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A Grand Renewal

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The panoramic elevator after renovation

As a national landmark was being transformed into the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., Quality Elevator Co. was entrusted with the building’s vertical transportation.

The Old Post Office and Clock Tower at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest in Washington, D.C., is an architecturally pleasing historic landmark building. The original Romanesque Revival-style building opened in 1899 and includes a Modernist-style atrium added later. With its 315-ft.-tall clock tower, it is the third- tallest building in the city, and its open-air observation deck at the 270-ft. level is known for its 360° views. For its first 15 years, the building served as the city’s main post office, and later housed offices. The building twice survived proposals for demolition and underwent major renovations in the 1970s and 1980s. An addition called The Annex held retail shopping space, but was flooded and sat idle for a period of time. Today, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site. It sits within walking distance of the White House, the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution.[1]

In 2013, the Trump Organization, a global property-development company led by Donald Trump, entered into a 60-year lease for the building with the General Services Administration (GSA) with the intention of transforming it into a luxury hotel. Quality Elevator Co. of Bladensburg, Maryland, was awarded the contract for elevator modernization on this prestigious renovation. The project encompassed a custom design to modernize 11 existing elevators and install two new dumbwaiters; three new accessibility lifts; and an 11-stop, new-construction freight elevator (including design and engineering drawings) to service all floors of the building.

The work had to be done inside a historic building that was not designed to carry such loads. Complicating the job were the foundation’s massive wooden piles, driven down into the ground to carry the building’s loads. The wooden pile foundation points were not to be disturbed.

Quality had a history with the Old Post Office, having been awarded several contracts for elevator maintenance and repairs at the building since 2007. The Trump International Hotel elevator project consisted of modernizing the cab shells and interiors, upgrading four hydraulic controllers and two traction controllers to MCE microprocessor controllers, replacing the door-operator systems, and refurbishing two Hollister-Whitney machines. Retrofitted Rope Grippers® were also installed.

Quality chose MCE’s Freedom MRL-MP Series machine-room-less (MRL) elevator for the new freight unit. The Freedom MRL-MP is structurally guide-rail bearing, eliminating the need for building overhead structural loading. This was a major design factor on this project due to the undocumented building structure and potential for damaging the historical masonry façade.

The Trump Organization hired the design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates for the interior design of the Old Post Office building. The US$200-million renovation began on May 1, 2014, with the closure of the Clock Tower. As the work progressed, numerous complications emerged. Challenges involved retaining and revitalizing the historic aspects of the site; dealing with the poor condition of the building; adding infrastructure, such as plumbing and mechanical, to each suite; upgrading fire safety; and engineering the structural support necessary for a completely new freight elevator. A heavy emphasis on the historical aspects of the site, including serious fines for damage, was written into the contract agreements. Restrictions were placed on historical details, such as the exterior appearance, windows and fixtures, including wood trim throughout the site. All architectural and design details were to be logged into a registry, and only cleaning and restoring them was permitted. Anything removed had to be replaced in its original position.

Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was directly involved in the contract reviews, contractor selections and product selections. Donald Trump was directly involved in the decision to contract Quality to perform the elevator modernization portion of this renovation, chiefly because of Quality’s reputation, expertise with the equipment and knowledge of this unique historic site. Quality completed its work on time and with no change orders.

The hotel opened in September 2016. It features 263 luxury guest rooms and suites, a BLT Prime by David Burke restaurant, a Benjamin Bar & Lounge and The Spa by Ivanka Trump.

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