AOG Services Provided:
Marriott’s side-by-side, dual-branded Cascade and aLoft hotels at 46th & Wornall Road in Kansas City are reinvigorating the Country Club Plaza’s profile as a vibrant hub for locals and out-of-town visitors. Behind the scenes, Alpha-Omega Geotech played a key role in ensuring quality construction through Materials Testing and Special Inspections services, and a reputation for keeping work on schedule and within budget.
A New Plaza Vision Realized
Designed by the acclaimed DLR Group, the $105 million Cascade and aLoft hotels are connected in an impressive architectural achievement that fits the Plaza environment just right. They seamlessly blend contemporary style with Spanish revival and Mediterranean architecture, continuing the Plaza’s traditional aesthetic while introducing an innovative spirit.
The hotel combination soars beyond offering only lodging accommodation. It promises an unparalleled experience with modern design amenities, retail and restaurant spaces, a rooftop bar, spa, and so much more in a location already well known for exquisite shopping and dining.
From Concrete to Steel: AOG’s Expertise Delivers
Together, the Cascade and aLoft hotels are especially massive, casting a long shadow across neighboring buildings. An extraordinary amount of concrete from top to bottom is defining, and immediately signaled complexity when general contractor Ryan Companies first introduced the project to AOG Business Director and Inspections expert Blake Bennett.
“For AOG, this was a significant project due to the extensive use of concrete. It’s one of the tallest and biggest projects we’ve ever done,” says Bennett recalling his first impression. “The structural design relied heavily on concrete columns with post-tension concrete slabs, which required about two years of relentless inspection work and testing.”
Concrete columns with post-tension concrete slabs boost structural efficiency, reduce costs, and help ensure long-term durability and safety. Another benefit is fewer columns to complicate open spaces, which fosters a clean and modern aesthetic. The result is an enormous building with lots of room for architectural creativity.
“When they do this kind of slab, they run post tension steel cables through. And then they pour concrete around it. After that concrete hardens, they stress those cables to put tension on the slab and strengthen it for a long life. Pulling everything together is difficult and extremely precise work, and getting it right is critical.”
Bennett says AOG’s seasoned field technicians locked-in their inspection skills to ensure structural integrity as contractors carefully positioned huge pieces of the puzzle with painstaking processes.
“Our more experienced technicians made a significant impact, especially with reinforcing steel, post-tension slabs, and floor flatness throughout the structure. This project provided an opportunity to deploy a wide range of our services, including deep foundation inspections. We loved the challenge.”
With tens of thousands of yards of concrete and thousands of tons of reinforcing steel involved, the project’s scale rises to a level that’s not all that common in the Kansas City area. It immediately reminded Bennett of the Children’s Mercy Research Tower, another colossal endeavor where AOG’s expertise was called into action. “It’s definitely up there with the Research Tower. These types of projects really give us a chance to flex our array of skills.”
Collaboration and Efficiency Sharpens Strategies
Initial discussions with Ryan Companies’ project manager laid the foundation for a strong partnership. Bennett outlined AOG’s approach, emphasizing opportunities for efficiency, and demonstrating a thorough understanding of large-scale construction planning in anticipation of the general contractor’s needs.
“I described a well thought out sequence for integrating our services, based on our assumptions about Ryan Companies’ planning. I wanted them to know we understand how they work and our proposal was built on that understanding.”
AOG’s ability to quickly comprehend a general contractor’s vision and objectives often makes us a preferred geotech partner. It instills confidence and trust, and demonstrates a clear focus on getting things done correctly and efficiently.
“If we get an opportunity to sit and talk with a general contractor, nine times out of ten, they will choose AOG for their project,” says Bennett, reflecting on decades of wide-ranging collaborative experience. “We take the time to get a firm grip on their specific goals, which is something our competitors tend to skip past.”
One notable challenge in the hotels project was its architectural complexity. Bennett says that unlike the repetitive nature of typical office building designs, the hotels demanded a more creative approach.
“Generally, when you’re constructing an office building, by the time you get to the third or fourth floor, it becomes rinse and repeat. This was not the case with Cascade and aLoft. These designs were creative on many levels and required our constant attention during construction.”
AOG kept one senior technician on-site full-time for much of the project timeline, and brought in a second technician at key moments to help coordinate multiple operations going on simultaneously. Blake says it was an efficient strategy focused on giving the project only what it needed, when it needed it.
“We stationed one technician on-site who became the point of contact for AOG in everything related to inspections. He communicated with Ryan Companies daily, keeping the rest of the AOG team informed about progress and changing plans. He was there talking with them every day. He knew what they were doing and what was coming.”
A large, corporate partner might have handled things differently. Imagine a geotech manager juggling multiple projects spread out over multiple regions of the country. Sometimes the point person is available in a pinch, sometimes not. And their approach to the work may be overly conservative and seemingly set in stone, with excessive costs and little room for fielding curveballs that often pop up at complicated project sites.
In contrast, AOG empowered its on-site technicians to take charge and own the project. “Our technicians are in constant communication with the project team, problem-solving on the fly, digging into the details, and ensuring that everything proceeds smoothly,” Bennett emphasizes. “They monitor concrete deliveries, weather conditions, and other critical aspects.” The result is a strong bond with the project team, allowing AOG to streamline processes while diligently managing costs.
Celebrating a Collective Pride
As the Cascade and aLoft hotels officially open to the public, all of us at AOG take immense pride in being part of the team that brought these remarkable structures to life. Bennett considers the work another milestone on AOG’s journey as our firm enters its fifth decade serving the Kansas City area exclusively.
“What a great way to present our city and the Plaza specifically to visitors, and give locals an opportunity to rediscover it. These hotels will be admired for years to come, shaping Kansas City’s landscape and identity. When we look across Kansas City, we see our work in so many buildings. It’s a great feeling for all of us to share with our families and our community.”