He's on top of world as new hotel goes up

Construction: A lifelong love of building has led to a job the superintendent of Inner Harbor building project relishes. Builder is on top of world at hotel

March 09, 2000|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

As a teen-ager, Alan Hunt's favorite game was constructing shelters, using trees in the woods behind his upstate New York home.

"I would go in the woods and build tree forts or build a log cabin when I was 13," he said. "I always loved to build."

Some things haven't changed for Hunt, who turned 41 yesterday. Construction is in his blood. The scope of his work, however, has grown immensely, and today he is managing the construction of what will become downtown Baltimore's largest hotel.

"This [is] my world," Hunt said yesterday, as he walked into the shell of the soon-to-be Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel at 602 S. President St. "We're home," he announced as he reached the top floor, roughly 340 feet up.

The $130 million project, which has overcome citizens' lawsuits and complaints about city tax credits on the project and changes in who would operate the hotel -- it was going to be a Wyndham hotel -- will stand 31 stories high over the Inner Harbor.

"This is the tallest building I've ever worked on," said Hunt, who works for Chesapeake, Va.-based Armada/Hoffler Construction Co. as superintendent of the project.

With about 400 workers in about 20 different trades under his leadership, Hunt works practically around-the-clock to make sure everything is in place.

"This whole building is nothing but planning," he said.

Hunt's planning began as soon as he took his red marker to the architect's drawings early in the process, adjusting measurements so the estimated 15,000 bricks and 2,400 windows fit together perfectly.

And it continues each day, starting at 5: 30 a.m., when he maps out the rest of the day. Then, it's off to the hotel site, a few steps from the trailer that houses his office.

Hunt's the man barking orders. He describes his job as "managing every person and every part of the job and dealing with problems all day long."

He does that by walking through the building twice each day -- all 31 flights of stairs. On the ground level, he sees a kitchen that must have its gypsum wallboard up by Monday. About 80 tractor-trailer loads of gypsum wallboard -- about 1,600 tons -- will be installed at the hotel.

On the sixth floor, a model room is already furnished, with pictures on the wall and a floral bedspread. Bathtubs have been installed in some of the other wallboarded rooms on the sixth floor, and eventually the hotel rooms and suites will have 750 tubs and about a dozen whirlpool baths.

Hunt spends most of his day stamping out problems, from coordinating how to get cold water into the building to dealing with late deliveries.

And when problems arise -- particularly in the morning -- tempers usually flare, Hunt and his workers agree.

"You don't talk to him [Hunt] before 10 o'clock. I think he's got to have his coffee," said Dan Batchellor, foreman of the team from the company installing a dozen elevators and four escalators in the hotel.

But there's no question who's in charge of the operation.

"He's like the main man," Rick McMenamin, who is installing sprinklers in the building, said of Hunt.

And with his tough-as-nails demeanor, Hunt has earned the respect of his workers, who include his wife, project manager assistant Mary Ellen Hunt, one of a dozen women on the job.

"He's one of the best superintendents I've ever worked under," Batchellor said. "He knows his stuff."

Hunt's knowledge is more a product of work than school. He studied computer science at a two-year college in New York before he got into construction and said he has never taken civil engineering or construction management classes.

He has been superintendent on more than two dozen projects, all of them marked with tiny green and red flags tacked on a U.S. map on his office wall. In Jackson, Tenn., he built a Coca-Cola distribution plant; in Greenville, N.C., a pharmaceutical research laboratory. And in Virginia, his projects include two shopping centers, a hotel, four movie theaters and three office buildings.

In Maryland, his landmarks include a Circuit City distribution center in Waldorf and the Sylvan and Inner Harbor East apartment buildings in Baltimore.

His most gratifying job, he says, however, was in Georgia, where he built a hotel along with eight log cabins, just like when he was a teen-ager.

None of his projects, Hunt said, , have finished late. And he doesn't intend to start now: The Marriott will be completed on schedule, Feb. 15.

"You can take it to the bank," he said.

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