January 4, 1999

January 13

January 30

February 18

March 13

March 29

June 18

August 30

Corrections or additions?

This article by Tricia Fagan was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on October 6, 1999. All rights reserved.

From the Rubble, the Commons Risen: Part II

Story by Tricia Fagan

Photos by Brian McCarthy

Top Of Page
January 4, 1999

Bricking has been completed on one side of the five-story

building, and the pump jack scaffolding is already set up so the masons

can turn the corner and start on the other side. The white trailer

in the lower right of the photo holds the fireproofing material which

will be sprayed on the all the steel beams and columns of both buildings,

the decking in the five-story building, and the core area of the three-story


Describing the "core area" design concept, DeLuca explains

that both buildings are equipped with loading docks and elevators.

"One of the key decisions we made regarding their placement involved

connecting them via a central service corridor that facilitated moves

in and out of the building. With this design, tenants can move equipment

and materials directly from the loading dock to their floor via the

elevator — which is equipped with doors that open to both the

front and the rear as well.

"It’s a little thing. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice

it. But it really helps having this service core setup because, for

example, you don’t have people moving furniture in and out through

the lobbies." He adds that they had to struggle with the design

for a while before they got the core area to work without encroaching

on too much of the rentable space in the buildings.

The three story building is ready for bricking to begin. In front,

the pond has had its liner set in, all the pavers have been laid out

along the banks, and the pond has begun to fill up naturally.

Top Of Page
January 13

When bricking is completed on the upper four levels

of the larger building, the glass subcontractor’s job begins. Here,

again, coordination between the various building subcontractors is

essential. "The windows are all manufactured off site," says

Rosner. "They have to be coordinated with both the steelwork and

with the masonry so that when they bring the glass out on the truck,

it everything ends up fitting together properly. The windows arrive

six months after the steel is done, so any changes, however small,

had to be immediately passed along to the glass works. The windows

are built to the steel, since the steel framing shelf is in place

well before the glass even arrives."

Referring back to the curve on the face of the building, Johnston

adds, "That radius got changed a couple times along the way and

each time we had to re-contact the glass makers."

Top Of Page
January 30

With the bricking completed, it’s now easier to see

the temporary lighting that had been put in place as soon as the roof

decking was attached. Interior work, including wiring, plumbing, and

some construction of the common spaces in the building has also begun.

Top Of Page
February 18

Here’s another great toy for grown-up kids who loved

all those especially cool toy trucks. This concrete pump delivers

concrete mixed on ground level in a separate truck up and into whichever

part of the building it’s needed. The type of ground floor used in

this building is known as ‘slab-on-grade.’ Concrete is poured over

a six inch deep stone bed (laid directly on the soil) covered with

wire mesh.

The upper floors are called supported slabs. Here, the concrete is

poured directly on the metal decking where it actually bonds with

the metal. "Since the concrete bonds with the decking — which

is, in turn, welded to the steel beams — they all start to act

together to give rigidity to the entire structure," says DeLuca,

"so these types of floors actually act to increase the overall

rigidity (sturdiness) of the building in general."

The 4-inch concrete slab consists of 2 1/2 inches of concrete over

the metal deck and 1 1/2 within the thickness of the corrugated deck.

Little nubs are welded to the deck before the concrete is poured.

It hardens and forms a "diaphragm" in a horizontal direction

so it does not slide off.

Workers stand by to finish the concrete floors by hand. "They

have these big finishing machines that they use now. They’re like

a big buffer that has finishing blades on it," says Johnston.

The finishing must be done while the concrete is still wet, so the

workers often stayed late into the night. "We were here until

11 o’clock every night that we were pouring these floors while they

finished them," he adds. "We would have been here later except

for the township ordinances."

Concrete was not used on the roofs of these buildings except around

the mechanical equipment located at the center core of each building.

There it was used primarily to dampen the sound of that equipment.

The steel deck on the roof is covered instead with a rigid insulation

and a rubber-based roofing membrane.

Top Of Page
March 13

Because the pump scaffolding is at a premium, it is

used for bricking only the higher levels of the buildings. The ground

floor masonry is done last, using regular scaffolding. Although the

winter has been relatively mild, by the time the masons begin work

on the ground floor bricking for the five story building, a late,

cold snap causes some problems. The first application of mortar on

the ground floor do not set correctly because of the temperature,

and have to be completely redone. As a remedy, a heavy-duty plastic

cover is put up around the bottom floor. With that protection in place,

space heaters warm up the area enough to safely install the brick

and allow the mortar to cure.

The windows begin to go in at the beginning of March. The glassworker

already has been on site for about a month building the window frames,

Rosner explains. "They start from the inside, working a full floor

at a time, so they have to wait until all the bricklayers are done

on a particular floor before beginning," he says.

