With precautions in place, 6 huge fans air-lifted to Omaha high-rise's roof

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Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 5:55 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

When air-lifting 2,796-pound industrial fans over Omaha's main thoroughfare, one can't be too careful.

So before the St. Louis Helicopter service could fly six huge blowers and other mechanical equipment to the rooftop of the Wire apartment high-rise at 19th and Dodge Streets, NuStyle Development and its contractors had a list of safety items to check off.

They evacuated the top two floors of a neighboring building, watered down the area to lessen dust and made sure all movable materials were tied down.

They got the necessary permits, arranged for a street closure and set up a staging area across Dodge Street at a Central High School parking lot.

“It's quite the event,” said Gabriel Gianes, regional manager for NuStyle, which is redeveloping the 12-story structure that formerly housed Northwestern Bell offices.

Six fans, two weighing 2,796 pounds each and others weighing 1,271 pounds apiece, were air-lifted one at a time Sunday because of their size, said Jarl Rue of Aksarben Heating and Air-Conditioning, which is working for NuStyle on the project. (The larger, 10-feet-high fans had their near 300-pound motors removed and lifted separately to lighten those loads.)

The blowers and hefty anti-humidity equipment for the Wire's swimming pool were lifted from the parking lot and carried across Dodge Street to the roof of the apartment complex.

It took more than two hours, including on-site preparation, but several onlookers stayed for the duration.

“It was worth the wait,” said Andy Yelinek, who spent the early hours of his eighth birthday watching the helicopter adventure with his dad, Jim.

Rue said afterward that all was in order, although the event took longer than planned and was one of his firm's more difficult lifts because of the closeness of downtown structures.

The fans will be installed for safety reasons. They'll turn on in the case of a fire, pressurizing stair towers and elevators so smoke doesn't block escape paths.

NuStyle has started to pre-lease the nearly 300 Wire apartments as construction continues on the 380,000-square-foot structure that sat vacant for nearly two decades. The top floor is to open to tenants in June. One additional floor will open each month as construction crews finish level by level.

The Wire is the largest conversion project yet for NuStyle, which recently celebrated 25 years in business and 40 renovations of historic structures.

The building will have a basketball and racquetball court, a wrap-around rooftop deck and an open atrium reaching from the lobby to the roof. Original artwork will have a theme related to communication, said Gianes.

As a creative nod to the building's name and history, a copper wire will wind through the structure as a decorative feature.

“It's a fun, sort of follow-the-wire thing,” said Gianes, the NuStyle manager.

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