JJ Curran Crane Adds Tower Crane Services for Third & Grand Development

By Debra Wood, Michigan Contractor & Builder

To help complete the $53.1 million Third & Grand, a six-story mixed-use development in an up-and-coming Detroit neighborhood, the JJ Curran Crane Co. of Detroit entered the tower crane business with the addition of two new key personnel and a new tower crane.

“We are providing a service few other companies provide in Detroit, which is fully operating and maintaining tower cranes,” says Adam Cote, Director of Heavy Lift Operations for JJ Curran. “The entire city of Detroit is booming and large developments are starting to come back to the area.”

Cote had worked as an Engineer and Project Manager with tower and crawler cranes for Allegiance Crane in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the past 12 years before being recruited by JJ Curran.

Cote and Matt McVittie, a Field Engineer, joined JJ Curran this year to pursue the tower crane and crawler crane market for the company. McVittie, who also worked for Allegiance Crane, described a construction boom in Detroit, which he says he is proud to be a part. “We’re trying to expand our brand and branch out,” McVittie says. “We want to get our foot in the door, we want general contractors and project managers in Detroit and beyond to know that we now have the capability to provide them with a full range of tower and crawler cranes. We’re not going international, but we can send a tower crane anywhere in the United States.”

The new tower crane is a Liebherr 360 EC-H, with a 316-meter ton crane, with 116 feet under hook from the base of the crane and 197 feet of horizontal jib.

Building North of the City Center

Cline Design Associates of Raleigh, North Carolina, designed the Third & Grand project for The Platform Group of Detroit. It is the first new apartment building in the area. O’Brien Construction of Troy, Michigan, is building the structure. The building is north of the city center, however, the new Q-line, Detroit’s first light rail transit system, has a stop at the Fisher Building, connecting Third & Grand to downtown.

“Detroit has not done many projects like this recently, so that makes this unique,” Cote says.

The 356,000-square-foot Third & Grand includes 231 wood-frame apartments above a 21,000-square-foot level of retail. Twenty percent of the apartments will be rented at affordable income rates. The project includes 8,000 square feet of courtyard and clubhouse and a 2,000-squarefoot outdoor terrace.

“It’s a pretty typical jobsite for a tower crane,” Cote says. “It’s eight stories of residential with apartments and condos. It’s a prime location for great units, and the first application of a tower crane in the city of Detroit for many years.”

O’Brien Construction is using the tower crane to transport all materials to produce the building, including concrete, rebar, windows and other materials around the jobsite, Cote says. The project is expected to take 11 months to complete.

“Once it goes from the ground level, the construction method changes,” Cote says. “It shifts from concrete columns and poured slab to a concrete-on-metal deck and metal stud framework section above It.”

The metal-stud panels are built off site and installed at the Third & Grand location.

Third & Grand offered a perfect opportunity to erect what is currently Detroit’s only tower crane.

“A tower crane is faster to build an elevated building than a crawler crane, but a crawler has higher capacity,” Cote says. “A crawler crane has to boom the crane up and down, and that’s a long process, in some cases 15 to 20 minutes to go from the shortest reach to the farthest reach. With a tower crane, you trolley in and out, and it takes seconds to reposition the crane and the hook. This enables you to carry out many more lifts in a day.”

A Commitment to Modern Equipment

JJ Curran entered the crane business in 1950 and operates a fleet of more than 50 cranes. JJ Curran has always appreciated new technology and modern equipment, something the current leaders keep as a top priority. Adding tower cranes as well as crawler cranes to its fleet of what has traditionally been hydraulic all-terrain and rough terrain cranes is big step for the company. Larry Curran, JJ’s oldest son, serves as President, and his brother Jeff is the CFO. They both consider it a privilege to operate the family business and live by the company slogan of “good people, quality equipment, and fair pricing.”

The Currans also understand the need to branch into new markets when the time is right. “I am very proud to officially be in the tower crane business,” says Jeff Curran. “We brought in experienced personnel with the addition of Adam Cote and Matt McVittie and continue to offer the same great rental experience as before. Having the capability to put a tower crane on a jobsite gives us the opportunity to be considered for jobs that before we might not have been. We are striving to diversify our fleet to increase our market share. With the resurgence of investment, and real estate development in Detroit and Southeast Michigan the time was right for us to break into the tower crane market.”

The Tower Crane Advantage

The advantage of a tower crane is that it saves money and time, because it is more efficient, Cote says. Additionally, a tower crane is safer, because the operator can see what is going on from the cranes cab high above the jobsite.

“It’s a small footprint and the operator can see the entire job site,” Cote says. “The trolley speeds and line speeds are fast. It is much quieter and electric, so there are no emissions. It’s the right application.”

Cote speculated that in addition to this job, the tower crane will be useful in hospital and other large projects, including bridge work and condominium or office buildings.

With the addition of a tower crane, JJ Curran should be able to handle a wide variety of projects it would not have been considered for before.

“It takes a sizeable project to warrant a tower crane, because it is more money,” Cote says. “On a shorter-duration project, the crawler crane is cheaper, because of the cost to put a tower crane together and take it apart.”

JJ Curran used its 450-ton hydraulic all-terrain crane to put the new tower crane together, starting in the basement of the Third & Grand project. Crews had to work around power lines and a fast food restaurant adjacent to the site. The tower crane had to be set up from the existing parking lot. The same crane will be used to take it down, with the assistance of a luffing jib to reach up and over the completed building.

“The tower crane is sitting in the courtyard, and we will have to reach over the building to get it,” Cote says. “This tower crane was more difficult than most because it is sitting in the footprint of the building. Often times, tower cranes are set at the side of a building.”

Cote explains that one of the bigger challenges on the project is getting construction superintendents and workers accustomed to working around tower cranes.

“On a project such as Third & Grand, it is economical to use a tower crane,” Cote says. “Once people see them, they will say, ‘we need one on our site.’”

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, September 27, 2017