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Wind delays crane’s massive air unit installation; part of Main blocked

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at 7:04 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, at 6:09 a.m.

When you’re sliding a 16,000-pound mass of metal through a 10-by-13-foot window, precision is imperative.

As it turns out, so is the weather – especially when that window is 19 stories up.

For the second consecutive weekend, crews on Saturday were stuck in downtown, waiting for the wind to slow enough to install a massive new air conditioning unit into 125 N. Market, the former Wichita Executive Center.

At whatever point the wind calms to less than 20 mph, a crane with a 270-foot boom arm will ease the old, 8-ton air-conditioning unit – called a chiller – out of the small, high-rise window and lower it to the ground.

Afterward, the crane will hoist a new 6-ton energy-efficient machine atop the building and slide it into place.

Janis Friesen, public relations consultant to building owner Security National Life Insurance Co., said she hopes that time comes Sunday.

Until then – at least overnight and part of Sunday – Main Street from First Street south to Douglas is barricaded to make room for the nearly block-long crane, leaving drivers with no choice but to find a way around the area.

“It’s like threading the eye of a needle,” Friesen said of the unit’s removal and replacement. Too much wind could, for example, force the crane arm to swing around.

“It’s a really tricky, precise operation,” she said. “The first priority is safety.”

The entire operation is expected to take at least several hours, Friesen said, provided the wind behaves.

The installation, overseen by Kansas Controls of Derby, is one of several infrastructure improvements planned for 125 N. Market and is expected to increase the reliability of cooling in the building, Security National Life Insurance official Bryce Baker said in a written statement.

He added: “Going forward, the building’s HVAC issues should be resolved.”

To quicken the process Sunday, workers decided to leave the crane set up overnight on Main Street, behind 125 N. Market. While the crane is there, street traffic will not be allowed through.

Friesen said crews will attempt the installation again starting at 9 a.m. But if the recent blast of wintry weather refuses to offer calmer winds, the project will be delayed again.

“Hopefully it will happen,” Friesen said.

The one thing that is certain? Main Street will reopen before the start of the workweek.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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