We chose a general contracting company a couple of weeks ago. The process took more time that I had expected.
Our architect, Peter Hapstak and his associates had candidates in mind and my friends, Ashok Bajaj, Washington’s premier restaurateur, and Saied Azali, the city’s senior restaurateur, had some suggestions too.
We asked five firms to give us proposals and of course all of the estimated costs were higher than I expected them to be.
I walked around our store, 4434 Connecticut Avenue, with people from all the companies, and then we interviewed each to speak to those who would actually be working on our project.
After all that we chose Maizel Construction, a firm with lots of restaurant construction experience and a life going back to 1976. Food service experience seemed important to me. Construction of food facilities has all sorts of special requirements like floor drains and a floor that slopes into them, venting for equipment and hoods, and in our case extravagant air conditioning to overcome the heat and humidity our ovens will put out continuously.
Our building has an electrical service of 200 amps and we are going to need 800 amps. Getting that upgrade required my hiring an engineer to design the new service and then a permit expeditor to work with Pepco to get the work scheduled. We are going to need a much larger gas meter too and Washington Gas will install that.
A lot of detail.
Much of the demolition was done last week; it started on Monday. By Wednesday we had already irritated our neighbors in the red apartment building next door. Someone working in our store began jackhammering at 5 AM.
I will make it up to the neighbors.
On Tuesday Pepco came, four men in yellow hard hats to do a survey of the store, the sidewalk, and the cables underground.
I presume you know what demolition consists of. Here is a photo of the space just as A.C and A.N. Miller, the realtors, left it.
Here is what the space looks like right now, after the demolition.
That’s demolition. We took out nearly all of the interior, the partitions, the wall-to-wall carpeting, and we chopped the drywall off to uncover the walls of the building itself. We cut out plumbing tubing and a couple of miles (it seems) of wiring that ran above the dropped ceiling as well as old galvanized and cast iron piping.
We made some nice discoveries; three attractive skylights buried high above the false ceiling, for example. We found a natural design on the north wall that Peter thinks should become part of our design. (I am not yet convinced as I don’t really like Brooklyn grunge.)
There’s old molding at the tops of some of the walls and along the north wall there pillars that can be added nicely to our design.
But of course we found some disappointments: The original tin ceiling is too damaged to salvage; so is the wonderful terrazzo floor. But worst of all, we found water and mold.
We found water coming through the bricks on the south wall where the carwash sprays relentlessly on the other side. And we found water on the north wall penetrating from the parking lot of the condominium next door. And we found water coming in from our own roof.
We’ll continue construction, next cutting a trench in the cement floor where we’ll put our plumbing and electricity. But the unfortunate findings of our demolition have to be dealt with at the same time.
Our landlord will visit late next week to look and we’ll make decisions about the repairs required.