Studio 135 is a new 5-story micro-unit apartment complex located in North Cherry Creek. It features 35 apartments, with 28 of the units consisting of studio and micro floor plans directed toward people working in the Cherry Creek area. The project was designed by Saiber Saiber Architects and developed by PANDO Holdings, with GH Phipps serving as the General Contractor.
In dense, urban areas like Cherry Creek, the construction process is approached differently than in surrounding suburban areas. In this article, we are going to break down key elements of how we build in a downtown environment.
Construction can be noisy, invasive, and disruptive to a community. To minimize the impact on a community, open discussion, and careful planning must be prioritized. In Denver specifically, there are many Registered Neighborhood Organizations (RNOs) that need to be kept in the loop throughout the construction process.
Many areas, such as Cherry Creek, also have Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), which represent commercial property owners in a given area. BIDs have specific construction requirements, including planning for sidewalk and street closures, the impact on parking, and pedestrian safety standards. Understanding these requirements allow us to provide a safe environment while limiting closures and temporary conditions along with the associated costs.
It is important to maintain a positive relationship with both RNOs and BIDs throughout both the preconstruction and production phases of a project. Studio 135 is the third of a recent string of projects we’ve built in Cherry Creek. We have also recently completed the Global Downs HQ, a new Yeti retail store, and will soon be constructing an office building for Broe Real Estate Group. Without question, we understand how to meet this need for enhanced communication within the Cherry Creek neighborhood.
Zoning Overlays and Design Advisory Boards
There also has to be a consideration for the area-specific requirements put forth for the neighborhood where construction is taking place. There are often guidelines for the exterior materials, size, height, building setbacks, and ground floor use that can be built in a given area.
Neighborhood plans, zoning overlays, and design advisory boards will define certain uses of a ground floor space, which is often reserved for retail. As developers and their design partners are considering concepts that meet the needs of all these stakeholders, having a partner that can provide quick, reliable cost analysis of alternative solutions can save a lot of valuable time.
Relationships with the authorities who issue building permits and perform inspections are also important. Understanding how to balance the cost and schedule benefits of partial permit strategies can dramatically influence how fast a project gets delivered. An advantage of getting phased permits early is being able to streamline the process and start construction while still in the phases of design and development.
However, this can add expenses and delays if design changes need to be made down the line. This holds the potential to force late modifications to the structure’s design as well as the project schedule. Understanding the process of TCO Stocking, TCO, and CO inspections dramatically speeds up the owner move-in process and knowing the inspection team is also important.
In densely populated urban areas like Cherry Creek, space comes at a premium. There are logistical considerations unique to each construction site that need to be given attention. This can range from details, such as where construction workers are allowed to park, to more serious operational guidelines such as crane location, swing radius, air rights, material deliveries, and trucking routes.
Studio 135 was developed on a zero-lot line site, meaning that there was no space available to stage or store materials. When building in a downtown environment, the absence of logistical space leads to more complex scheduling and time constraints. For this project, we utilized just-in-time delivery, ensuring materials were brought on-site precisely when they were needed. They were quickly installed, making sure everything was ready for the next day’s deliveries.
Some building components may also be prefabricated off-site. Prefab systems at Studio 135 included wood-framed structural elements, exterior, and interior wall systems. Utilizing prefab simplifies the construction process, as work is constructed off-site and delivered on-site for installation. We used BIM to design and coordinate the prefabricated wall panels, requiring less on-site labor, a lower staging footprint, and less overall disruption to the community.
The complexity of scheduling and planning was not only relevant to construction methods but also included on-site logistics planning. A parking plan was developed to prevent workers from taking up neighborhood and retail parking. Additionally, the closure of sidewalks, alleys, parking spots, and street lanes required a thoughtful and strategic plan that effectively minimized costs and best-utilized construction time.
In short, building in an urban, downtown environment is no easy task. It takes careful consideration and communication with community organizations, such as RNOs and BIDs, to get a project off the ground. Construction must comply with zoning requirements, and General Contractors must carefully plan out their work to accommodate the logistical issues unique to each site.