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Builder’s Big Move

PCL Construction Services Inc.’s list of completed projects range from the Banc of California Stadium soccer stadium in L.A.’s Exposition Park to renovations at Los Angeles International Airport. However, the Glendale company recently finished its most personal project – its own local home base. With headquarters in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and a United States head office in Denver, PCL’s California presence is based out of the Tri-Cities, where it built a new corporate headquarters a short walk away from its previous location. Formerly located at 500 N. Brand Blvd., where the company’s old office space hovered just above 20,000 square feet, the new office space at 655 N. Central Ave. in Glendale is nearly 30,000 square feet. Even though the new digs are geographically close to the former PCL site, “it’s a vast departure from our old office,” said PCL Operations Manager Christopher Ritter. PCL Vice President Aaron Yohnke called the old space “conventional, more formal,” which necessitated a change. Plus, Yohnke noted, over the last two years, the staff has doubled in size to about 400 employees. “Our people are lifetime employees,” added Ritter of the importance of improving the work environment. PCL partnered with famed architecture studio AC Martin & Associates on the design/build of the headquarters. “We’ve worked alongside them before and we’ve gotten to see some of their offices and used some of that information (for the new PCL offices),” Ritter said. In Glendale, PCL and AC Martin had worked on the Grand Central Air Terminal project, a historic airfield which another local company, Walt Disney Co. in neighboring Burbank, purchased and restored five years ago, adding some office space on the property. While the creative office trend is mostly associated with media and tech tenants, Yohnke said, his construction firm now has more informal spaces as well as more collaborative spaces. “When you walk through the door, it’s like walking into a different era,” he said, gushing about the banquettes, the “very large training room,” and even pool and foosball tables. A major firm, PCL was not above employing local, small and diverse businesses in the quest to give its workforce a new home. They included Triumph Painting, Quality Production Services, Morrow-Meadows, Montgomery Hardware and PG Cutting. “Diversity is really important to PCL,” said Ritter. “We have three sectors – civil, industrial and commercial. At heart we’ve always tried to be diverse so that when the economy ebbs and flows, we can adjust to these changes.” ‘Harry Potter’ journey PCL has worked on some of the most high-profile projects in the Valley. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme-park-within-a-theme-park at Comcast Corp.-owned Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City is a prime example. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with signature attraction the flight-simulated ride of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, opened at Universal Studios Hollywood April 2016 after a three-year process that included two years of construction, sometimes during park hours but mostly after hours. “The goal, of course, was to finalize the sub-park as close to what (“Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling) envisioned (as well as to) historical (aspects),” he said. Ritter served as project manager on the L.A. version of the Harry Potter section, which was erected in the same general mold as its previous incarnations at the Universal Studios parks in Japan and Florida. “It’s really close,” he said. “The general public might not notice but the nuances have some differences.” However, the Hollywood version was a bit more challenging to build because of the more restricted, landlocked geography compared to the massive amounts of space available in Osaka and in Orlando. There were also restrictive building codes at the L.A. park due to seismic considerations, which required reconfigurations of structural concrete. “The park in Florida is much bigger but the studio factor is much larger here,” Ritter said. Meeting expectations the third time around was critical to Warner Bros., which owns the rights to the Harry Potter franchise. The Burbank studio had more of a direct say in this Harry Potter theme park attraction compared to its counterparts, and the first two versions of the park become “the measuring stick” for the Universal Studios Hollywood reiteration. “A lot of thought went into how to make what is not real real – the suspension of belief,” Ritter said. “In theory, we as much as possible reused the design from Florida to here.” At the other end of the spectrum, PCL handled tenant improvements at New Directions for Youth, a nonprofit in North Hollywood. “They didn’t have an excess of money, so it was trying to get the best value,” Ritter said of the project, completed a little over a year ago. PCL also built the Kaiser Permanente facility in Sylmar and the Kaiser School of Medicine in Pasadena. The company had a hand in some of the work related to the area at Universal Studios Hollywood devoted to Springfield from “The Simpsons,” licensed at the time from 20th Century Fox, since acquired by Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. Opened in 2007, The Simpsons Ride was already there. However, Ritter participated in a stretch of “Simpsons”-themed restaurants to fill out kiosks and concession stands themed after the long-running animated series. “The building structure is shared,” he said, noting how the block that has the Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Lard Lad Donuts and Krusty Burger is on the other side of the Wizarding World’s Three Broomsticks ride. “We did that simultaneously,” Ritter said as well as “What’s now the pizza place, hot dog stand and taco truck, some of that was already there. We enhanced it and brought it up to the true Simpsons theme,” he said. Outside of the Valley, the company built the May-completed, $1 billion Midfield terminal project with Turner Construction, Johnson Construction and MVI Operations at Los Angeles International Airport. The project includes a new car rental facility. The firm has been doing a lot of work in UCLA for almost 20 years, including seismic renovations for the Center for Health Sciences; the Anderson School of Management; and a $650 million project at UCLA toward Olympic Village 2028. It also has worked on additions to Dodger Stadium. With PCL now enjoying more oxygen and space in its new Glendale base, the firm appears poised to tackle a slew of upcoming projects, including more projects for Universal. An upcoming bid to create a new terminal at Hollywood-Burbank Airport also seems imminent for this firm.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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