CAPE MAY – City Hall auditorium was packed for a special town meeting Feb. 19 on the new Convention Hall with a full audience and a full dais of architects, construction managers and faculty from Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management.
Martin Kimmel, principal and architect with Kimmel Bogrette told city council and the crowd of Cape May regulars of changes made to the designs presented last fall in order to receive a CAFRA (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act) permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Those included:
• Moving Convention Hall 24-feet forward off the beach towards Beach Avenue.
• A redesign of the Promenade in front of hall which will jut out towards Beach Avenue.
• Parking spaces removed from Beach Avenue in front of hall.
• Stairs and ramps align with crosswalks on Beach Avenue.
• Landscape added to seawall, Promenade area
• Doubled amount of restrooms in hall.
• Emergency vehicle access ramp to top of seawall.
• Hall will be surrounded by wooden boardwalk on three sides rather than concrete.
• Size of catering kitchen doubled.
• Glass wall behind stage area will not open but be stationery with two sets of double doors to beach.
• Retail store and restaurant space remains the same.
The facility will be green with both solar panels and geothermal climate control. Kimmel said the inside of the hall has had very few design changes.
He said the interior would be extremely flexible hosting everything from roller skating to musical events to conventions. The main hall can be divided into two spaces to host two events simultaneously. The second floor will have three meeting rooms.
Kimmel said the roof would accommodate heavy snowfall. The hall will have a long span, deep steel truss system. Solar panels on the roof will produce between 80 to 90 kilowatts with power sold back to the grid when the hall is not in use.
Glass in the hall should withstand winds to 135 miles per hour. Kimmel said the building will use laminated, tempered glass designed to withstand a two by four shot at it at 90 miles per hour.
Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. said council is considering converting the former Oasis and Ricker’s stores on the Promenade into restroom and changing facilities for beachgoers rather than have sandy footprints throughout the new hall from those coming off the beach to use restrooms inside.
Resident Jack Wichterman asked if a $10.5 million bond issue passed for the new Convention Hall 15 months ago would cover the expenses. Mahaney said bids would be opened March 18 at 2 p.m. at City Hall. He said he believed the bond would cover the cost taking into account the depressed construction mark.
Hunter Roberts Construction Group has been serving as consultants for construction management. Steve Markley, director of estimating, said the current Convention Hall suffered from an eroding concrete structure and was collapsing. He said rusting steel was expanding inside concrete and “ripping itself apart.” Reinforcement in the new Convention Hall will not be subject to corrosion by using an epoxy coating with an additive in the concrete called DCI to keep it from being permeable.
“We see this as a 14-month project,” said Markley. “We want to be open May 27, 2011 for the Memorial Day Weekend.”
He said work needs to start in April.
“You are buying this construction at the best time in the last 15-20 years,” said Markley. “The market is at the absolute bottom.”
He said he did not expect change orders for the project which he termed as “relatively simple.”
Dan Dirscherl, senior vice president and general manager of Hunter Roberts, predicted 20-25 bids from construction firms for the project. He confirmed that prices of building materials were priced at a five year low.
The construction site will have cranes and rigs for drilling piles and geothermal wells down to 400 feet. The next phase will be steel erection followed by installation of pre-cast wall panels with a track-mounted crane, said Dirscherl.
The site will be fenced off with concrete barriers. The Promenade area in front of the new hall will be demolished during the construction.
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