Perched on top of a 105-foot crane, Sherri Pierogi has the best view of Olympia.
She and the construction crew down below are building the 123 4th Apartments, located at Columbia Street and Fourth Avenue. Many of the residential units — upon completion in spring 2016 — will come with spectacular views of the State Capitol and the Olympic Mountains.
The crane towers above the same downtown skyline that it’s helping to transform. Pierogi swivels from side to side in a control cab that seats just one. She climbs aboard by 7 a.m. and typically stays up there until quitting time, she said, as the crew pushes to build seven floors and a roof before winter.
“I’m constantly talking to the guys on the ground. They’re what it’s all about,” said Pierogi, adding that her crane’s hook will pick up loads in blind spots on the construction site. “I can’t do it without them.”
The crew of about 30 workers is expected to grow in the coming months, especially when it’s time to install walls and electrical wiring for the 138 apartment units.
The walls will be fabricated off site and lifted into place by the crane, according to Charlie Paggemann, project manager with Chinn Construction. The off-site fabrication not only saves time, but represents a substantial reduction in waste, he said.
“We’re chasing weather to get this framed and enclosed,” Paggemann said. “We’re trying to hit the roof by September.”
The crane will come down once the roof is done and crews focus on the building’s interior. Pierogi said when that time comes, she hopes to find a job at another site, operating another crane.
The Aberdeen resident learned to run big machinery during a 23-year career at a Weyerhaeuser sawmill that ended with a layoff in 2009. The crane at the Olympia site is smaller and easier to control than some of the taller machines, she said, and also comes with a human touch. Children will walk by and wave, or say hello to Pierogi on the radio.
“There’s so much to watch, so you don’t get too bored, plus the view is nice,” she said. “I appreciate my job every single day.”
The project also has been called the Columbia Heights Apartments. Andrew Clapham, one of the project’s managers, said the 123 4th Apartments have attracted interest from several prospective tenants.
Floor plans call for studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Rent prices for the units will be announced in the coming weeks on the project’s website at 123-4th.com. Clapham said the rents will vary depending on the unit’s location and amenities such as views or balconies. Olympia-based company Prime Locations will manage the property, Clapham said.
Once completed, the project will nearly double downtown Olympia’s supply of market-rate housing, which is defined as properties that are rented or sold at market value. For now, market-rate housing represents about 10 percent of downtown residences.
Many see the 123 4th Apartments as a boost for the downtown economy because the project is expected to bring more activity — and more working residents with money — to the area.