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Midwest Construction and ENR Award Project of the Year


Brookfield, WI – In December, J. P. Cullen & Sons, Inc. was awarded National Project of the Year from Midwest Construction / Engineering News Record’s Best of the Best 2009 for the Restoration of the Milwaukee City Hall.

 Entries were sorted into categories so judges could compare similar projects by key criteria, such as quality, project management, innovation, challenges overcome, and safety.

Within the past six months, J.P. Cullen & Son’s Milwaukee Division, a Janesville-based general contractor in business for 118 years, has won several local and national awards for their work on the Milwaukee City Hall Restoration project. We are currently waiting on the AGC / AON Build America Award and are submitting for the National Preservation Award in February. Below is a list of the project’s awards.

 · Wisconsin Historic Restoration Award
· 2009 AGC Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Award
· 2008 Wisconsin Builder Top Project Award
· Downtown Achievement Award for Bricks and Mortar Category
· Milwaukee Business Journal’s 2009 Real Estate Award
· Building Design + Construction – 2009 Reconstruction + Renovation Platinum Award.
· 2009 Midwest Construction Project of the Year
· 2009 Masonry Construction Magazine Project of the Year


The unique and special features about the Milwaukee City Hall’s Team Leadership was their ability to manage all the stakeholders. Teamwork played a major role in order to keep the project on schedule. Project management used the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) partnering process to ensure every communication aspect of the project was managed.

All stakeholders were required to sign a Partnering Charter, declaring the projects Mission Statement and Goals. The charter gave all stakeholders a focal point so if the partnering process would stray off course, focusing on the original Charter would bring everyone back in alignment of the project’s goals. The partnering process is a story of perseverance for all stakeholders involved.

Three times during the project, the project’s leadership brought the stakeholders together to reaffirm their commitment to the Charter. Only with partnering firmly established at the onset of the project were stakeholders able to re-evaluate and re-focus during project challenges. The Project was a high profile public project with political pressures and budget constraints.

The number of involved parties was extraordinary and the nature of historic restoration work is one of unforeseen conditions. The project’s delivery method was bid. However, since there were an astounding number of unknown conditions, design-build style construction documents were incorporated. Each unknown condition lead to an in-depth investigation, review meetings, and the determination of the best re-design with regard to quality, cost, and impact on the schedule.

Here is a list of all the stakeholders on the Partnering Charter:

Department of Public Works, Construction Oversight
J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc., General Contractor
Engberg Anderson, Architect of Record
Concord Group, City Consultant
Citizens Action, Faith Community / Citizens Groups
Prism Technical, Monitor Agency
Milwaukee Urban League, Diversity Agency
Big Step, Monitor / Training Agency
Simpson Gumpertz Heger, Structural Engineer
Bloom Engineering, Structural Engineer
PSJ Engineering, Plumbing Engineer
Grunau, Plumbing Contractor
PSJ Engineering, HVAC Engineer
Arteaga, HVAC Contractor
Heartland Engineering, Electrical Engineer
Eugene Matthews, Terra Cotta Sub-Contractor
FJA Christianson, Copper / Membrane Roofing Sub-Contractor
GAS & Associates, Terra Cotta Anchorage Engineer
Gladding McBean, Terra Cotta Supplier
Jahn, Plaster Restoration Sub-Contractor
JF Cook, Window Restoration Sub-Contractor
Lee Manufacturing, Clock Restoration Sub-Contractor
Penebaker Enterprises, Slate Roofing Sub-Contractor
Quarra Stone, Sandstone Supplier
Roberts Roofing, Copper / Membrane Roofing Sub-Contractor
Safway Services, Scaffolding Sub-Contractor
Thomas A. Mason, Painting/Masonry Cleaning Subcontractor
Western Waterproofing, Terra Cotta Book Tile Sub-Contractor
The 42-month project logged over 366,000 hours with only two lost time accidents and two recordable incidents without lost time. The lost time was contributed from a recurring hernia and a pulled arm tendon due to a slip. The total number of lost time hours totaled 960 or 0.2% of the total hours on the project. The OSHA, D.A.R.T., (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred), rate at city hall would be 2 divided by 366,000 x 200,000 = 1.09 and the IR would be the same with 2 incidents as recordable. All workers returned successfully to the job site after their recovery.This was a significant accomplishment given the project is located at one of the busiest intersections in downtown Milwaukee and the building remained open to the public throughout construction. During this time, approximately 1.5 million visitors and employees visited the City Hall building during construction.

The project was an exterior envelope historic restoration with nearly 13,000 pieces of terracotta. Each individual piece of terra cotta that was replaced was part of a complex process using the latest technologies. First, the entire eight-story building and towers were scanned with lasers providing an accurate digital “as-built” record. Next, each piece of terra cotta that was damaged beyond repair was extracted from the building using the latest tools and equipment allowing removal without damage to surrounding pieces. Three dimensional modeling software was used to digitally recreate each piece from existing historic “fragments” and a digital electronic shop drawing was sent to the field office for visual verification by craftsman. Upon approval the piece was hand-made using the same Old World craftsmanship as the original piece.
While LEED certification was not pursued on this project, the re-use and rehabilitation of this historic landmark for the next 100 years is the ultimate in sustainable practice. Historic materials that were removed were cataloged and stored for future sale as well as historic interpretive educational use.

