The Elusive Edge – Park 17 | by Sean O’Keefe

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Breaking the rules begins with knowing the rules as Park 17 goes all in.

The edge of design is elusive. A remote and subjective-objective, the quest for newness continually compels owners, architects, and contractors to ask more of themselves, more of their craft, and more of each other. Innovation in design takes many forms, some visible from the street; some from the front door; some on the inside; and others completely unseen altogether. In the case of Park 17, a new multifamily apartment project going up along Park Avenue in central Denver, innovation is part of a process that finds its roots in a predecessor project and preceding partnerships.

“We expect this team to deliver a first class building of the highest quality. Park 17 will be a unique, notable, neighborhood activator,” says Derrick Mattiza, Vice President of Construction for Kairoi Residential. Kairoi Residential is a multifamily development and management firm that has some 27,000 units across Texas, Chicago, Miami, and now Denver. “My role is to remove barriers, get answers from ownership and move things along behind the scenes. I also work with the City so nothing stands in the way of success.”

Park 17 is coming out of the ground between Lafayette and Marion at 17th and Park and will deliver a total of approximately 320,000 GSF of for-rent units to the market in spring of 2019 when complete. The level four amenity deck overlooking Park Avenue will feature an infinity edge pool, lounges, fire pits, fitness center, and club room all deliberately placed within the complex to feel equally open to every unit. The team joining Kairoi Residential in the negotiated delivery includes architects, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates (VDC), and general contractor, Martines Palmeiro Construction (MPC), celebrating 10 years of growth in 2018. Park 17’s design roots trace back to a preceding project, when this same group was pushing for the innovative edge on Edison at RiNo. There a new 9-story, luxury apartment building completed phase one in the spring of 2018 and by the end of the summer will be leasing some 277 high-end units at 31st and Brighton Boulevard. The primary innovation engaged on both projects is a unique building platform known
as Prescient.

“Early in design for the Edison at RiNo, we were looking to reduce costs and MPC suggested a way to build without having to use as much concrete,” says Valerio Dewalt Train Principal, Stephen Droll. “Concrete is slow, heavy, intense construction. The Prescient system provided a structural alternative that’s easy to design and build with yet so light it actually lowered foundation costs on the first project.”

In addition to being light, the Prescient system also allows rapid erection. The company’s website proclaims their systems are actually assembled rather than built. Combining BIM integrated design and engineering services with component manufacturing and prefabrication, Prescient then follows their products into the field as the subcontractor responsible for installation. Altogether, Prescient’s proprietary system represents something of a building in a box. An erector set on the grandest scale, the single-source solution allows designers and builders to collaborate directly with the manufacturer to create kit-of-parts structures for fast, modular construction.

“The Prescient system identifies strongly with rigid orthogonal order,” continues Droll when asked how structural modularity affects what happens within floorplates supported by prefabricated steel boxes. The system itself seems to embrace a compartmentalized intent, marketed by Prescient as ideally suited for multi-unit projects including apartments, student housing, hotels, military, and senior living. “Here we have a case of learning the rules on the first project in order to know how to break them on the second,” shares Droll, revealing his design sentiment with a smile. Breaking orthogonal order was something of a must on Park 17. The 8-story, 190-unit building with integrated parking is being teased into a triangular sliver of city intersected by two arterials strung with low-rise commercial buildings. The neighborhood itself is a juxtaposition of old and new, single-family Victorian-style homes and boomtown courtyard apartment buildings circle the massive, sprawling medical complex that was once simply Saint Joseph’s. A three-sided site tends to mandate a three-sided structure, which requires either a point or sacrificing developable land to a blunt edge.

“Valerio Dewalt Train’s credo is Build or Die,” continues Droll, who’s web and email address really is @buildordie.com. “We really pushed the Prescient team to find ways to merge opposing orders in a system that is inherently laid out on a grid.” Breaking the grid meant working closely with Prescient’s design and engineering group to bring the structural system together. Taking advantage of the already intense collaboration, the team also sought to exploit the system’s capacity to support cantilevered spaces and maximize opportunities to add balconies along each elevation.

The location also presents an opportunity to establish a noteworthy entry point into an already vibrant dining district along 17th Street. Park 17 hopes to help foster the block’s restaurant row status significantly. To that end, 14,000 SF of the first-floor footprint has been designed as for-lease restaurant space, which will be leased by a portion of the investment team. The square footage will be built-out into five different restaurant-ready units with patios and access along 17th. Deep sidewalk set-backs street will be enhanced by Park 17’s open arcade and grand resident entrance, putting an exclamation point on the end of the block. Assembling the structure is going as planned so far. MPC senior superintendent Frank Spizzirri is the man responsible for overseeing construction on job site.

“Communication, preplanning, and flow are the foundation for success on this project,” says Spizzirri of the teamwork and comraderie prevalent even in the project compound across the street from the build. A full-scale model of the structural system stands in the parking lot, easily used as a guide to the assembly team, when questions arise. Spizzirri shares that MPC established a logistics area along the property’s west side. Two large semis arrive daily, delivering the required combination of posts, panels, floor trusses, and subfloor materials, a kit-of-pieces then sequentially laid-in by subcontractors. Preserving the system’s structural integrity means absolutely no extraneous penetrations. Each piece must be assembled as is, without alteration to accommodate the building’s innards. This facet requires all building systems, electrical, mechanical, and technological to be housed in chases built between structural framing and interior walls.

“Everything is modeled, checked, and rechecked,” notes Spizzirri. “Toilets, tubs, plumbing, of course, but even electrical and conduits have to be pre-planned top to bottom without fail.” Because structural calculations for the Prescient system are so critical, even the weight doors and windows must be known and accounted for in engineering calculations to avoid possible structural overloading.

During construction, establishing a continual progression on the project is all about subcontractor flow. As the Prescient system goes up sequentially, the in-progress building looks like the skeleton of a staircase, stepping carefully up toward the city. Vertical erection continues until the late summer of 2018 and once the building is dried-in MPC will coordinate a parade of skilled interior finish trades in pursuit of the spring 2019 opening.

Mattiza is a builder at heart. Challenging the team of designers and builders Kairoi hires to deliver best in class products is the fun part of his job. He expects a lot in terms of quality, safety, and coordination, but most of all he seems to enjoy simply being on site.

“I just love building things and have since I was a kid. Working with this team to build these great Denver properties has been the thrill of my career so far,” finishes Mattiza. “Kairoi Residential wants to develop the best and that’s always going to have us looking for an edge.”