October 10, 2008

A Higher Standard ; Derelict Plant’s Face-Lift Includes Raising Its Ceiling By 8 Feet

By Copyright 2008 Albuquerque Journal By Richard Metcalf Journal Staff Writer

Ted Waterman has raised the ceiling on commercial redevelopment with his $20 million resurrection of the derelict Siemens Stromberg- Carlson plant into Copper Pointe.


Drawing on 30 years of experience in moving entire buildings from one location to another, Waterman raised the height of the ceiling by 8 feet over three-quarters of the old plant's 192,000-square- foot footprint. That's enough raised ceiling to cover three acres.

"No one around here had ever seen anything like it," said Brett Frauenglass, an architect on the eight-member team at the Dekker Perich Sabatini firm that's worked on the project.

A mixed-use commercial project near Eubank and Interstate 40, Copper Pointe is speculative redevelopment, meaning no tenants have been lined up to move in when the building is ready for occupancy at the end of November. CB Richard Ellis is currently marketing space in the building.

The ceiling was raised from the bottom up. The existing structural steel columns, which support the steel roof deck, were cut just above the concrete slab. Then one foot at a time using hydraulic jacks, the ceiling was raised in sections and temporary supports placed underneath.

The biggest section of 50,000 square feet had 28 lifting points, Waterman said. Additional steel supports for the columns were welded and anchored into place. The entire process took about six months in 2007.

The obvious alternative would have been to remove the steel roof deck and go higher from the top of the existing steel columns, but Waterman said, "Taking off the roof deck would've been more expensive."

Inspired by 25

Waterman said his inspiration for Copper Pointe came from the conversion of the Digital Equipment plant into a multitenant office building at 25!, a mixeduse commercial complex at Jefferson and Interstate 25.

"We're a sort of mini 25!," he said.

Built the same year -- 1971 -- as Siemens, Digital's former one- story, 243,000-square-foot main plant was gutted in 1999 and turned into an office building for lease to companies that wanted lots of contiguous space. A second two-story, 46,600-square-foot building was also converted to offices. A hotel, restaurants and retail buildings were developed nearby.

"We used 25! as a starting point for planning," Waterman said. "I intentionally picked Dekker Perich Sabatini because they had worked on that project."

Dispensing with the Digital conversion's focus on offices, he said, "Our idea was to reformat the building so we could have multiple users with multiple commercial uses."

But the Siemens plant's original 19-foot, 8-inch ceiling were "one of the building's biggest negatives," Waterman said. Since it was too low for modern warehousing or second-floor mezzanine office space, the answer was to raise much of it to 27 feet, 8 inches.

Two in one

Copper Pointe could be described as two buildings in one, a distinct office component and a distinct industrial component.

With the addition of mezzanine space at the northwest corner of the building, Copper Pointe has a total of 211,077 square feet of space. Of that, 98,900 square feet is office while 112,177 square feet is industrial.

The north side of the building faces I-40, where more than 84,000 cars and trucks travel past each day, and is geared to peopleoriented uses such offices, a call center and, at the northeast corner, even potential for a showroom. The 19-acre parcel has room for 1,000 parking spaces, Waterman said.

Three pad sites are also planned in front of the building, with high visibility from the interstate. The front is reached from the eastern end of Copper Avenue.

The north side of the building is industrial in use, most likely as warehouse and distribution or light manufacturing. The back has its own separate truck access off Chico Road that was recently built through an agreement with adjacent property owners.

"The south side of the building will operate separately from the north side of the building," Ted Waterman said.

Adding a face-lift

The north facade is getting a substantial face-lift, erasing any resemblance to the abandoned industrial building that Waterman and his fellow investors -- Richard Maron and sons Ari and Jori Maron of Cleveland -- bought two years ago.

"We decided to mix an old industrial feel using brick with contemporary stucco and aluminum-framed windows," he said.

The mix of styles is also evident in the light poles in the parking area. Some lots have fluted cast-iron poles from the Victorian era, while others have sleek modern fixtures. An old- fashioned clock on a fluted cast-iron pole will be placed at one of the main entrances to the building.

In fact, all three main entrances at the north end of the building will be set off in some way. For example, the northeast corner entrance will have a fountain in a small plaza setting. Custommade sculptures by Michael Garmin of Colorado Springs, based on Albuquerque and New Mexico themes, will be on display.

A quirky touch will be a "philosopher's wall" featuring signs bearing oldfashioned sayings or witty insights. Santa Fe artist and graphic designer Tom Hyland is painting the signs.

"There's one from Will Rogers: 'Diplomacy is the art of saying 'nice doggy' while looking for a rock,'" Hyland said, providing samples. "Albert Einstein, who was more than just a great scientist, has a quote saying, 'I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.'"

Hyland is enthusiastic about the philosopher's wall, which will measure 60-feet long and 22-feet high at the east end of the building. "It's time for everyone to read these quotes," he said. "There's absolutely nothing like it in America that I know of."

The building's signature will be copper wall shingles and other copper detailing, a design element that has turned into a significant investment. At the commodity level, copper has doubled in price since the Waterman-Maron group purchased the property.

"We had to do a lot of rethinking to keep it in," Frauenglass said about the extensive use of copper. "But (Waterman) isn't one of those owners who is all about the budget."

Offsite street improvements will be made to the Eubank and Copper intersection and down Copper to the property line, Waterman said. On- street parking will be eliminated on that less than quartermile stretch of Copper.

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.