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Photo Essay
Bricklayers, Laborers, 49ers assemble Cobalt project, piece by piece

February, 2006

Photo essay by Steve Share, Labor Review editor

From the offices of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council and Minneapolis Labor Review newspaper, we have a bird’s-eye view of a construction project across the street. Union contractor McGough is building the Cobalt Condominiums in Minneapolis at the corner of Central and University Avenues. The mixed-use development will feature 102 condos in two towers and a Lund’s grocery store. For several weeks, we’ve watched in fascination as a giant crane lifts precast concrete pieces and workers guide them into place. Here are photos shot right out our fifth floor window as well as photos from an onsite visit February 2, 2006.

Above: The Cobalt takes shape as precast concrete pieces are lifted by a crane and set in place. The precast concrete pieces are manufactured by Hanson Structural Precast in Maple Grove. A total of 2,375 pieces of precast/prestressed concrete will be used.

Right: One of the many precast concrete trusses, which can weigh 60,200 to 67,900 pounds. The truss members are 51'0" to 59'5" in length.

Above: The trusses are installed every other floor. Each truss supports two floors. The precast construction technique allows for open floor plans and gives design flexibility to architects, said Matt Westgaard, general manager for Hanson. "It was a brainchild of the late 1990s to solve highrise housing issues." Westgaard said that Hanson, in business for 45 years, began working with precast concrete in the mid 1960s and built its first project with precast concrete trusses in 2000.

Above: Dan Blanchette (right), is project supervisor for McGough. Blanchette is a 35-year member of Carpenters Local 851 and has been a project supervisor for the past 15 years. He's leading a February 2 tour of the Cobalt with Dick Kentzleman (left), business representative for Bricklayers Local 1. At this point in the project, most of the workers onsite are Bricklayers and Laborers. Surprisingly few workers are on the job site. "There's about 14 guys erecting the project," Blanchette said.

Left: Brought from Montana in pieces in 18 truckloads, the giant Manitowoc 2250 crane can lift 300 tons. The crane is so tall that capturing a photo of the entire machine eluded the photographer.

Right: Crane operator Matt Busse is a 30-year member of Operating Engineers Local 49. From the cab of the crane, he says, “I can’t see anything.” He communicates by radio with the workers guiding the precast forms into place. “We’ve got to be pretty precise or we’ll knock the building down,” he says. “It can be stressful.”

Above: a shot of the crane's base, with a worker passing by, illustrates its size.

Continue to page 2 of photo essay

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