A Smashing Success
Midwest Wrecking Co. of Texas, Inc. clears the past to make way for the future
In the late 1970s, the Tandy Center shopping mall in downtown Fort Worth, Texas, was booming. The hustle and bustle of shoppers, the sounds of metal blades scraping swiftly across the ice skating rink and the foot traffic of employees from the office towers that served as RadioShack’s corporate headquarters made this an exciting and energized space.
However, by the early 2000s, attempts to revive the once vibrant multilevel mixed-use complex were only met with temporary success. Thus, it was time to redefine the space occupying prime real estate in the heart of the city. The expertise of a demolition company is essential when structures, like this one, have outlived their purpose and where the old must make way for the new.
For the Tandy Center project, Midwest Wrecking Co. of Texas, Inc.’s (Midwest Wrecking) charged a team of 20 people to execute the plan to demolish the six-level shopping mall and the ice skating rink, while maintaining two active office towers that were attached to either end of the work area. The company also protected and maintained a concrete-encased electrical supply system that passed through the middle of the work site.
These types of projects are commonplace for this demolition and implosion company that has served the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex for over 30 years. Their services include building demolition, interior and selective demolition, implosion, power plant dismantling, pavement removal, bridge demolition, recycling, LEED tracking, debris removal and salvage services.
The Co-Owners of Midwest Wrecking, CEO Brian Choate and President David Densmore, entered this specialized area of the construction industry with an appreciation for the unique challenges that every project brings.
“Demolition is the part of the construction industry we liked the best. And, it’s the most challenging. We very rarely see the same type of building or the same type of project. We’ll do one and seldom see another one like it. It never gets boring,” David explains.
Partnership and Dedication
David and Brian have seen a lot of projects. Combined, they have 70 years of experience working in the industry. Brian earned a construction management degree in 1991 from the University of Oklahoma. “I got into the demolition business right after college working for a wrecking company in Oklahoma City. I fell in love with the business and have been in it ever since,” Brian says.
When David finished high school in the ’70s he started to work for a general contractor who agreed to send him to college if he met certain requirements. “He got to look at the grades and paid me very little—$2.25 an hour,” David says. “I worked for him for 10 years, and when he retired, I started working at Midwest Wrecking in Oklahoma City. I have been with Midwest one way or the other ever since.”
Midwest Wrecking Co. LLC, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was founded by Ben Kates in 1976. A decade later he expanded his business to North Texas when he opened Midwest Wrecking Co. of Texas. “I moved to Texas to manage that location for Ben in the late ’90s. And 15 years ago, David and I took the opportunity to buy that Fort Worth company,” Brian says.
The complementary nature of their personalities has resulted in a perfect partnership. “David is more of a people person. He’s really good at the people aspect of the company, and I’m more of a field and equipment knowledge guy,” Brian explains. David agrees they work well together, “We both have a very good knowledge of the technical aspects of building,” he says, “which allows us to do very complicated projects.”
The breadth of knowledge held by Midwest Wrecking is not limited to leadership. The majority of their staff has been with the company for 15-20 years. During that time, they have become a cohesive team that understands the proper ways to safely demolish a structure.
“We like that our employees take pride in the work they do, just like we do. Although this kind of work can often be dirty and hot, we all take personal pride in accomplishing something together,” David says. As hands-on owners, it is not uncommon to find Brian and David on the job site on a daily basis, particularly on the large, high-profile projects.
The Big Bang
One of their most notable projects was the implosion of the Landmark Tower. The appropriately named 30-story structure was a focal point of downtown Fort Worth’s skyline for decades. According to Wikipedia, it is the tallest building in Texas ever imploded. Built in 1957, standing 407 feet tall, the abandoned edifice was reduced to a pile of rubble in a matter of seconds on March 18, 2006.
“The whole area we had to work in was 200 feet by 200 feet. And on two sides of the building, it was touching the sidewalks for the adjacent streets. So, it was very limited space,” David describes. A lot of work, preparation and several hundred pounds of explosives were necessary to turn the skyscraper into a huge cloud of dust and debris.
“There are different types of explosives for the different types of building structures,” Brian says. “For this job we used dynamite and shaped charges—the same explosives NASA uses to separate parts of a rocket when they shoot it into space.”
The morning of the job, there was a well-orchestrated plan involving the police and fire departments to control the streets with blockades to keep people away from the work site. A siren sequence went off and then the button was pushed, which initiated the countdown and ignited the charges. From that point on, the team became spectators like the crowds of people who gathered to witness the toppling of the tower.
“You have a project that would normally take months to bring down and condense that into a 10-second event,” Brian says. “You do all the preparation work that you know you need to do, and you feel confident about it. But at the same time, you know that once that button is pushed, whatever happens at that point is basically out of your control. So, it’s very stressful, but it’s also very exciting.”
Methodology, Risks and Rewards
The use of explosives to demolish a structure is only one of the methods at their disposal. Although implosion draws the most attention, the technique isn’t employed for most jobs. More common methods involve the use of ball and crane, demolition excavators with special attachments for various tasks, or manually taking a structure down by hand.
Determining the best method to use is an important part of the process, along with educating owners about the risks. The knowledgeable team at Midwest Wrecking is able to walk through a project with the site owners and guide them on what to do to keep their people safe and manage their risks. “Owners really don’t know what they’re exposing themselves to. So, we not only do the demolition work, but we also work as a consultant to them,” David says.
There is a wide range of hazards that could be associated with each project. For example, utilities—including electricity and gas—can pose a danger if not properly managed, moved or worked around. Communications often will need to be maintained on the site, so the fiber optic networks must be protected.
Midwest Wrecking is a company of people who have devoted their careers to becoming experts in a complex and dynamic segment of the construction industry. They are passionate about their work, the variety of projects they encounter and the outcome they provide for their clients.
“We’re 100% committed to the business and stay up to date on the latest technologies and equipment. We’re just a company that loves the business that we’re in and are committed to being the best contractor that we can be,” Brian says.