irma damage to convention center: lost time

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

irma damage to convention center: lost time:

no major damage but City assessing construction schedule

Updated with new information September 19 at 5:45 pm

Hurricane Irma didn’t cause any material damage to the new Convention Center but the storm had an impact on the construction schedule. With a lineup of events this Fall, including Art Basel in December, the construction team is meeting to figure out what it can realistically deliver.
 
Project Director Maria Hernandez said the large demobilization of the site began the Tuesday after Labor Day. With a category 5 hurricane bearing directly down on the Beach, Clark Construction began securing the site and removed the scaffolding on the East side of the building which “could have destroyed all the glass,” Hernandez said. By Thursday, the prep work was completed and on Friday, “It was a ghost town.”
 
While an August storm with heavy rain caused damage to the nearly completed East side, Irma only caused some small leaks. “Irma herself did not cause wind damage to the building but what it did do was kill our momentum,” Hernandez said. The week prior to the storm was lost and then the area was without power until Wednesday of last week. While 60% of the labor is local, Hernandez said, “40% is either from Broward County or other parts of the country. A lot of people just fled. It isn’t until today that we got our ironworkers back so we’re not at 100%. We’re almost back to normal but we’re still limping because we only have 66% of our pre-Irma workforce.”
 
Hernandez said the team is now assessing the work schedule. “We’re trying to see how we can make up that time to ultimately meet the Art Basel contractual milestone.” Even before the storm, she said, the schedule was tight. Now the focus is on how to “get the building back on track. They’re rethinking everything, where are the [glass] curtain wall people going to be, where are the ironworkers going to be. We need to get that back on track and for the Art Basel show to go on without a hitch.” She hopes to have a better handle on the schedule by the end of this week.
 
As it happens the Art Basel team was already planning to be in town next week so the City and its construction team will use that opportunity to talk through their assessment of the timeline. Given what she saw the Basel team do with the partially constructed Convention Center last year, she said, “They can make areas look beautiful. What they need are show floors so they can have their galleries in. We’re all going to have to work as a team and that’s what we’re going to talk about next week.”
 
Art Basel recently made a ten-year commitment to the new Convention Center. As a result, the City accommodated its request for an additional elevator/escalator linking the exhibit floor to the upstairs ballroom. 
 
In the meantime, she’s keeping an eye on the weather. “I’m thinking that hurricane season is not going to be over until November 30th. Thank goodness this storm didn’t come at us but there’s more out there in the Caribbean right now.” That said, her focus remains on what she can control. “We’re just trying to make up lost time.” Both the construction team and Art Basel have some experience with hurricane delays. Last year Matthew caused “a few lost days” which Hernandez said resulted in the fair taking the East side of the Convention Center “in a condition that was not the way they would have wanted it but by the time they came it worked.” 
 
Like many of us, she is aware of what could have been. “It could have been worse. If it would have blown through here, the wind would have gotten in and we would have had damage that we couldn’t undo for a year but that didn’t happen so we’re moving forward at warp speed. We’re now just seeing how we can maximize our time… see how we can save time. That’s going to be what we focus on.”
 
The City is doing something unusual in this process by continuing to host shows around various phases of construction. The Convention Center hosted 26 events in 2016 and will host a total of 11 events this year and 14 in 2018.
 
Hernandez emphasized, “The City is doing everything possible to gain as much time as possible given the impact of the time that has been lost. The direct impact – and this is something people have to understand – it was not a direct hit so there wasn’t an extensive amount of damage. It’s the time we lost that we can’t recover. The shows are coming. Those are dates that don’t move so we have to see how much we can deliver by the show dates, how much can we deliver under the same period of time, because we don’t get more time.”
 
 
 
 
 
 

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