Tower General Contractors builds a new home for Laborers’ Local 300

At the June 2008 membership meeting of Laborers’ Local 300, a motion was made, seconded, and carried by the membership. That motion ratified Local 300’s Executive Board recommendation to build a new, state-of-the-art union hall for the membership of the Local. Five years later the project is nearly complete.

Rather than try to renovate a 12,000 square foot, asbestos contaminated, 1950’s era building that had limited surface parking, Laborers’ Local 300 decided to build a new, two-story 100,000 square foot union hall. The building will combine the operations of three other satellite Local offices. In addition, the project includes two levels of subterranean parking for more than 150 cars, a 20,000 square foot courtyard with a water feature, an industrial kitchen capable of serving more than 300 people, a gym for office staff, and approximately 2,000 square feet of space available for lease to other businesses.

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The design/build team of Tower General Contractors from Sun Valley, CA and FSY Architects of Los Angeles, CA began working with Laborers’ Local 300 on the new hall’s construction budget and design ideas in 2008. After a series of preliminary designs, Tower General Contractors got the green light and the abatement and demolition of the old structure began in late 2011.

Laborers’ Local 300 Business Manager Sergio Rascon comments, “We could not have been more pleased with the selection of Tower General Contractors for our new headquarters. They have an excellent reputation as builders in Southern California and are committed to sustainable building practices. As expected, Tower is providing Local 300 with a beautiful building that will be a source of pride for the members for years to come.”

Pico-Union is often an overlooked neighborhood in greater Los Angeles. Former Los Angeles City Council District 1 Representative Ed Reyes said, “I am proud of the commitment that Laborers’ Local 300 has shown to this neighborhood. Pico-Union is a community with a lot of history, heart and potential, and I thank Laborers’ Local 300 for resolving to stay and to improve the opportunities for the residents of this area.”

Beginning with the asbestos abatement and demolition of the previous structure, to the excavation and shoring, and through the eventual build out of the new union hall, more than 30 union subcontractors have been involved with the project. Major subcontractors include; Karcher Environmental, Fast Forward Concrete Cutting, U.S. Demolition, Calex Engineering, Associated Construction Services, All Area Plumbing, R & R Masonry, Best Interiors, Structural Shotcrete Systems, Cal Electric, Anning-Johnson, Angeles Waterproofing, and American Landscape. At its peak, the project employed more than 60 building trade professionals, with nearly a third of them being journeyman laborers and laborer apprentices.

Along the way, 2005 West Pico had to overcome many obstacles. The use of a unique masonry product, uncooperative neighbors, detailed city oversight, and a personal battle with illness challenged everyone involved with the project.

The use of a projected shaped brick that had never been used in Los Angeles was specified for the job. The material cost more than $7.00 per brick, and took some getting used to. The subcontractor rose to the challenge, and worked hard to determine the proper technique and mortar mix for laying this new brick.  Masonry plans and measurements were extremely detailed, and followed so precisely by the team, that the work was completed without cutting one brick.

Despite concerted outreach efforts by Local 300, surrounding businesses were worried about the impacts of construction on their day to day operations. The neighboring businesses to the project would not allow for the use of tie-backs under their property lines. Rather, Tower General Contractors had to use raking shores on two sides of the foundation walls, causing schedule delays and some increased project costs.

Because the union hall lies within the Historical Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) of Pico-Union, special regulations and further oversight by the City’s Planning Department came into effect. All aspects of the project’s planning and design had to go before the neighborhood’s HPOZ Board. The HPOZ Board obligated Local 300 to commission original artwork to replace a mural existing on the outside of the old union hall. The mural was originally painted by children who lived in the community and attended nearby schools. The HPOZ Board also required the project to bring awareness to the late 19th and early 20th century architectural styles of homes built in the Pico-Union community by stamping images of the single-family residences into the sidewalk outside of the hall.

About half way through the construction process, Tower’s dedicated site superintendent, Brian Benson, faced some personal challenges as well. A medical exam following a routine traffic accident revealed a tumor in Brian’s neck. The diagnosis was stage 4 throat cancer. After taking medical leave for nearly a year to beat the cancer, Brian was back on the job. Sharing his devotion to the project, Brian says, “I went through 18 weeks of chemo and radiation treatments, doing exactly what my doctors told me because I couldn’t wait to get back to work. I was on this job at day one, and I wanted to be the one to see this project through to completion.”

In spite of all of the construction obstacles, the project has not had one inspection correction nor lost time accident. In fact, the brick and stucco finish structure is on track to receive a Silver certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system of the United States Green Building Council. Some of the building’s green design elements include:

– A storm drainage system that will filter and treat storm water runoff

– Exterior lighting that will meet light pollution guidelines

– Optimized energy performance through the building envelope and HVAC systems that will reduce energy costs by at least 60 percent

– Recycling of at least 75 percent of construction materials, demolition waste and land clearing debris

– Salvaged or refurbished building materials

– Local manufacture (within 500 miles) of at least half of the building’s materials

– Building designed to maximize day lighting and view opportunities

2005 West Pico will be a signature project for Tower General Contractors. Nato Flores, President of Tower General Contractors and whose father was a member of the Laborers’ Union says, “Tower is honored to work on a project for an organization so dedicated to the men and women of Los Angeles. We hope this new building provides Local 300 with a physical structure as strong as its membership. It has been a pleasure to design and build this new union hall for Local 300 and we look forward to turning over the keys once it is finished.”

The project was completed in February 2014 and is going through the final inspection process. Once complete, Local 300 is planning to host a grand opening ceremony and open house for the members to tour the new facility.

Tower General Contractors is the largest minority-owned general contracting firm in Los Angeles County.  More recently, Tower was the general contractor for the seismic retrofit and renovation of the historic LAX Theme Building, and the construction of an $80 million addition to the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena.