“Raise that beam!” 10-year-old Riley Garcia, a pediatric oncology patient at Toledo Children’s Hospital, shouted at the operator of a 315-foot construction crane shortly before noon Thursday.
And with that command, the final 1¼-ton steel beam needed for ProMedica’s new Generations of Care Tower began its gentle ascent skyward toward a designated place atop the 13-story acute-care building now under construction on the Toledo Hospital and Children’s Hospital campus off Monroe Street.
The beam is transported to its place during a topping-off ceremony to commemorate the placement of the final steel beam atop the new Generations of Care Tower at ProMedica Toledo and Toledo Children’s Hospital Thursday.
Cheers and applause from nearly 750 hospital officials, employees, project workers, and others rose upward as a team of sure-footed ironworkers, braving cold winds, 20 degree temperatures, and vertigo-inducing balancing work on the highrise’s narrow steel framework, moved the 25-foot beam into its prepared slot about 12:03 p.m.
Though the $350 million project has nearly 18 months of work yet to go, Thursday’s placement of the final beam — the last of 3,700 beams and columns — merited a stoppage of work and the special celebration.
A “Topping Off” ceremony is a significant milestone in the construction of any large building, explained Tom Manahan, chairman and chief executive of Lathrop Turner, the project’s general contractor.
Such ceremonies, which originated in Europe hundreds of years ago with timber framers, celebrate the placement of a structure’s highest element and offers good fortune to project workers and the building’s future occupants.
In keeping with tradition, the beam was adorned with an evergreen tree, a symbol of luck. It also carried a United States flag and flags for ProMedica and Lathrop Turner.
A construction worker signs the final steel beam to be placed atop the new Generations of Care Tower at ProMedica Toledo and Toledo Children’s Hospital.
The beam also bore the signatures of hundreds of construction workers, hospital staff, patients, and visitors who signed it while it sat in the hospital lobby the last three months awaiting final placement.
“It was not only impressive to see how many people signed it but also the great enthusiasm that they took, this whole ‘Beaming with Pride’ initiative that took place in the main lobby of the hospital for a number of months,” Mr. Manahan said.
Arturo Polizzi, president of Toledo Hospital and Toledo Children's Hospital, said the new Generations tower is a tribute not only to ProMedica leadership, but also to those who work for ProMedica and the community it serves.
“Something of this scope doesn’t happen without visionary leadership, innovation, and a lot of teamwork. And a healthy dose of calm and patience,” Mr. Polizzi said.
Groundwork for the project began in late 2015. With Thursday’s completion of the steel skeleton, exterior terracotta and glass work will begin in March.
The project is due to be finished in June, 2019, after which ProMedica will familiarize staff with the building’s high-tech features before moving patients in sometime that September.
The 615,000-square-foot tower, which will have 302 hospital beds, will offer private patient rooms to replace many of the hospital's current dual-occupancy rooms. ProMedica officials have said the new rooms not only will be more aesthetically pleasing, with more natural light, but they also will offer state-of-the art communications among patients, nurses, and doctors through the use of "smart" technology.
The project will enable more acute-care patients to stay in Toledo rather than seek treatment in Detroit, Ann Arbor, or Cleveland.
Mr. Polizzi said he hopes the new tower will be as important and long-lasting as the legacy tower it is replacing — a facility that was built 90 years ago.
At that time the hospital’s president was W.W. Knight.
“And he said he wanted to build the last word in hospitalization. And I’d say he did a pretty good job because we're still in that facility 90 years later,” Mr. Polizzi said.
Mr. Manahan said the Generations tower will be one of the biggest projects ever in the city of Toledo.
“Not only is it special in size, in magnitude, but we all know the tremendous impact that this is going to have on our community when completed,” he said.
The 300 workers now on the site are among about 1,700 expected to be involved in various aspects of construction.
“We're thrilled to report that, to date, there's been no lost time or accidents on this project. It’s a testament to everybody involved in the project and the highest priority that we put on safety,” Mr. Manahan said.
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