Growing with Arizona
ARIZONA CONTINUED TO GROW RAPIDLY during the latter part of the 20th Century, and so did Sundt.
During this time the face of Tucson’s central core changed dramatically. Significant downtown redevelopment projects, high-rises in and around midtown, and a new west side community college campus were built. As the only large regional contractor headquartered in Tucson, Sundt was there to make it happen.
Much of this growth stemmed from the City of Tucson’s initiation of a far-reaching urban renewal program. Several city blocks in the old downtown area were razed to make room for new development. In 1967, Sundt built the 11-story Pima County Administration building in the newly emerging Pima County Complex on West Congress Street. The project also incorporated parking under the building and underground parking at the adjacent Health & Welfare Building. A short time later, just to the north, the three-level El Presidio Underground Parking Garage was built. Situated between City Hall and the Old Pima County Courthouse, it is covered by the El Presidio Park and is the center of the City-County Complex. Sundt then built pedestrian bridges on the north and south side of the County Complex.
In 1969, the Tucson Community Center (now known as the Tucson Convention Center) got underway. It is located south of the City-County Complex, on Church Avenue. Built for $13.6 million, the project included an Exhibition Hall/Arena, Music Hall and small performing arts theater. Just to the east of the Convention Center, the new Tucson Police Department Headquarters and new Central Fire Station were built. Then, in 1972, the La Placita Shops and Offices were constructed just to the northeast and adjacent to the Convention Center. The nearby six-story La Placita Parking Garage was constructed at the same time.
Two apartment complexes were built on the east side of downtown: the four- story Martin Luther King Apartments and the six-story Armory Park Apartments, located adjacent to Armory Park. Also, Sundt built a $4.25 million, four-story addition to the Mountain Bell (Telephone) Building.
In midtown, Sundt built the first high-rise to be constructed outside of the downtown area. The eight-story Kelly-Walker-Hogue Office Building, today known as “The 4400 Building” (in reference to its address on Broadway Blvd.) was built. It also had the distinction of being the first project on which Sundt used a tower crane. Two years later, in 1970, the 10-story Plaza International Hotel was built at Speedway and Campbell, near the University of Arizona. Today, the hotel is still a well-known local landmark with a new name, the Aloft Hotel.
Across the Santa Cruz River, to the west of downtown, the new Pima Community College West Campus was constructed. The $11.5 million project is comprised of nine buildings, which include classrooms, laboratory space, administrative offices, and a gymnasium. Like the Tucson Convention Center, it was a large concrete project, and because of this Sundt purchased its first truck-mounted concrete pump.
Hughes Missile Systems Company had been a major Tucson employer since its first facility was established in 1951. In 1993 Sundt was contracted to conduct a major expansion of its facilities in just 13 months—a very challenging task according to most industry experts. The work included the design, demolition and reconstruction of space in eleven buildings on two sites, a total of 132 separate “projects within a project.” At the peak of construction there were 93 design professionals, 65 project management personnel and 868 craft workers involved in the project. The largest new structure was Building 843, the RF Simfax facility. It was constructed with special foundations and structural requirements to support a three-story anechoic chamber, which is a special room designed to stop reflections of either sound or electromagnetic waves.
By the early 1970s, Sundt was a well-established general contractor in Phoenix. The city and its surroundings were growing rapidly, which presented the company with many opportunities to build for a variety of institutional, industrial and private sector customers, as well as the U.S. military. Sundt developed innovative concrete formwork systems and concrete placement methods (called “New Approaches”) for which it won its first Build America award, and used these systems and methods to its competitive advantage.
Phoenix’s explosive growth also provided many opportunities for the Heavy-Highway Division to construct new freeways, surface streets, flood control and many other types of infrastructure projects.
Notable projects of the 1970s include the American Express Operations Center, the Tempe Municipal Building (The Inverted Pyramid), and the Life Sciences Building at Arizona State University (ASU). Sundt also built the Trevor G. Browne High School as well as a new academic building on the Phoenix Union High School campus.
In 1973 and 1974 there were three projects of note, starting with the four-story, concrete-frame Thorco Shopping Mall in Glendale. Next was the 32-story Arizona Bank Building, which has a unique reinforced concrete design that uses pre-cast concrete structural elements. At the time it was one of the tallest buildings in the United States constructed with precast concrete structural elements, all of which were cast in Sundt’s Phoenix yard. Then the Val Vista Water Treatment Plant in Mesa was constructed.
