Saturday, June 6, 2009

CityWalk—Work and Tours

Danger and disaster, crises and complications all take a long time to describe and there is a lot to say about them. We haven’t had any such events lately at CityWalk (Thank God!), so I’ve been pretty quiet about what’s going on. Inside the building people are working—as many as ninety people working at once last week. The final design details have been completed—exciting stuff like how to waterproof a window that’s closer to a column than the architects would like (they rejected out of hand my suggestion that we just furnish every resident with a caulking gun).

The rooms are rushing on toward completion. The air handler will be placed on top of the building on June 13. That’s an enormous piece of equipment. A crane is being brought in and we will have to close Akard Street between San Jacinto and Patterson for a day. As soon as the air handler is on the roof, then we can start working on the parking lots and the new entrance. The new windows have all been delivered and we’re starting to put them in place. That’s important because it means the building will finally be water tight. The elevators are ahead of schedule and should be working this month. The main electrical transformer is a little behind schedule and won’t arrive until sometime in July.

It’s all important but probably not very interesting, except to me and the other people working on CityWalk. Even less interesting is the work I’m doing on some budget amendments to reflect a few change orders or a technical amendment to the loan documents we are working on.

When you’ve worked on a project as long as I have at CityWalk, every detail is interesting. There’s a whole history to our efforts to repair the fountain on the third floor deck (at a reasonable cost); to the extent we’re building out the first floor bathrooms; to how we resolve a place where the level of the concrete flooring is uneven in one of the units. Each problem, no matter how small, has to be confronted and resolved. Every change to every document has to be reviewed and scrutinized and either approved or revised.

I had a number of people in to tour CityWalk last week. There was a whole group from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. It was a public performance and went well, although when I talk to a group of forty people I am always a little disappointed that I can’t meet and get to know each of them. Forty people is a speech; not the conversation I prefer.

Michael German also came. He’s the National Team Leader for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (don’t you love federal titles!). He’s the person in charge of the federal efforts to end homelessness. His tour was more satisfactory to me.

Mr. German visited the building late in the afternoon, after normal working hours. The only people in the building were he and I and Brian, from our general contractor. Brian’s job was, in reality, to make sure we didn’t hurt ourselves on the construction site. The visit was wonderful, because Michael German was interested in every detail of the building and every detail of our work with homeless people and in no hurry at all to complete his tour.

I imagine in part that was because his evening was only going to be spent alone in a hotel room, working. But it was also clear that his interest was real and with just the two of us, and Brian, away from the press or other officials, Michael was free to be himself and to be interested in the work of ending homelessness. I think we both found it energizing to just talk about our work, without concerns about what people might think or how the press might use our words. I know Mr. German is accountable to the public and even I, in a much lesser way, have to remain conscious of my public image, but it was wonderful not to have to worry about that.

It was a real pleasure to spend a couple hours just talking with someone with a deep understanding about how to do our work. Nothing was for show or said to impress. Afterwards I felt better for days about the quality of the work of our federal officials. Mr. German could have skipped the tour and spent the evening relaxing in his hotel room. No one but I would have known the difference.

The picture is of Michael German (in the upper left, standing) in a more typical setting for his work, I am afraid, with the Riverside, California City Council.

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