JJ Curran Crane and Homrich Partner on Joe Louis Arena Demolition
Coming Full Circle: JJ Curran Crane Co. Demolishes Joe Louis Arena 40 Years After Helping to Create It
This article originally appeared in Michigan Contractor and Builder
by Debra Wood
A Detroit firm, JJ Curran Crane Co., helped to build the Detroit Red Wings’ former home – Joe Louis Arena – back in 1979, and its replacement the Little Caesars Arena. Now, the firm’s crews and equipment are assisting with the demolition of the Joe Louis Arena.
“We are thrilled to be helping out with this project,” says Jeff Curran, President of JJ Curran Crane Co., who worked on the construction of the building when he was in college.
“We were putting in the HVAC units inside the ceiling of the building, all of those air handlers,” Curran says. “We had a 130-ton P&H crane.”
The city owns the 5-acre Joe Louis Arena site. Often referred to as “The Joe,” the arena closed in the summer of 2017. Plans for the site have not been announced. The Detroit Building Authority (DBA) is overseeing the remediation and demolition of the site.
“We’d love to be involved in whatever comes next here,” Curran says. “Hopefully, it will be something everyone can be proud of.”
Gotham Motown Recovery, a subsidiary of Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) of New York has the right to develop the property, following losses of more than $1 billion FGIC experienced when the city went bankrupt in 2013-2014. Redevelopment plans are due in January 2020. The property is near the city’s central business district and the Detroit River.
The entire demolition is budgeted at $12 million, which the city financed through a loan from the Michigan Strategic Fund. It has applied for brownfield financing to repay the loan. The city sold off seats and other property, netting about $500,000.
About the Players
Adamo Group, of Detroit, is the prime demolition contractor. The company began demolition services in 1964 and has since made a name for itself in the industry. The family-owned and -operated company has become a national player in decontamination, decommissioning, and demolition.
Homrich, also of Detroit, has provided demolition and environmental services since 1964. The company remains family-owned and-operated. It works in the public and private sector and operates nationwide out of it Michigan offices. The company aims to use the latest, cost-effective demolition and remediation methods and can handle a variety of work, from small renovations to multistory demolitions.
JJ Curran Crane Co. began operations in 1950, under the leadership of founders John J. and Jacquelyn Curran and the name Dearborn Excavating. The company’s first equipment was a 1933 Link Belt Speeder Backhoe, which John purchased for $400. Then in 1954, the company purchased a Lorraine 30-ton mobile crane. JJ Curran Crane Co. obtained steady work in the gasoline industry. Those contracts allowed the company to expand into other types of excavation work. By 1958, JJ Curran Crane Co. was tackling underground construction projects, and the company has continued to grow.
JJ Curran Crane Co. remains family-owned and -operated. Its fleetconsists of all terrain and rough terrain hydraulic cranes from 8 tons to 450 tons.
Curran reports having a busy summer at JJ Curran Crane Co., with several industrial projects set to start in the fall and this winter.
“We always are trying to do a better job for our customers,” Curran says. “There are more and more opportunities in Detroit with commercial construction.”
The company prides itself on problem solving and creativity to successfully tackle any project that comes its way.
The Curran family continues to hold season tickets to the Detroit Red Wings hockey games.
“We’re very big fans,” Curran says. “We have had fun throughout the years with the great sport of hockey.”
Curran likes to look back at all of the history that has taken place in the building.
“When you think about the stories from here, you have to pinch yourself,” Curran says. “All of the championships, the Stanley Cup banners, it brings chills to you, thinking back on it.”
In June, Homrich, under its remediation contract with the DBA, began removing 200,000 square feet of siding (about 3,400 panels) off the old Joe Louis Arena. The panels are removed one piece at a time. The company completed an earlier phase of asbestos removal back in February.
“Projects like this do not happen often,” says Tom Lantagne, Project Manager for Homrich. “It’s fun project, and we are happy to a part of it.”
The panels range from 20 feet to 28 feet long and from 250 pounds to 350 pounds.
After reviewing different crane options and placements, JJ Curran Crane Co. moved forward with using two Grove 50-ton Rough Terrain Cranes (RT600E) with a reach of 105 feet on the main boom and 56 feet on the jib. The cranes use a 11,600 pound counterweight.
The company painted the two larger cranes with the names of Red Wings hockey stars: Gordie Howe, who wore the No. 9 uniform, and Steve Yzerman, No. 19.
“It’s cool to honor those two players – they were favorites,” says Mark Wade, Vice President of Sales and Operations for JJ Curran Crane Co. “It was a great idea, and we’ve had fun with it the last couple of weeks.”
The company is also using one 30-ton Grove RT, which was placed on the upper deck, due to weight restrictions.
“We have an excellent and modern fleet of equipment,” Wade says.
Homrich removes the panels by drilling a hole in the panel, setting the rigging, installing screws to stabilize the panel, and then installing a tag line. Crews then remove the fasteners and sling the panel off the building.
The removed panels are heading for a scrap yard or landfill, except for a small chunk, which may go to JJ Curran Crane Co.’s office as a souvenir.
“JJ Curran has been a good partner, easy to work with and very accommodating,” Lantagne says. “The operators are very professional.”
Panel removal was to wrap up in August. The demolition should be finished in 2020.