industrial history

Lee Milligan, Lemoine senior superintendent, says preparing the site wasn't easy. The casino grounds sit on the Industrial Canal, a 5.5-mile man-made waterway dredged between 1918 and 1923 to connect the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. The area has housed manufacturers and industrial operations, leaving the subsurface littered with concrete and steel.

"It's a rough site. We pulled out chunks of concrete that were 25 ft square and 9 ft thick with No. 11 bar in them. There were layers of the stuff. It took a long time to get it all out," Milligan says.

Lemoine had to work quickly, preparing the site, driving piles and starting initial stages of the foundation before architectural drawings were complete. Manion says they used fast-track procurement to secure materials and subcontractors. Lemoine broke ground with little more than a conceptual estimate and a few renderings to fit the owner's budget.

In preparing the site, Milligan says they also had to shift the hotel back 8 ft back from its original location on the canal when they discovered the rising water table could cause issues with the foundation.

Lemoine currently has two dozen subcontractors on the job. However, because Lemoine usually deals with steel construction, many of their regular subs didn't have the wood-framing specialties for a building of this size. On the other hand, many wood-framing specialty contractors come from the residential industry and don't operate on a commercial level.

"Wood framing is unique in commercial, so we had to interview quite a few to find one that could perform commercial grade level in terms of quality, cost and schedule," Manion says.

Lemoine eventually found AFC Inc. of Perkinston, Miss., to handle all framing, drywall and exterior windows. Rick Hodges, AFC president, says while they've worked on numerous commercial assisted-living and multifamily buildings, it's the first time they've seen a five-story, wood-frame hotel. The Simpson rods, elevation changes and unique nailing patterns were a first-time experience, he says.

Milligan says the rest of the process has been "fairly typical," just requiring a little more management.

As of late-January, Lemoine was finishing the roof and had most of the mechanical pieces roughed in. Milligan says the next step is to pour Gyp-Crete on all floors and to hang drywall throughout the building. Other crews will also start on the EIFS (exterior insulation and finish system) skin. Milligan says while there have been some additional challenges and complications, the wood framing has proved to be relatively fast and straight forward, even for a building of this size.