Hirsch Tower gets new roof after 35 years

Thursday, August 7, 2003

With a 200-foot crane, a pile of wet rubble and blocked streets, this Broadway project doesn't look much like your typical roofing job. But to the building owners, it has all the appearances of an investment in downtown loyalty.

Cape Girardeau drivers took an unexpected detour for much of Wednesday around the 300 block of Broadway as workers installed a new roof on top of Hirsch Tower.

A four-man crew broke apart and shoveled up the old asphalt mixture of tar and rock from the top of the 13-story building, home of local CBS affiliate KFVS-12.

Both lanes were blocked by the 70-ton crane carrying down the remains of the old roof. But drivers won't have to make adjustments for too long, as the crane work should be done by Friday, said KFVS chief engineer Arnold Killian. The crane will be moved each day at about 4:30 p.m., so that it blocks only the westbound lane of traffic at night.

Station officials want to keep to that schedule, as the crane rental costs $220 an hour, Killian said.

The $32,000 roofing project is part of an ongoing capital improvements plan.

The remainder of the roofing work should be finished by Drury Co. of Cape Girardeau in about another week, he said. Once the roof is clear of asphalt, workers will lay down foam insulation panels and glue a rubber top piece over them.

KFVS entered the tower in 1968, a year after construction began. The material removed Wednesday was the "virgin roof with a lot of patches," Killian said. The work is going slower than anticipated.

"The asphalt was over four inches thick -- and it's been a real bear," he said.

The roof project has been in the station's plans for about a year, but wet weather has plagued attempts to start, said general manager Mike Smythe. Evidence of water leaks shows in the brown stains on the ceiling tiles and floor of the 13th floor observation deck.

"Rain has been a major problem, and we're not sure what we're going to do," Smythe said. "We could get more tonight."

The contractors kept an unofficial record of the wet conditions, he said.

"There has not been a clear two weeks without some form of precipitation since October," Smythe said.

In the winter, snow and ice often covered the roof. Station officials then hoped to start early in the summer, but the contractors were booked up with repairs to Jackson structures after the May 6 tornado, he said.

Other building occupants have also made improvements to their offices in recent years. Accountant Fred Vogt has operated an office on the fifth floor for about 15 years. A year ago, he added new carpeting, said staff member Dustin Snider.

Law partners Steve Wilson and Elizabeth Chastain occupy the eighth and 10th floors. When Wilson moved to the 10th floor five years ago, he replaced carpeting, painted and added a wall, said staff member Char Palisch. When Chastain arrived three years ago, she did much the same to the eighth floor.

Over the last few years, the station has spent more than $400,000 on improvements to the building, including work on the ceilings, carpeting, pipes and air conditioning. Smythe hopes these improvements show the public the station is dedicated to downtown revitalization.

"We've done a lot to it," he said of the building. "And, we'll continue to do it."


335-6611, extension 160

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