Originally constructed in 1908, the 11-story Van Antwerp building in downtown Mobile was the first skyscraper to be built in the Southeast, making it an instant landmark in the state of Alabama. The tower was built to house the original owner's drugstore and marble soda fountain on the ground floor, while the upper floors provided office space for doctors, dentists and lawyers. However, due to the structural deterioration and the economic decline in the downtown area, the 120-foot building sat nearly vacant for several years until it was purchased by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) in 2012.
As part of its efforts to revitalize downtown Mobile and boost the city's economy, RSA set out to complete a $24 million overhaul of the Van Antwerp building. White-Spunner Construction provided general contracting services for the renovation/restoration of the building's exterior - a $3.85 million component of the redevelopment project. Our work on this project includes the refurbishing of historic cast iron on the exterior entrance canopy, restoring the building's original terracotta exterior, structural steel cornice framing and window restorations.
There were many challenges to overcome in planning the renovation of this century-old building in a busy downtown area, such as working in a tight area on an open road and having to store materials offsite. Nets were hung along the swing stages to catch any falling debris, and sidewalks remained closed during construction to ensure the safety of pedestrians. The use of a tower crane to hang steel created a challenge as the structure was surrounded by occupied buildings and onsite storage was not available. Through meticulous planning, we were able to overcome this obstacle by coordinating the delivery of the steel with the installation.