The Biggest Little Project: The Grand Stairway at Atlantic Station

February 16, 2021

There are certain types of challenges that can remain ongoing for the life of a project, and often some of the biggest challenges come in the smallest packages. As this project is expected to be wrapping up around late spring 2021, the team encountered a few unique challenges that required continued creative solutions.

With its very own ZIP Code, what Atlantic Station in Atlanta lacks in acreage it makes up in density and energy. Boasting the third largest parking deck in the U.S., Atlantic Station’s open-air mall also features more than 30 restaurants, shops, condos, and businesses for the surrounding community.

After years of trouble with the outdoor escalators, Asset and Property Manager Hines made the decision to convert the area into a “Grand Staircase.” The scope of work for this project includes the removal of six escalators spanning four levels, making way for this sizeable replacement. Construction details include structural steel and precast concrete treads, soffit panels at the underside of the pedestrian bridge with lighting, and guardrails. A vertical green wall feature will also be installed on the site’s existing elevator tower.

From the tight site to the near-constant stream of shop-goers, climbing the steps to success in this seemingly straightforward project requires overcoming unique challenges while maintaining safety measures and project schedule.

Challenge: Tight, elevated spaces.

As the work is performed on the existing parking deck’s elevated structure, the team’s loads are significantly limited. Equipment, dumpsters, and workable space are also restricted due to the low overhead heights between deck floors. And if a crane could ease these burdens…no large cranes are allowed on the adjacent roadways, as Publix’s entry cannot be blocked.

Solution: The team implemented self-supporting scaffolding and gantry cranes to perform both the demo and steel erection. As gantry cranes are built to straddle objects and workspaces, they are the perfect solution to demolishing and lifting heavy material into the compact jobsite without intruding on the surrounding walkways. Demolition debris is taken out by hand, loaded on trucks, and hauled to off-site receptacles as dumpsters are not allowed on-site.

Challenge: Safety during heavy demolition.

Performing considerable demolition within one of Atlantic Station’s most populated and central locations to make way for the Grand Staircase presents safety concerns that need a comprehensive solution.

Solution: To develop a thorough safety plan, the Atlantic Station team utilized Choate Construction’s VirtualWorks department. Together, they developed detailed logistics plans to virtually display the ongoing stages of construction and corresponding pedestrian safety initiatives. Additionally, strategically installed overhead protection and scaffolding ensures demolition proceeds safely while maintaining all pedestrian, handicap, and elevator access. Finally, given the significant amount of torching to cut up the steel up into removable pieces, fire blankets and barricades ensure the surrounding equipment is protected from catching on the sparks, and the public remains protected.

Challenge: Minimize disruptions, maximize a quick completion.

It’s no secret that construction projects can be disruptive. To minimize disturbances to residents, shops, and restaurants, limited work hours were determined in the initial plans for the project.

Solution: When working in a congested area, being a good neighbor is of critical importance. As such, the needs of the Atlantic Station retail clients and residents are a top priority. To mitigate noise and disruption, work is only performed between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The lunch hour is also respected; at 11:00 a.m., no one worked outside of the fenced area so as not to disturb lunch-goers. Weekend work hours are even more narrow, so strict adherence to scheduled milestones is paramount.

Despite the seemingly uncomplicated nature of this project, new challenges continue to arise and require the team stay alert and adaptable to changing conditions. After all, the path to success must be taken one step at a time, and this unique project is no exception.

Vickers Design Group is our Design-Build partner on the project. Scheduled completion is Mid-April 2021.


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