When one of the first Target stores in the United States opened in Lakewood, Colorado, in 1966, the entire neighborhood turned out to celebrate and shop the big, beautiful space, built by a company that would become one of the world’s largest consumer retailers.

Fast-forward 48 years to 2014. The former neighborhood shopping anchor, now eight years deserted, had been reduced to 168,000 square feet of asbestos-riddled floor space. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) deemed the property a major asbestos spill.

Brinkmann Constructors, a Chesterfield, Missouri-based construction company with a regional office in Aurora, Colorado, had big plans to use the spot that is conveniently located only a quarter of a mile from the West Corridor Regional Transportation District (RTD). The company drew up designs to make way for the construction of a multifamily housing project at the site, but the existing dilapidated building had to be taken down first.

After several failed attempts at demolition and abatement, the task of properly abating and demolishing the structure proved insurmountable to the first few contracted demolition companies.

UP FOR THE TASK

Brinkmann finally turned to a Commerce City, Colorado, firm that founded its professional reputation on asbestos abatement in 1982. Earth Services & Abatement Inc. (ESA) would tackle the critical job of abating the site of asbestos, demolishing the ramshackle building, and restoring the land’s viability for new use. “The Westlink job was certainly in our wheelhouse, as complicated asbestos abatement with a demolition component is the foundation of our business,” ESA President Kory Mitchell explains.

To successfully complete the $1.2 million job, ESA collaborated with the CDPHE and SJR Environmental Consulting to develop an extensive work plan that involved a technical abatement method, Mitchell says. “This project was a perfect fit for our company because it had challenging abatement requirements, challenging demolition needs and a challenging schedule,” Mitchell says. “We have a unique team and all the necessary resources to handle these types of jobs.” ESA owns an entire fleet of heavy equipment, which allows the firm to self-perform all aspects of the job. Because asbestos was present on both sides of the block, ESA had to think outside the box of typical abatement measures. Pioneering a unique approach of demolishing block from inside the structure through the use of an excavator inside the containment, crews accomplished the daunting job of safely abating the structure without the potential of contamination or debris polluting nearby areas.

ABATEMENT APPROACH

Crews from Environmental Services & Abatement safely abated the former Target store by demolishing block from inside the building using an excavator inside the containment.

The approach involved separating the building in half in order to abate one half, and demolishing the other half so that Brinkmann could begin construction of the housing complex before demolition was even completed. “Essentially, we demolished the building from the inside out,” Mitchell said.

The potential for injuries was extensive due to the hard-to-reach asbestos areas in the structure and the heavy-duty equipment being used. Mitchell said the innovative approach required a carefully considered, well-designed technical plan.

Facing a serious risk of structure collapse, it was imperative to complete a plan that ensured the structural integrity of the steel beams and roofing system without the block.

Public and worker safety were paramount. ESA crews were prepared to perform daily job site safety audits to meet or exceed regulatory compliance at local, state and federal jurisdictions.

All crew members completed at least 48 hours of safety training. ESA owns its own equipment, facilities and training division, the Midwest Training Institute.

SJR, a minority woman-owned environmental consulting firm specializing in local, state and federal environmental compliance, served as a third-party consultant and conducted air monitoring throughout the entire abatement and demolition process.

As a result of the copious precautions taken by ESA and the diligence of SJR’s monitoring efforts, no injuries were reported during the Westlink project, Mitchell says.

The new 244-unit Westlink at Oak Station built at the site.

Deploying an 18-person crew, ESA successfully removed the asbestos and demolished the building in just over 100 days. “There is a lot of satisfaction in restoring safe, healthy buildings and land back to communities,” Mitchell says. “With vast technical requirements of the project, ESA crews employed a high level of communication and cooperation with regulators.”

AWARDED FOR EXCELLENCE

Seventy-one percent of all materials from the Westlink project were recycled, 48 percent of which was concrete and 23 percent steel. The job earned the company a National Demolition Association (NDA) Award for Environmental Excellence in March 2016.

Today, the project site is the home of GreyStar’s Westlink at Oak Station 244-unit apartment complex that also consists of a clubhouse, a maintenance building and five garage buildings.

Mitchell says the ESA team was honored to work collaboratively with local government, community leaders and a private sector developer and construction company to transform a polluted local eyesore into a much-needed housing development that will benefit the entire community.

Mary Ross is a technical writer and editor with a Master’s Degree in English from Texas A&M University. She became a member of the Construction Writers Collaborative in early 2016.