Historic Bell Building Elevator Modernization Project
540 Broad Street, Newark, NJ
- Number of Elevators: 7
- Years With Customer: 5
- Project Duration: 3 years
- Project Completion Date: March 31, 2020
The Bell Building, now known as the Walker House, was not in ideal shape at the start of 2017. The once-fully occupied property only had one tenant – Bell Atlantic. The property owners decided that the historic landmark could be turned into a thriving structure once again, drawing in residents, companies and customers alike. But for that to happen, they would need to substantially renovate the interior, which included a crucial factor – the elevators. The state of the elevators and most components in 2017 were not adequate for the lofty plans of the owners, who envisioned retail space, offices and 264 apartments. The elevators would not only need new cabs and equipment, but they would also need to safely fit a stretcher in the cabs. This meant the cab space had to be larger, which in turn would require a wider shaft space for the elevators to transit. Even though the plan called for internal renovation, the elevator work was essentially new construction in the nearly 90-year-old building.
Replacing the elevator units and expanding the shafts wasn’t the only task at hand. The service company would also need to provide new components for each elevator, as the larger cab requires more robust equipment to handle the increased weight and dimensions. Additionally, the renovation plan also called for reducing the travel height of the elevators, meaning the service company would have to not only expand the shafts but also remove a few of the building’s 21 above-ground floors.
A general contractor reached out to Jersey Elevator for the assignment, which was categorized as a modernization project. Max Gobrial, sales manager, accepted the job, knowing it would test the limits of the company itself.
“It was a mixture of replacing existing equipment and new construction in the existing building,” Gobrial said. “It was a major project. It was the first type of project like this that Jersey Elevator ever handled.”
The process began by evaluating the project and discussing the details with all the involved parties. After multiple surveys of the building, an abundance of meetings and many conversations, the real work began.
Jersey Elevator supplied everything for the project, including the elevator cabs, motor room and pit equipment, supports and guide rails.
The most challenging aspect for Jersey Elevator came from merging two elevator shafts to house the larger elevator cabs. While supplying and installing new equipment is a challenge, widening and combining elevator shafts – especially in an older building with a legacy – ups the ante to another level.
“Combining two shafts together is considered new construction,” Gobrial said. “That building was challenging because it’s a landmark. You are restricted to how much you can change.”
The process also involved getting approvals and input from several parties, such as the customer and the officials within the township. Jersey Elevator tackled the project head on, using its extensive experience and expertise to deliver the full modernization within the three-year time frame.
What seemed like a monumental challenge for Jersey Elevator turned into the prime example of the company’s capabilities. They completed the job in the first quarter of 2020, much to the satisfaction of the ownership group, who had a very positive reaction to the completed work, Gobrial said.
“It was challenging and there was a reluctance in the beginning when taking on this project,” he said. “It just opened up more doors for us.”
Those doors came in the form of new customers and contracts for modernization projects since their work on Walker House. The new customers in New Jersey included the Norman Towers Apartments in East Orange, and the Zion Towers and the Georgia King Village, both in Newark. All those projects involved elevator modernizations for multi-story apartment buildings.
Jersey Elevator also received a lead for a 17-elevator project in New York, which they passed on to a sister company because they don’t provide service outside of New Jersey.
While the Walker House building seemed like a daunting task in 2017, Gobrial and his team are fortunate for the experience, which enabled significant customer trust in Jersey Elevator. It also gave the Jersey Elevator team reassurance that they can handle any project.
“Whenever I submit modernization proposals, I submit a reference list and at the top of that list is 540 Broad St.,” Gobrial said. “It served us well.”