes a 18-story Indigo Hotel and a four-story podium amenity structure. All of the buildings are located above two underground parking levels extending the length of the property. This phase is seeking LEED Silver certification.

Work on the 350-room hotel is anticipated for completion in late February. The hotel includes a four-story podium. “It’s almost miraculous that we were able to obtain a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) of the first condo building when we did. Thanks to the hard work of all the employees that allowed us to stick to such an ambitious schedule and get the TCO,” Lee says. “This was definitely a fast-track project, as we started construction and began working on early design elements before the full design was completed. The LA Department of Building and Safety’s parallel design permitting program made the fast track process possible.”

With Phase 1 nearly complete, Webcor will turn its full attention to Phase 2a of the Metropolis project. The phase consists of a 40-story high-rise residential building, a 20-story mid-rise building and a nine-level podium/parking garage. The two residential buildings will offer a combined 514 condo units.

Webcor recently topped off the concrete structure of both portions of Phase 2a buildings and is now working to install exterior curtainwall. Webcor self-performed structural concrete work on both the Phase 1 and Phase 2a buildings. The company is also performing the interior carpentry work on the buildings.

Work on Metropolis Phase 2a is projected for completion in  mid-2018. A further phase, dubbed Phase 2b, consists of a 56-story and a 24-story building with 685 total condos. A separate general contractor is working on this phase.

Close Coordination

The curtainwall and a few items of the interior finishes for the Metropolis condo units are manufactured and being shipped from several locations around the world. This includes stone, cabinetry and flooring. “We’ve had to be very on procurement and quality control,” Lee says.

Representatives from Webcor and other project team members including subcontractor and architectural staff were sent overseas to examine fabricated stone. The stone was quarried in Turkey before being sent to China for fabrication and ultimately to the United States for installation.

“There’s a lot of coordination and effort that goes into just getting these materials here in a manner that we can install them,” he adds.

The contractor also worked closely with its subcontractors and suppliers on coordinating materials used in the entry area to the Metropolis site. The entryway includes high-quality concrete as well as high-tech touches such as LED screens. “So many things had to happen in a short period of time; this required multiple subcontractors to meet and come up with an hour-by-hour schedule to deliver and install properly,” Lee says.

Webcor CEO, Jes Pederson and Executive VP John Bowles took a personal interest in the project. “[Pederson] led and participated meetings with our staff and subcontractors to ensure our team met the TCO date promised,” Lee adds. “Together we created a plan of being able to work around each other and still install work in a high-quality manner.”

Protecting the Public

The Metropolis site’s location next to the Interstate 110 and State Route 110 freeway posed a significant challenge to construction. “We are not allowed to swing tower cranes over the freeway,” Lee says, noting that Webcor operates  six cranes on the site.

Luffing cranes were instead used because their jib allows for vertical positioning so they do not “oversail” into restricted airspace. Webcor was also unable to use tiebacks to hold up shoring during excavation, as those would have needed to be installed under the freeway and an off-ramp. Instead, the company used raker bracing to temporarily brace elements used during construction.

“We also had to ensure nothing falls off the building onto the freeway,” he adds. “We put a lot of effort into our safety onsite as well as the needed protection of the public.”

Webcor has created a safety culture for the project that encompasses not only its own staff, but also those of its subcontractors. “Our entire workforce is working on safety together,” Lee says. “We’ve been very fortunate that our safety programs are meeting our goal, which is to not have any major accidents on the job.”

In addition to company safety managers, Webcor is also retaining the services of an on-site EMT. “We determined early on in our project that it would be best to have an actual EMT as part of our project staff in case any issues arise,” he adds.

The fast-track schedule of the project also presented logistical challenges. “Our client wanted to ensure that we could get a temporary certificate of occupancy to allow new [Phase 1] condo owners could move in,” Lee says. “This meant we had to work around the clock with certain trades, and also had to get the city to understand our client’s desires.”

For Webcor, attaining the certificate meant frequent meetings the case management offices of the LA Department of Building and Safety, and other officials. “The city building department, in a way, became part of our team, since they were inspecting on nights and weekends,” he adds. “We worked literally around the clock to achieve this for the client, and I haven’t seen that on too many jobs.”

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