At Draper Aden Associates, leaving a lasting, positive impact isn’t just about improving the communities we serve. We also reach that enduring goal by helping clients achieve their vision using cost effective solutions. When we can help clients deliver their project on time and on budget or under budget, we’re making future investments in their communities more likely to happen.
As a firm, we’re committed to the success of our clients and use new technological tools, creative approaches, and innovative solutions to deliver results and help clients save resources. That’s why we’re proud to launch a series of blog posts highlighting cost-effective tools and solutions.
The Church Hill Neighborhood
Richmond, Virginia’s Church Hill neighborhood has a proud history. In 1775, Patrick Henry helped propel a revolution from Church Hill when he delivered his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech at St. John’s Church on North 25th Street. In the more than two centuries since that stirring oration, Church Hill has experienced growth, decline, and renewal.
By 2014, Church Hill had seen a significant revitalization effort for over a decade, yet the East End Theater – a pillar of the Church Hill community and located only two blocks from famous St. John’s church – lay in ruin.
Once a community gathering place and beacon, the East End Theater’s walls were now crumbling, the roof caved in and no longer existed, what seats remained were splintered and in tatters, windows were gone, and vegetation reclaimed much of the remaining structure.
Redevelopment Dreams for the East End Theater
Enter Josh Bilder with Sterling Bilder Developers. He had a dream to return the East End Theater to its original glory by converting the building into a mixed-use development with apartments and commercial space. A fourth-generation builder with deep family roots in Church Hill, Bilder understood the significance of the theater and the gaping hole its demise had left in the neighborhood. Realizing his vision required a partner that wasn’t intimidated by a challenge and could think creatively when solving problems, he turned to Draper Aden Associates for the adaptive reuse of the theater.
Using New Technology to Save a Historic Structure
Tasked with leading scanning and structural engineering efforts, the firm’s team faced a number of challenges, including assessing the building’s condition and identifying innovative solutions to make the project work. Utilizing new technology, we conducted a cutting-edge scan of the existing structure and developed an interactive building information model (BIM). Leveraging these tools was crucial because no documentation about the building was available.
This scanning technology demonstrated a surprising result. Although the roof was gone, the roof framing could still be utilized during the theater’s redevelopment. This finding saved the developer $100,000 immediately and made the renovation more feasible.
We also presented an innovative approach to tackle the project’s most significant challenge: maintain the existing shell of the theater by engineering self-supporting floors to create commercial space on the first floor and two levels of apartments on the second and third floors. This approach was a unique solution because it allowed all three floors to fit within the structure without placing any additional weight or pressure on the building’s shell. With no added load, the project would meet all codes without the need of an expensive and time-consuming overhaul.
How precisely do you design self-supporting floors?
We laterally braced the floors while using a combination of steel framing and wood frames. Sheer walls and steel movement frames were used as well to provide needed support. The addition of the new floors was flawless thanks to the team’s structural design and engineering expertise. By self-supporting the second and third floors, we created a sustainable solution that far exceeded expectations.
The East End Theater is Restored
“This project would not have been as successful without the innovative solutions offered by Draper Aden”, noted Bilder. “As a developer, keeping the budget and timetable tight is critical and the Draper Aden team became an indispensable asset.”
In 2015, the newly redeveloped East End Theater opened. The gem has been returned to its original glory! A walk down North 25th Street from St. John’s once again evokes a sense of community and wholeness.
This blog post is part of a series exploring projects and services that have helped clients realize their goals while preserving time and resources. Click here for additional blog posts in this series, which covers a variety of engineering challenges.