Ever since August, residents of the historic Ansonborough neighborhood have been able to listen and set their clocks: Construction workers rebuilding the Gaillard Auditorium arrive at 5 a.m.
Now they face the possibility that construction will continue past the present 7 p.m. quitting time until 1 a.m., leaving neighbors just four quiet hours for sleeping.
You can understand why those neighbors are frustrated. They are being told that the extra shift might be necessary for SKANSKA to finish work on schedule for a January 2015 opening. But neighbors don’t hear anybody expressing concern that they are bearing an unfair burden so that the company can finish on a schedule that it, wisely or not, agreed upon.
Steve Hanson, immediate past president of the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, said about 30 members showed up at a meeting called by SKANSKA Monday night to keep neighbors up to date. Mr. Hanson fears that while SKANSKA is saying the late-night work is only a possibility, it is actually imminent. Indeed, the company has said it might start as early as Monday. The company will give neighbors 48 hours notice if they do add the late-night shift.
The noisy, dusty demolition of the old auditorium was a warning sign to neighbors. Even now that construction is under way, residents awake six days a week to the roar of trucks and to the sound of workers’ boom boxes.
When Buist School, across the street from the auditorium, and the Gaillard were both under construction at the same time, the noise was doubly problematic.
Now a safety problem has emerged that probably shouldn’t have been a surprise to experienced contractors. It is not safe for workers to pour concrete while others are doing steel work above them. Work that SKANSKA planned to do concurrently must be done consecutively.
The construction team says that large trucks mixing concrete and crews assembling steel structures will be finished by 8 p.m., and that work after then will be quiet — mostly shaping concrete.
But neighbors are skeptical. They have had to deal with unexpected air emissions, traffic and noise. The idea of extending construction until 1 a.m. — even just concrete smoothing — isn’t sitting well.
Ansonborough residents say they understand that delays in construction can be costly. They understand that the city wants to move employees into offices at the auditorium and stop paying for leases elsewhere. They understand that the sooner the auditorium is available for use, the better the bottom line.
But they also believe that they have a right to reside comfortably in their homes — and get more than four hours of sleep a night.
Surely the city and SKANSKA, the company that built the new Cooper River bridge, can do their work and respect the neighborhood at the same time.
In no way can they expect people to be satisfied while living adjacent to a major construction project that operates 20 hours a day, six days a week.