Roundhouse work done; now all it needs is a few tenants
The Roundhouse redevelopment project was all over but the signing this week.
“Roundhouse” - that will be the name on the signs at the 122-year-old, one-time Midland railroad repair facility, which has been transformed during the past five months into a modern commercial center at the southwest corner of Highway 24 and 21st Street.
Carmichael Training Systems, the first (and so far only) tenant, was starting to relocate this week from its former downtown site into about a third of the building's 30,000 square feet of available space on both the main floor and a partial second level.
The upgrade work was completed by ServiceTek Contractors, the construction arm of the Griffis/ Blessing development company, after breaking ground on the project in December. According to ServiceTek President Marty Galindo, the work included sandblasting and repointing the stone walls inside and out, bolstering the foundation, gutting the interior up to the stone walls, reinforcing the metal roof, installing all new utility systems (including air conditioning), building new floors and walls, and customizing about 30 windows and doors into the original locomotive entrances to the Midland's service facility.
Outside the building, ServiceTek provided two new access points to the 3-acre property (and the neighboring Ghost Town tourist attraction) from Bott Avenue, improved the safety of the turn off eastbound Highway 24, created a right-turn lane from southbound 21st onto Bott, put in sidewalks along 21st and Bott, regraded and paved the parking lots and planted a variety of trees and shrubs.
During the project, there were some interesting surprises, such as the discovery that concrete in the repair bays went four feet below the floor - the remnants of pits where workers used to stand while working under the train engines. Digging out just one of these pits - to allow piping to Carmichael's restrooms - was so arduous that the building's other plumbing plans had to be changed as a result, Galindo recalled. The change also meant that the train rails and pits in most of the bays still exist - they're just covered by several inches of fresh concrete.
The main work was structural, with attention given to each of the Roundhouse's 39 columns. “They used stones,” Galindo said of the original builder's foundations. “We had to remove those and replace them with concrete footers.”
He's also proud that various historical touches remain from the original work, which hark back to the days before power tools. For example, hand-milled beams and old metal strapping and bolts can be seen along a hallway in the Carmichael area. “It keeps the look and feel of the building,” Galindo said.
The “Roundhouse” signs are to be installed on a faux-rock mini-wall outside the building, facing the 21st/Highway 24 intersection; and above the two centralized, squared-off windows/bays facing the inside parking lot.
Otherwise, Galindo said about all that's left to do is clean up the area nearest to Highway 24, next to the parking lot. Used as a staging area for landscapers, that rectangular space is actually a pad for a freestanding building, according to the city-approved plans, should Griffis/Blessing decide to build it. Another future building space, which will be sown in native grass for now, is in the open space near the Bott and 21st intersection, Galindo noted.
The company is interested in tenants, big and small, he said. A restaurant is particularly being sought for the space nearest the highway intersection. A deck has been added there.
To stay flexible to tenants' wishes, no interior walls have been built other than Carmichael's, and even the unleaased floor on the interior's east side has not been cemented to facilitate tenants' locating restrooms as desired and laying in the necessary plumbing, Galindo explained.
Carmichael Training Systems works with professional, amateur, and novice athletes, the best known of whom is competitive bicyclist Lance Armstrong.
The property continues to be owned by Van Briggle Pottery, which has a lease-purchase agreement with Griffis/Blessing. After running its design, manufacturing and retail operations in the building for close to half a century, Van Briggle moved out in December and recently reopened in the south downtown area, at 1024 S. Tejon St.
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