Gaillard residents vent over construction fallout
Angry residents living near the Gaillard Auditorium demolition in downtown Charleston lashed out at the project’s leaders Monday, saying it has led to intolerable noise, violent shaking of their homes and a horrible street mess.
But one of the biggest complaints — and one that officials admit they erred on — is the large clouds of particle dust that has been let go, coating cars, homes and backyards for blocks around.
“We can’t open our windows,” said Bill Milner, who lives on Wall Street, across from the Gaillard property.
“It’s just plain nasty,” he said of the goop that got thicker after Monday’s light rain.
Some said they were misled by the construction timetable they were given, mainly on the number of Saturdays they were told work would be necessary. Others said the vibrations affecting their homes begin early in the day, even before they’ve had a chance to prepare for it.
Shortly after 7 a.m., “my bed is shaking on Saturdays,” said Liz Aktar of Laurens Street.
Kelly Carr said vibrations have led six panes of glass to fall from her home on George Street. Others spoke of ruining their quality of life, cracks in walls and the nonstop barrage of noises caused by machinery in motion, including backup beeps from wheeled vehicles.
The meeting drew about 20 people and was held to let the neighborhood vent over how the $142 million Gaillard makeover is affecting those who live closest.
While officials said they could not build such a large-scale project without some inconveniences in a city setting, Chris Becker, senior project manager of Skanska Trident Construction, conceded his office miscalculated the level of concrete dust that would be let go during the take-down.
“No matter what we do, we can’t control the dust,” Becker said. “We did anticipate some dust, but we did not anticipate what’s happened here.”
Milner was among those upset at Skanska’s underestimation.
“I can’t believe it’s not been thought out,” he said.
Suppression of the dust is currently being handled with hoses and misters, designed to spray water on problem areas. The misters resemble “snow makers” seen on New England ski slopes. But residents questioned their worth, since the coastal winds are regularly changing, sending the dust in different directions.
The company said Monday it plans to perform air quality testing to see if the release is in a harmful range.
Saturdays were an especially touchy subject among some residents already upset at a 7 a.m.-7 p.m. work schedule. Those Saturdays are expected to stay busy at the site.
“Construction is an industry where Saturday work has to occur,” said Bob Ferguson, project executive with Skanska, who said the building has to be finished by December 2014.
Ferguson did offer to address paying for cleanup of homes affected by the dusting.
The Gaillard Center renovation will turn the 1968-era auditorium and exhibition space into a modern and more acoustically sound building to better support the Spoleto Festival USA and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, among other presentations. City offices are also being incorporated into the new design.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.