For a time it appeared that no suitable use could be found for the east end of the “C”, where the Rice-Semple House had sat on temporary supports for so many months. Then Dr. Bronner announced that this remnant parcel would be utilized for a maintenance building which would serve all of the downtown RSA structures. A central maintenance facility for the 2-million square feet of RSA buildings was an excellent concept, and we worked on the scheme off and on for well over a year.
PH&J’s receipt of the design contract for the maintenance building was a little torturous. You should recall that Goodwyn-Mills-Cawood had been given the RSA contract to design the downtown outlet mall and the parking deck to serve both the mall and the Tower. When the mall proposal fell through for lack of vendor interest, GMC had only a parking deck and that did not appear adequate to fulfill whatever political debt that who-knows had incurred. Thus, to augment the GMC contract, the Goodwyn firm was given the assignment to develop the RSA’s waterfall park and the Activity Center.
Apparently the additional work still fell short of the mark, and Dr. Bronner called me in and said that the architectural contract for the Helen Hunt Child Care Center would be taken from PH&J and given to Goodwyn-Mills-Cawood. Bronner was most apologetic and admitted that the affair was beyond his control. To assuage both our feelings, he proposed that PH&J design the maintenance facility he was about to announce.
Unfortunately, the tiny L-shaped piece of ground could hardly contain the facility. We struggled manfully to produce an acceptable design which could house the electrical, mechanical, plumbing, security and landscape departments, and in addition hold stockpiles of all the supplies and building materials needed to operate the ten huge RSA structures. It just could not be done, especially when Bronner refused to allow a visible truck entrance into the compound from Monroe Street. In fact, the entire site was not really adequate to accommodate even a landscape support operation.
All the while we were working on the design, I was lauding Dr. Bronner for accepting the central facility concept. That meant he would have one highly paid guy over all his buildings, and that the RSA could then employ a capable electrician, a real mechanical guy, and experienced plumber, etc. The concept also meant that each building manager, then relieved of a maintenance responsibility, could be a PR-sales-oriented guy who could put love on the tenants and manage the janitorial operation. Under the system then (and still) in effect, the RSA building managers are mostly maintenance hacks of one sort or another, and are universally despised by their tenants.
Finally, Bronner’s frustration over the complexity and magnitude of the proposed central maintenance operation got the better of him and he canceled the project. As a result, the building management approach did not change and his crotchety group of managers just go on pissing off the tenants. The tenants cry on my shoulder every time I wander into one of the four RSA office buildings.
-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)