Journey to the Final Frontier: An architect’s account of the design and construction process (part 2)

Architect’s Log Star Date 12.15.12

This entry will recap a few things that will bring us current to this week.  My years of working with Bass Pro Shops has taught me that there is no limit to what can be expected of a design and construction team.  Both in terms of delivery of the project, as well as providing an authentic, regionalized shopping experience.

I had no problem hopping on a plane the next day and making my way to Anchorage.  I was not required to show up for the first series of meetings, but knew I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the existing buildings that were to be renovated, and to meet our Anchorage team at RIM Architects, BBFM Engineering and CRW Engineering.  And to hit the ground running.

Another opportunity was to visit with Bass Pro Shops’ imagery team – Marvin Levine and Joe Buatte whose job it is to research the local culture and incorporate regional theme into the store.  We had an awesome treat to get a personal tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center where we learned about early settlement, native structures and traditions.  This information was photographed and cataloged for use in deriving design for some of the features in the store.

Several significant hurdles were identified in the two days I was in Anchorage.  For one, the three stores to be renovated were separated with what we all thought were simple tenant separation walls.  Wrong.  They were full masonry shear walls equipped to withstand lateral forces for seismic requirements.  Of course, we really needed to take them out to create one large space.  Second, we determined that we needed to go through a site amendment process to add the square footage we wanted.  That application was due December 13th for a mid February approval, which at the time was two weeks away.  Yikes!  Third, we found that almost every option to expand the building encroached on something significant – utility easements, utility runs, Corp of Engineers bioswale, protected wetland areas, etc.  And of course, the weather in Alaska in the winter, and shipping logistics for this region of the country are also significant challenges.  This just kept fueling my motivation to ‘find a way, or make one’ as our proposal promised.

And as all projects go, we work to deadlines.  And the looming one was the 12.13.12  4:00 pm deadline to submit the site amendment application.  For that application we needed many things, foremost of which was a plan that met all the criteria, and drawings  including site plan, floor plans, elevations, signage, landscape and lighting plans, material designation, square footages, etc.  Along with that, supporting documentation from various parties to the property, snow removal agreements, ownership disclosure statements and application fee checks.  There was a final determination of the plan on 12.11.12, and all the materials for the submittal were generated in a ‘flurry’ of activity right up to the time that printing of the 35 copies of the application had to begin. Ironically it was during the ‘flurry’ of activity, that Anchorage experienced a record snowfall total for a single day, creating some problems for folks to get to work, but that did not stop Wende Wilber (our point of contact for the planning process with CRW) as she and her team worked diligently to assemble all the information and get it submitted by the requisite time.  Which they did.  And thus clearing the first hurdle of the project.  (Side note: We really need a prime time drama series on the design and construction industry… )

Next hurdle: Working to identify the design, construction and permitting sequence required to meet the June 1 opening date, while keeping a design team spread out from Springfield, to Kansas City to Anchorage on track to deliver the necessary drawings and documents. Stay tuned.

Some photos from the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Whale bones - Anchorage, Alaska

Whale bones

Whale bones 2 - Anchorage, Alaska

Whale bones

Community Center - Anchorage, Alaska

Community Center

Structure inside Earthen shelter - Anchorage, Alaska

Structure inside Earthen shelter