In 1976, Sundt completed the 107,000-square-foot Paradise Wing addition at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, using pre-cast concrete panels to duplicate the patterned-concrete-block construction employed on the main structure. The Arizona Biltmore is the only existing hotel in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) honored the project with its “Excellence in Concrete Formation Award.”
That same year Sundt completed several other major projects, including the Hartford Office Park and a nine-story addition to the Arizona State Capitol’s West Wing, which incorporated two slip formed building cores. Other notable accomplishments were a major addition to the 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Sentry Insurance Center West – Western Regional Headquarters, and two subsequent additions to the Sentry Insurance complex.
The following year, Sundt completed the $19.5 million Maricopa County Complex. The structural-steel-frame building has a 250-foot-tall reinforced concrete elevator shaft/building core that Sundt slip formed. Over the next two years the company completed the Best Western Headquarters, North Phoenix Baptist Church, Biltmore Plaza Shopping Mall and a classroom building at ASU.
During the 1990s, Sundt office building work in the Phoenix area remained strong. One of its biggest projects was the FINOVA Corporate Center in Scottsdale that had a contract value of $50 million. Other large office buildings included a new headquarters for Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, two large office buildings for Prudential Insurance in Scottsdale, and the massive Chase Bank Credit Card Processing Facility in Tempe.
In 1996, the Phoenix Building group found education work outside of Arizona. It built three school projects (two elementary schools and a high school) in Colorado’s central mountains with a joint venture partner. The contracts totaled $40 million and were completed ahead of schedule.
In Gilbert, Ariz., Sundt built its first large broadcast facility, for American Sky Broadcasting. “ASkyB” was designed to provide up to 300 channels of digital satellite television programming to homes and businesses across the United States.
Heavy Civil Construction
In addition to buildings, the company was busy with Phoenix-area heavy construction. From 1974 through 1979, Sundt built six separate sections of the Superstition Freeway (U.S. 60) and two sections of Interstate 10, one near Buckeye and the other near Goodyear/Avondale.
In 1976, Sundt built a major section of the Central Arizona Project canal near Salome for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Throughout the 1970s the company also performed more work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1978 it completed the Indian Bend Flood Control Project in Scottsdale and the Adobe Dam Flood Control Project in northwest Phoenix.
Sundt also constructed three major heavy civil projects for Maricopa County during this time frame: flood control levees in Buckeye, channeling the Salt River near the ASU campus in Tempe, and the Alma School Road Bridge over the Salt River. The company also built several major projects for the City of Phoenix, including the Sky Harbor Access Road and a section of Shea Blvd., from 32nd Street to Scottsdale Road. The company’s largest single heavy civil project during the 1990s was Reach Four of the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel (ACDC). The ACDC was a flood control project in north central Phoenix. Sundt’s $52 million contract was to construct a 4.6-mile-long segment of the channel that runs along the north bank of the canal between 12th and 40th Streets. The channel is 22 feet deep and ranges in width from 36 to 50 feet. At times, Sundt crews were excavating within a few feet of backyards in upscale neighborhoods, including exclusive areas near the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. For its work on Reach Four of the ACDC, Sundt won a prestigious Build America award from the Associated General Contractors of America in 1994.
Another major project for the Heavy Civil Division during this timeframe was revamping the closed Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas, into the city’s new commercial airport. Sundt’s $46.5 million contract included extensive demolition to make way for new aprons, taxiways and a new 9,000-foot east runway.
For most of its history, Sundt has performed a variety of projects that could be considered “industrial” in nature, from power plant work to mine expansions. One of its longtime industrial customers was the Arizona Portland Cement Company north of Tucson. During a period that began in the late 1950s, Sundt carried out several expansions for Arizona Portland, which included a number of industry “firsts” for large and state-of-the-art equipment installations. Sundt was called back in 1972 for two more record-breakers—a preheater that was at the time was the largest of its type ever installed in the United States, and also the largest kiln installed to date. In 1999, Sundt undertook its largest ever contract for the cement plant—installation of a new raw material handling system. The heart of the two-phase, $60 million project was a 510-ton-per-hour vertical roll mill. Manufactured in Germany, the mill was the first and largest of its type in existence at the time.