 Contribution to the Community:
The Milwaukee City Hall is an icon symbolizing the history of the state of Wisconsin and the United State. The restoration preserved the history of Milwaukee for the next 100 years. The City Hall was built from 1882 to 1895. During this time, people traveling from Europe and made Milwaukee home. A 1890 census made Milwaukee the most “foreign“ city in the nation at the time, making the Milwaukee City Hall a vital part of history.A restoration project always enhances a community. It brings alive the struggles and triumphs of the past and bright future of tomorrow, showing the path of progress. This project elevated the construction industry standards in the area of safety, quality, craftsmanship, and expanding the labor trades and providing jobs.

All 200,000 bricks and 13,000 sculpted pieces were carefully matched and made to meet the exact specifications. There are only two companies in North America that can do this type of work – one company in California and one in Canada. All the pieces were shipped to the site.


All masons were specially trained in an on-site classroom with hands-on training and education. Also there was a lack of skilled solderers for the new copper roof. Solderers were required to pass a third party inspected soldering certification. Many craftsmen were life long solderers and they did not pass the certification on their first attempt. We were not able to just call up a craftsman from the local hall. The project specifications demanded world-class quality and resources were spread thin. Cullen worked with the subcontractors to provide more efficient ways to meet the schedule with a small work force.Expanding Labor Trades:

The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works required that 18% of the construction payments go to certified Emerging Business Enterprises (EBE) businesses, 25% of the onsite construction hours must be worked by certified Residence Participation Program (RPP) participants, and six apprentices must be employed on the project and work a minimum of 10,000 hours in the trades of bricklayer, roofer, or carpenter. The EBE businesses received 23.3% of the projects payments, RPP performance was 25.4%, Apprentices worked 10,774 hours, and the Minority Workforce Performance was 28.4%. The project exceeded all requirements and provided jobs for an unskilled workforce and helped them become skilled by training and mentoring individuals, benefiting the community and cultivating a workforce for the construction industry.

Positive PR:

The project also helped the City celebrate two popular television shows – Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, the Milwaukee Brewer playoff celebration, and the “Give Back” to the City ribbon cutting celebration, displaying positive public relations for the community and project.

Quality and Craftmanship:
Both quality and craftsmanship were project goals. The overall project quality was attained through a customized mockup procedure. Cullen developed a customized mockup procedure which included formal mockups as specified as well as informal reviews by architect, stakeholders on scaffold working out details. We all realized that the heart of a historic restoration project is quality. The architect provided additional services to be on site more often, the owner provided inspectors and managers additional time to be on site to be a part of the decision making process and the construction team provided their experience and ideas on the scaffold in a visual manner that added value to the entire process.

Craftspeople were carefully selected to ensure that the intricate pieces (which often exceeded several hundred pounds in weight) were created and handset with exacting precision to blend with existing construction. Quality training and education of skilled workforce (masons, solderers) and the use of cutting edge tools produced a high level of craftsmanship on the project that resonates though the completed building. When craftsman began tuckpointing the building they ran into difficulty meeting the desired quality. The brick joints were half of the width of a typical masonry joint. The tools required were large and unwieldy. The specifications outlined means and methods for removal of old mortar with chisels. They redesigned the means and methods to add an electric Fein tool to the acceptable methods of removing mortar from the joints. The tool is commonly used for removing caulking. The craftsman demonstrated its use and it became the standard method for improving the quality of removing mortar from brick joints. The tool also increased the production rates of the removal process.

City Hall is a unique representation of late Gilded Age Revival architecture and the only American City Hall to be constructed in the German Renaissance Revival Style. The building’s main façade materials include granite, carved sandstone, pressed brick, ornate terra cotta, ornamental copper details, and copper and slate roofing.

Restoration of the building presented a host of challenges to the dedicated design professionals and contractors involved in the project. All participants made a firm agreement at the outset of the process to devote themselves to making the work historically appropriate and sound despite the unique materials and details, extreme height and limited access, and strict workforce requirements of the project.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the building is a National Historic Landmark (an honor bestowed upon only 3% of structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places) in 2005. As such, all work on the building was highly scrutinized throughout the course of both design and construction work. Due to the sustained diligence of the project’s designers and contractors alike, the work complies with the United States Secretary of the Interior’s Ten Standards for the Restoration of Historic Buildings.

Few manufacturers still produce the pressed brick, sculpted sandstone and ornamental terra cotta that, 100 years ago, were quite common. The sheer quantity of some replacement materials, for example 13,000 terra cotta units, far exceeded typical production of these elements – most of which were handmade due the complexity of the ornamentation.
Innovation was also required on the part of the design professionals as details for
restoration work was developed. In order to minimize the potential for future water damage to the building materials, the design team created paths for water management behind the masonry face materials. Flashing material used to weep the water out of the assemblies is hidden behind and under the masonry so that the historic appearance of the structure is maintained.

Other materials, such as ornamental copper elements at the lantern of the building’s south tower also presented challenges. Many of the original sculptural copper elements in this location were lost to a fire caused by lightning in. Designers and craftspeople on the restoration project relied on a limited number of original ink-on-linen construction drawings and early photographs to reproduce these missing elements.

Because of soot deposits from a nearby coal-fired power plant, the white faces of the 15- foot clock turned black over time and, by the 1920’s, the clock was nearly unreadable. A replacement black face was installed in 1931 As part of the restoration, the cast iron clock frames were completely removed, refurbished and reinstalled and new hands and white, translucent glass were installed to match the originals. Interior lighting was added and, despite the appearance of dramatic change, the clock faces once again appear as the original architect intended.


For additional information or to schedule a speaking engagement, please contact Jill Holstine at our Brookfield Office –
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