Digging Deeper

Midstate Site Development had to plumb its creative well to meet the unique, subterranean challenges of the downtown site it developed for New Britain, CT’s new police complex

The New Britain, Connecticut, police complex on Main and Chestnut Streets is 87,000 square feet of glass, steel, and concrete, and it was a welcome site in the burg’s downtown area when it was finished. “This location brings the police department into the heart of the city, where it belongs,” New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell said at the time of the building’s opening.  It’s unlikely, though, that those who were there for the unveiling had any idea of the difficulties that arose during the facility’s construction, including the severe contamination of its site—and that’s exactly what Midstate Site Development hoped for.

Midstate has experience in all kinds of construction: industrial, commercial, educational, residential, subdivisional, heavy and highway, sports, and sewer, water, and utility. The company even installed the athletic field that ESPN uses on SportsCenter. So, the New Britain police complex was far from Midstate’s first site-development project—or even its largest—but the job’s host of complications pushed the company to get creative and find ways to deliver on a piece of land that would otherwise be unusable.

One of Midstates’s biggest selling points is its promise to complete complex projects on time, so when obstacles began to arise during the police-complex project, the company had to act fast. Certain challenges were foreseeable, including the need to lay groundwork for unique structural features such as a modern forensics lab, a dual-function pistol range, and a library. Other problems, though, were more surprising.

To build the complex, Midstate Site Development had to remove waste and pulverize underground concrete foundations at the site.
To build the complex, Midstate Site Development had to remove waste and pulverize underground concrete foundations at the site.

“The entire site was contaminated,” Midstate founder Glenn Korner says. “We had to design a grid section and identify the contaminations, and several materials had to be disposed of using different methods.” Korner thinks an old factory or some other sort of facility with heavy machinery must have been on the property long before it was selected for the police complex because Midstate found concrete foundations buried deep underground. The company brought in heavy machinery, including a 45-ton excavator with a hoe ram, to pulverize the foundations, but when it dug a little deeper, it also hit the water table. So, workers had to install wells to dewater the site, and then they filtered the water through a 21,000-gallon frac tank.

Another issue was the building’s location. The middle of a city is not an ideal place to pull up old foundations and dispose of hazardous waste, so Midstate had to think of methods to complete its work on time while doing its best not to disrupt vehicle and foot traffic. The dig at the site was 20–25 feet deep, so pedestrian safety was crucial. Construction workers installed jersey barriers around the site and created pedestrian walkways behind them, and they did so while avoiding cars and streetlights.

Midstate also had to address the unique security concerns that come with designing a building for a police force. Before the project could even begin, for instance, each of the company’s construction workers had to be vetted with a criminal background check. And the building was to have specialized equipment, including firearms and generators, that needed to be housed in secure areas. New Britain planned to keep emergency generators for the complex in the basement, so damp- and waterproofing had to be a crucial part of Midstate’s design. Because the timeline for the build was tight, the company’s workers built a road into the basement and left an opening to it so that the generators could still be delivered after the structure’s steel and decking were installed.

The importance of safety and innovation in site preparation are Korner’s two takeaways from Midstate’s work on the police complex. “The way you plan and structure a job is key,” he says. “That flows through in all our work, and we were able to progress through these challenges because we knew that.”