"They typically build the frames first and then go back to install

the glass," Rosner says. The sills and headers for the windows

are brought on site in fixed lengths. The mullions (which run the

length of the windows) are fabricated on site.

When it came time to fit the windows in the curved sections, each

five-foot, pre-cut glass segment is set in, with one window frame

left open on the curve until all the other segments are in place.

"What happens with these types of details," says Rosner, "is

that, geometrically, the last piece is never exactly five feet. Since

you can never predetermine it, we have to basically build the curve

and the frames — and then order that last piece of glass."

Even when the windows have been placed, there is always some last

minute adjustment required to get them perfect. Each window must be

caulked after it’s been set in place.

Bales of foil-backed thermal batt insulation lies within one of the

loading docks areas. The commercial-quality insulation (with an "R"

rating of at least 13) is added to all the perimeter walls.

The pump jack scaffolding is finally taken down. To a lay eye, this

may look like a lot of scaffolding, it is actually was far less than

the construction team had originally hoped for. "If it hadn’t

been for the extensive construction going on at the same time, we

would have had the brick work going on both buildings at the same

time. The fact was, we couldn’t, physically, get more scaffolding,"

says Rosner.

Top Of Page
March 29

The long, inset balconies are another special architectural

feature that appears on all four sides of the buildings. They open

out from either individual offices or suites, depending on the choices

made by the new tenants. DeLuca notes, "They’re another great

spot to set up a conference room or executive offices. The balcony

creates a private spot to work or have a conversation. There’s a lot

of potential with those — and to a great extent it’s up to the

tenants of the building how creatively they will be used."

Top Of Page
June 18

The elliptical courtyard that lies between the two buildings

is the last feature to be completed, because it has been utilized

as a staging area for all the construction work. Landscapers arrive

in late spring to begin working the soil, plant trees and floral settings,

and complete the walks.

The SJP people note that they put in mature trees and mature shrubs.

"If you look at the overall cost of development it is not a huge

cost but it really makes a difference," says Kaplan. "We spend

at least twice as much on the site as most other developers do."

Several different types of walkways have been integrated in the site.

Township planners requested that the Commons site have some type of

formal connection with its neighbor in Carnegie Center, the Hyatt

Regency. Here work is done on a brick pathway — similar to other

pathways throughout Carnegie Center — that leads from the site’s

west parking lot over to the hotel, and provides a visual link to

the rest of the complex.

Both ponds have filled well. Each has fountain aerators. These add

to the visual interest of the landscape, but also serve a practical

purpose by helping to keep algae growth down and keep the water circulating.

Aerators have been a municipal requirement since the mid-1990s to

keep algae from forming. Some older centers do not have them and their

ponds have algae. "Even if it weren’t a requirement, it isn’t

good business," says the SJP officials. They add that the pumps

are at the bottom of the pond, six to eight feet below water,, so

that they will not freeze in winter. And if ice does form on top of

pond the aerators are shut off since nothing would form on the top.

All members of the team agree that the buildings went up remarkable

quickly. DeLuca says, "The buildings went up really quickly —

it’s amazing how quickly. They build them almost as quickly as we

design them these days."

"We finished more than two months ahead of schedule and significantly

under budget," Rosner adds. "With all the construction that

was started this past year, basically it was a race to see who finished

first. We got it done before Carnegie, and we got it done before Hillier,

and we got it done before TramellCrow."

They are all equally confident that they have developed a Class A

property that adds significantly to the Route 1 corridor. The buildings

at the Commons, says DeLuca, "tend to have a more corporate feel

to them. High quality materials are used in the building exterior,

like the brick — and the limestone. These buildings have insulating

tinted glazing on the windows and above average mechanical systems

in terms of things like heating, cooling, mechanical, and communication

setups. The building is flexible in terms of being able to adapt to

the needs of a tenant. They can easily run additional wiring if needed

— they could set themselves up as a computer center if they wanted


The buildings have two separate electric services, drawing power from

two different sub-stations. "It is virtually the only office building

in the area that has access from two different stations. The likelihood

of both going down is nil," says Kaplan. "It also has two

redundant fiber optics."

The Princeton Commons passes all inspections and receives a temporary

certificate of occupancy on July 9.

Top Of Page
August 30

SJP announces that it has leased 36,500 fee of space

at the Commons to Pharmacia & Upjohn and Korn/Ferry International.

These leases, when combined with a 232,000 square foot lease already

signed by Merrill Lynch, put the project at 90 percent occupancy.

At the groundbreaking less than a year before, SJP noted in written

corporate profile that it "has never had a bankruptcy, a foreclosure,

or a Chapter 11 proceeding, and has never turned a project back to

its lenders or investors." Add two more buildings to SJP’s win


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