Published July 30, 2015
The arrival last week of the 250-foot-high tower crane at Main and High streets in downtown Buffalo marks a new milestone in constructing the future home of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
From now through year’s end, the crane, with the 264-foot horizontal working arm on it, will be spinning through the air, putting steel beams in place for floors four through eight of the new medical school.
“The tower crane’s commanding presence at the construction site is a symbol of the very positive changes that UB’s new medical school building will bring to Buffalo’s skyline,” said Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences at UB and medical school dean.
“By Labor Day, the fourth and fifth floors will start to go up,” said William J. Mahoney, vice president for LPCiminelli, the general contractor on the project. “After that, there will be less and less construction visible.” By the end of the year, much of the structure will be enclosed and work will continue on the interior of the building.
Earlier this week, on one of the summer’s hottest days, Paul Hopkins, who helps operate the crane for LPCiminelli, climbed the 250-foot-high tower in order to affix the UB flag to one end of the crane’s working arm, or “boom.”
“The view is amazing,” said Hopkins, who, together with the crane operator, has been spending 10 hours a day atop the crane, either in the air-conditioned cab portion or outside on the boom itself doing maintenance or inspection work. Asked if crane operators need to love heights in order to do the job, Hopkins quips: “You can’t hate ‘em!”
Operating the crane requires specialized licensing and constant safety training and monitoring as well as vigilance about weather and wind conditions since tower cranes cannot be operated when winds exceed 30 miles per hour.
Tower cranes, which allow for the construction of tall buildings, are an unmistakable sign of progress in Buffalo.
“They’re the only things that can get the steel high enough,” said Joe Oliverio, project engineer with LPCiminelli and a 2013 civil engineering graduate of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The crane is the second one in the two-block stretch along High Street; the other is at the site of the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, which is also under construction. The cranes are a welcome sight on the medical campus, says Jennifer A. Kuhn, project manager for the new medical school building. She notes that there have been decades when there were no tower cranes downtown.
“They’re a symbol of urban improvement,” said Mahoney, adding that the progress is being felt in multiple sectors. “We’ve got a lot of good local construction talent from the local building trades working on this project,” he said. On any typical day, more than 90 men and women are working at the site, all of whom are well aware of the importance of the UB medical school project and the adjacent construction on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
“This is such a high-profile job,” said Oliverio of the medical school project. “It’s historic. This corner was dead three years ago. Now we’re constructing one of the biggest buildings in Buffalo here. It’s exciting.”