A new parking structure has gone up on Chattanooga's north shore like a giant set of toy blocks.
At least, that's what the construction looked like for the four-story prefabricated parking structure at Five Points Northshore, a 189-unit, $37 million apartment complex near Cherokee Boulevard and Manning Street being built by the Bristol Development Group of Franklin, Tenn.
Instead of pouring concrete on site into wooden forms to build the parking structure, it was made at a facility in Conley, Ga., by the Spartanburg, S.C.-based Tindall Corp.
The giant pieces — 250 of them, to be exact — were hauled here and put in place by a 275-ton crane over the past four weeks. Once in place, the concrete parts were joined together by welding together metal plates set inside the concrete at the factory.
"Giant Legos is really what it is," said Mike Michener, the project superintendent for Chattanooga-based Morgan Construction Co. Inc., which is the project's general contractor. "My wife and my kids drive by at least once a week to check it out."
"It's like Lincoln Logs," said Scott Black, senior vice president for Bristol Development Group, which builds apartment complexes around the South and first started using prefabricated parking structures in 2004.
Advantages of a prefabricated parking structure, he said, include less debris and dust than a "poured-in place" parking structure, prefab is usually less expensive — especially in a tight labor market like today's — and it goes up much faster.
"You're talking about the difference in weeks and months," Black said, explaining instead of the four weeks to erect the prefabricated structure, a traditional parking structure might have taken four months to build.
Off the top of his head, Black said the cost of the prefabricated parking structure is about $10,000 per parking space.
"If you're doing poured-in-place, my suspicion would be probably closer to $15,000 a space," he said.
Black said that Bristol Development Group aims to have one parking space per bedroom at urban, infill developments such as Five Points Northshore, which he said is above the norm for Chattanooga apartment buildings.
Ethan Collier is one of the neighbors of Five Points Northshore who's watched the prefabricated parking structure go up.
Collier, a developer who's the founder, president and CEO of Collier Construction, said Chattanooga has seen prefabricated parking structures built elsewhere — just not lately.
"It's been a while since Chattanooga's seen a parking structure go up," Collier said.
Bristol Development Group expects to have the first apartments ready for tenants by the end of next year, Black said.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/Meets ForBusiness or on Twitter @meet forbusiness or 423-757-6651.