Burnham Nationwide played a key role in the construction of Los Angeles’ Wilshire Grand Center, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. The 1,100-foot skyscraper will be on the site of the original Wilshire Grand Hotel, a landmark of downtown Los Angeles since its opening in 1952. The owners of the Wilshire Grand, Korean Air, wanted to revive the hotel as an icon of Los Angeles and developed a new complex to help revitalize the downtown area. Demolition of the original 16-story hotel was completed in 2013 and construction on the new tower began in 2014 with the building opening in 2017.
The Wilshire Grand Center (Wilshire Grand) was an extremely complicated project. Burnham Nationwide is facilitated a variety of critical components of the permitting and construction process, including working with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) on a new phased permit plan, negotiating shutting down downtown Los Angeles for weekend construction, and handling community and police outreach to maintain a 24/7 construction schedule.
Burnham Drew on its National Expertise with Phased Permits
Our national expertise was key to using phased permits in Los Angeles. Burnham’s knowledge in other cities like Chicago and New York helped the LADBS navigate a brand new process. Phased permits are used for new, large construction projects. It authorizes construction to commence prior to the issuance of the entire building permit by breaking the approvals into smaller parts. This ultimately shortens the construction timeline by allowing construction to begin on the foundation, for example, while the architects and structural engineers finalize plans for the rest of the building.
Burnham's use of phased permitting was the first time this process was used in Los Angeles. We met with the LADBS to help them understand the new streamlined method of permit approval. We also worked with a variety of city departments to explain the process, including the Department of Public Works, Department of Transportation, Department of Sanitation, and more, to make sure they were comfortable with phased permitting. It took considerable time to convince each city department that we have seen this process work successfully in other cities and it should be adopted in Los Angeles.
When Burnham opened a permit for each phase of the Wilshire Grand’s construction, it requires approvals from nearly 30 departments of the LADBS. It took time to document and submit each step of the phase, but it allows construction to run continuously. We were able to handle the entire phased permit process so the architect and contractor could focus on finalizing the design and construction details. The process was very effective for the Wilshire Grand construction and LADBS has expanded phased permits to other construction projects in the Los Angeles area.
Burnham coordinated shutting down most of the downtown Los Angeles streets over most weekends to support cost-effectively building the Wilshire Grand’s foundation. One of the critical parts of the foundation’s construction was the pouring of 21,200 cubic yards of concrete over the course of 20 straight hours, creating an 18-foot foundation for the building. The only way to pour concrete continuously was to undertake street closures.
We spent hundreds of hours securing approvals to shut down traffic around the construction site. This required Burnham to continuously interface with different city and state departments including the Los Angeles Police Department, LADBS, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Bureau of Engineering, Bureau of Street Services, the Mayor’s Office, and the California Department of Transportation.
Any concrete pour issues, including not having the proper approvals in place, would have thrown off the construction timeline. Burnham navigated the process to avoid delays, and the concrete pour was a success. In fact, on February 16, 2014, Guinness World Records announced that 82 million pounds of concrete was poured at the site, breaking the previous record for the largest continuous concrete pour set in 1999 during the construction of The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.
The Wilshire Grand set an aggressive opening date of March 2017 which they met. In order to meet that date, the General Contractor needed to shorten the construction timeline by working on the project 24/7. Doing construction at night requires special approval from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the community surrounding the Wilshire Grand. Burnham worked with the construction team to determine precisely what work needed to take place during the night. Then, we met with LAPD to explain the nighttime construction schedule, share what parts of construction needed to happen at night, and why.
Burnham was also available to respond to any community issues regarding the project. Residents have the ability to share their concerns or complaints 24/7 by phone or email, and Burnham provided relevant information to alleviate these concerns. Burnham assured the approval of the necessary nighttime work by continuously communicating with LAPD and the community.
We at Burnham are proud to be a part of the historic Wilshire Grand project!