The Ottawa Street Power Station, a coal-fired power plant, was built during the Great Depression and generated electricity for the Lansing area for more than 50 years. A National Register Building, it was decommissioned in 1992 and sat mostly abandoned for 16 years until Accident Fund Holdings selected the site for its new national headquarters. The site’s rehabilitation and adaptive reuse into a new Class A office complex is considered one of the largest power plant reclamations on record. The most vivid outcome of the project was the physical transformation it caused. A decaying power plant was reborn as a highly functional corporate headquarters that respected its historic character, focused on sustainability, and revitalized the city’s downtown area by serving as a catalyst to generate additional retail, commercial and residential projects.

Before the project went forward, SME completed a structural feasibility study of the plant to verify whether its original hand-dug caissons could support the preservation and repurposing of the plant. Analysis revealed the 227,000-sf power station could support the loads associated with the project and a public-private partnership was assembled to create a financially feasible project. The seven-acre site is now home to the renovated historic structure, a 105,000-sf addition and a 1,000-space parking deck.

Located on Lansing’s riverfront, the site previously housed multiple industrial businesses including the former coal-fired power plant, manufacturing operations, foundry, and automobile fueling and repair shops. Thousands of cubic yards of "urban fill" had been placed on the site to reclaim the riverfront and raise the grade for urban use. The fill material, often containing debris such as bricks, concrete and wood, was documented at depths ranging from 5 to 20 feet below ground surface. Also, there were remnants from numerous old buildings buried on the site and to remove these structures along with the debris was cost prohibitive. To make matters worse, the site was contaminated.

SME performed a geotechnical evaluation of the site, and worked closely with the design and construction team to develop the appropriate foundation system for the project. A combination of rock-socked caissons with selective excavation at each of the drill shafts to deal with the obstructions, and aggregate piers were used for foundation support. SME developed the aggregate pier technical specifications. We also addressed 100-year flooding concerns.

While preliminary design work was in progress, SME’s Brownfield Redevelopment Team worked with the City of Lansing to qualify the project for a loan from the city’s EPA Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Grant. The loan was needed to help pay for environmental response actions needed to prepare the site for safe use after redevelopment. SME worked with the city to prepare the loan documents and coordinate community outreach activities.

Another challenge faced on this project was how to remove the power plant’s old floor plates and insert new floors while maintaining structural stability. A large mobile crane was used to thread columns down to the floor plate through roof hatches. SME provided subgrade recommendations regarding the aggregate and timber mats used for the crane pad. This was critical because of the site’s relatively small footprint with tight constraints and its location over the city’s main utility line with historic sewers.

During construction of the parking ramp and new power plant, SME performed construction materials services including testing of cast-in-place, post-tensioned concrete; density testing; mold sampling; water leakage testing; dynamic cone penetrometer testing for soil investigation; field observation of stone columns/vibro-replacement; observed installation of the ground improvement system; testing of the brick for adsorption; assisted in the design of the mortar for the bricks; coring and testing of existing concrete; and provided overall project monitoring.

"SME's deep expertise and team-oriented approach helped us address complex geotechnical and environmental challenges presented as part of the development. A consistent focus on providing solutions that balanced sound engineering, practical constructability and financial feasibility made them an invaluable member of our team."
-- Anthony Pecchio, Vice President, Christman Capital Development Company

This project won the following awards:

  • LEED Gold Certified
  • 2013 National Honor Award, American Institute of Architects (AIA)
  • 2012 Beyond Green High Performance Building Award, Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC)
  • 2012 Brownfield Renewal Award, Brownfield Renewal Magazine
  • 2012 Building Award, Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN)
  • 2012 Construction and Design Award, Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD)
  • 2012 Global Innovator’s Award Finalist, CoreNET Global
  • 2012 National Preservation Honor Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation
  • 2012 Phoenix Awards, Region 5 Winner, Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment
  • 2012 Pyramid Award, Washtenaw Contractors Association (WCA)
  • 2012 Renewal Award - Sustainability Impact, Brownfield Renewal
  • 2012 ULI Global Awards for Excellence, Urban Land Institute
  • 2011 Eminent Conceptor Award, American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan
  • 2011 Excellence in Economic Development Awards, International Economic Development Council
  • 2011 Green Project of the Year, CAM Magazine
  • 2011 Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, State of Michigan
  • 2011 IDEAS2 - Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel Award, American Institute of Steel Construction
  • 2011 Excellence in Economic Development Awards, International Economic Development Council