Work has been halted for a time at the Blossom Heath bathroom while engineers develop a plan to make sure the building’s foundation could support the new additions.

Work has been halted for a time at the Blossom Heath bathroom while engineers develop a plan to make sure the building’s foundation could support the new additions.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Landfill under foundation increases bathroom renovation costs in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 19, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Anyone walking through Blossom Heath Park recently may have noticed something unusual.

No construction activity.

While work had been ongoing to renovate the bathroom on the eastern edge of the park into a larger facility with an observation deck, a recent discovery put that work on hold.

The building was found to be sitting on 12 feet of landfill material, and while it has withstood the test of time thus far, the material was tested and found unsuitable for the design loads of the new building.

City Manager Mike Smith explained July 15 that workers didn’t reach “supportive soil” until they dug nearly 15 feet below the surface. Because of that, the foundation had to be reengineered. The new design calls for a series of caissons to be dug to a depth below the landfill material and grade beams, which added $136,000 to the project, more than the $100,000 contingency that the Tax-Increment Finance Authority, which is paying for the project, had budgeted.

“TIFA is willing to fund up to $100,000, but they don’t have additional funds to cover the additional contingency,” Smith said.

City administration requested $75,000 to cover the additional costs, plus leave a cushion for future overruns in the project.

Community Development and Inspection Director Chris Rayes said that all of the steel beams and other building materials had already been delivered and were on site, which is why changing the scope of the plans wasn’t a good option.

“Going backward is not an option on this,” he said. “There’s $91,000 worth of steel lying on the site.”

He said that the city was in possession of original construction drawings from the project, which did not identify any issues with the fill material.

Smith said that City Council wasn’t told about the problem sooner because city administrators and TIFA were trying to determine the scope of the problem and if TIFA would be able to pay for the entire solution.

“We were having discussions as to how intense these beefing up of the foundations were going to have to be,” he said. “We thought we were going to be within TIFA’s budget.”

Rayes said that they have encountered similar issues at Gaffke Park and Veterans Memorial Park at times, as well.

Councilman Peter Rubino, the council liaison to TIFA, said that “this was my biggest nightmare.”

But, he said, TIFA paid for $60,000 toward the project to redo the road and seawall at Blossom Heath Park in previous years.

“TIFA really helped out the city a few years ago with the road and the seawall,” he said. “If TIFA had not done that, we would have had more than enough money to do this project and then some.”

That being said, he added that he thought the city should have known to check the soil before the project was fully designed.

“We all probably should have known, just based on the location, what was in the ground,” he said. “Anybody who lives near the water who has dug more than a few feet deep has found bottles and trash.

“We should have known to check.”

“I think we knew,” Smith said. “I think never, in our wildest dreams, did we think 12 feet deep.”

A motion made by Councilman Peter Accica and supported by Rubino to allocate the money to the parks department for TIFA passed unanimously.

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