Maintaining Safe Access to the Varsity Inn Restaurant

• Tim Lewis
• Superintendent
• Rafn Company

Our current mixed-use apartment project in Wallingford is going up on two sides of the Varsity Inn, a local restaurant fixture of the neighborhood. As part of our project, we are restoring the quarter mile of streets and sidewalks surrounding our project, including those surrounding the Varsity Inn. The restaurant is beloved by people from all over and has an incredible group of loyal patrons who want to have the opportunity to eat there as often as possible. The demand for safe access in and out of the restaurant must never be compromised, although in many cases, the access must be altered in order for us to complete our scheduled work.

Configuration #1 : Demolition During demolition, the objective was to remove everything we needed to remove as quickly and safely as possible. We had to demolish and remove sidewalk directly in front of the restaurant, literally between waves of customers. We planned ahead to provide a temporary walkway where the sidewalk was and to change the access points from the street in order to accommodate this work.

Configuration #2 : Excavation Next, we had to excavate for the new curb and gutter which in this case involves a trench roughly two and a half feet wide and one and a half feet deep. Sequencing the concrete crew behind the excavation and planning for how we handled pedestrian access to the restaurant paid dividends. This enabled us to build a bridge from the road to the steps of the restaurant, becoming the main access point for the next several weeks while we did as much work as possible around the entrance.

Configurations #3 & #4 : Pouring Concrete In order to pour sidewalks and handicap ramps around the entrance to the restaurant, we had to alter entrance points several different times in order to have access to the areas we needed to form, pour, and finish the concrete work. Every time we finished work for the day, we ensured that there were no impediments to pedestrians entering or exiting the restaurant.

Configuration #5 : Road Restoration As a part of the project, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has mandated that we are to restore Wallingford Avenue all the way out to the centerline. This means a three to four day shutdown of Wallingford Avenue directly in front of the restaurant. In this situation, the only access to the parking lot behind the Varsity Inn will be cut off.

Configuration #6 : Sawcutting Control Joints Instead of the traditional tooled joints in City right of way sidewalks, we will be sawcutting all of the joints which will require more work on the sidewalks. For these specific instances we will be doing our work directly in front of the Varsity Inn during the times they’re closed. This will allow the work to be completed with no disruption to their business.

In order to work around the Varsity Inn during our SDOT street improvement work, we’ve had to coordinate and accommodate access in these different configurations. Before we started any of the work in front of the Varsity Inn, we spent time talking with the owners of the restaurant in order to hear their concerns and to clearly establish the expectations of what we plan to do. Though once we’ve made our plans, we continue to reassess. The key to success has been a great relationship with the owners and customers of the Varsity Inn and our ability to adapt to the changes of not only construction phasing and scheduling, but also the demands of weather, seasons, and pedestrian traffic.

Throughout this work we’ve made a priority of providing temporary parking for the customers and staff of the Varsity Inn, which the owners and customers have handled with extreme patience. We’ve also had multiple lane adjustments to a very busy arterial (N. 34th Street) and have had to spend a great deal of time coordinating the trades, deliveries, and workflow of our project to minimize impacts to traffic in the neighborhood. For each of these areas, we approach not only what the work is and how we do it, but also how we do it SAFELY.

In the end, a lot of planning and coordination goes in to keeping our project moving forward and the Varsity Inn open for business. We strive to make our impact to our neighbors and the neighborhood in which we work as small as possible. Working together we are able to make safe access a priority. And safe access is good for business.

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