The Historic Elks Lodge, built in 1922, has been a staple of the Twin Falls community for decades. The building has served many purposes throughout its long life, such as the town’s public library, a furniture store, a ballroom for special events and school dances and a business office. After 97 years, a restaurant and brewery has been added to the list!
At a special awards event held on Thursday, Sept. 19, the project was awarded Top Project of the Year by the Idaho Business Review. The publication is available for free download.
This 33,000-square-foot project was a complete renovation of the first floor, second floor and basement to include new office spaces, a conference room and a break room on the second floor.
The most impressive part of the transformation was on the first floor and basement, which became the home for a high-end restaurant and brewery equipped with two bars, two levels of outdoor patio seating, a mezzanine seating level and a 10-barrel brew system where the restaurant, Milner’s Gate, will brew craft beer. The central focal point of the restaurant is the shimmering stainless-steel brewery equipment rising from the basement level through the floor of the first level. It has become the premier gathering place for Twin Falls locals and visitors alike.
The age of this building was an immediate concern for HC Company, the general contractor. There were hazards at every step of this project, including asbestos, water damage, confined spaces, building demolition, and traffic and pedestrian control. Despite these challenges, there were zero lost time accidents on this project.
The Historic Elks Lodge sits at the intersection of Highway 30 and Highway 74, both thoroughfares for locals and through-town travelers. Due to the high traffic volume, many efforts were made to not only protect the pedestrians but to also protect construction workers. Extensive traffic control and barriers were placed to keep everyone safe throughout the duration of the project. Traffic control remained in place while the existing storefronts were removed, sidewalks demolished, retaining walls installed, under sidewalk cavities backfilled, and new sidewalks and landscaping completed.
In addition, the alley was blocked during the entire duration of the project while a city-owned building was demolished to make room for the two levels of outdoor patio seating. After this building was removed, the alley had to be stepped and excavated back to prevent a potential cave in to the basement patio area. Once the new 12-inch thick concrete walls were in place, the backfill was safely completed and a new alley was paved.
The challenges and obstacles faced with this renovation required a multitude of innovations from everyone on the project team.
Before HC began its renovation, there had been very few structural or MEP modifications to the building since its birth in 1922. With the age of the building, one of the main challenges faced was meeting all current code and structural requirements.
With each swing of a hammer or slice of a saw, the structural integrity of the historic building could have been impacted. In order to ensure that the building would be 100% safe for workers during construction and for the public at the substantial completion date, coordinating with the engineers throughout the entire project was key. HC was able to obtain the original hand-drawn plans from the early 1900s after searching records at the local library. These drawings were used to coordinate with the engineers on solutions to all of the structural issues that were encountered.
The building sits on top of a large amount of volcanic rock that is extremely difficult to excavate through. This became difficult with the addition of a new 7-foot-tall ejector pump that had to be buried four feet into the volcanic rock. The location in the basement did not allow for equipment to be mobilized, and explosives could not be used near the foundation. For this reason, a laborious expanding grout had to be set in place through hand-drilled holes. This had to be done in 6-inch lifts.
The addition of a mezzanine level in the restaurant also proved to be more daunting than expected when the team realized that the existing first floor construction could not support the load at each bearing point. This meant an alternative plan had to be put in place.
The solution was taking the columns all the way to the basement and adding new footings to support the structure.
Removing the existing brick and installing new 10-foot-tall windows on the newly exposed east side of the building required extensive coordination and reinforcing. With a total of 12 new openings cut in for windows and doors, this was not an easy task. But the coordination with the engineers and the architects turned these windows into a new architectural feature of the building.
Due to the collaboration between the ownership team, Pivot North Architecture, EHM Engineers, DC Engineering, the city of Twin Falls and all the subcontractors involved, this building has regained its position as a true gem for the city of Twin Falls.s