Case Studies

GEM Theater Relocation, Detroit, MI


Design/build relocation of the 2,700 ton GEM Theater/Century Club building

The project team, headed by International Chimney Corporation and their in-house engineering staff, included Expert House Movers, Inc. (move subcontractor) and Mr. Peter Friesen (move consultant). Our team was charged with literally picking up the entire theater and attached Century Club building (in one piece) and moving them together to a new site approximately 1,850 feet away (950 feet east and 900 feet south), crossing four city blocks in downtown Detroit to reach the new site - all to make way for two new sports stadiums. A rotation of the building to change its orientation was required midway through the move.

To move the theater/Century Club, a grid of steel beams first had to be installed underneath both buildings. The two buildings were then lifted together with unified hydraulics to the proper moving height and 71 rubber-tired dollies (each the size of a small car) were placed underneath the beams. A three-zone hydraulic system was used to keep the building on the same “plane” as it was being moved. 

Before any of the move-steel could be installed, the Century Club had to be substantially reinforced for the move. Over the years the building's interior had been almost completely removed with much of its interior framing (including the entire second floor) missing. It was essentially a hollow shell without sufficient strength to withstand the move. In contrast, the GEM Theater was recently renovated and was in first class condition, complete with extensive ornate painting. The structural steel framing placed inside the Century Club as reinforcing prior to the move later served as support for new floors and walls.

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