Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Official! Cowell Memorial Smokestack Day...A Good (and Hot!) Time Was Had by All

After over six years, countless volunteer hours and many dollars, the Cowell Smokestack Demolition and Restoration celebrated its end on Saturday, August 29th. The day was officially designated "Cowell Smokestack Memorial Day" in a special surprise proclamation by the City of Concord Mayor, Laura Hoffmeister (seen above). The full proclamation can be read here.

It was a beautiful (but very hot!) Saturday for the Walnut Country Community Fair and Smokestack Celebration. A fair-like atmosphere permeated the greenbelt area around the memorial complete with booths, kiddie events and food. The dedication ceremony above marked the official opening of our memorial where we recognized our volunteers, received our proclamation and officially cut the ribbon.

It has been fun, challenging and at time frustrating. But the dedication of our contractors, our volunteers and our Board of Directors made it all possible. Please watch this space in the coming days for a complete report out on the project and our results. Thanks so much for your comments and the tremendous fun on this ride!

Check out my two favorite sites for more on the smokestack, great pictures and the best community news at and at Cowellian's site.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Big Day is HERE...We Are DONE!

A little less than three months ago, she stood proud and tall, yet disabled. It was her time and she had to go. We were all sad to see her go, but we knew it was time. With great fanfare and respect, we began to put her down. Bit by bit and chunk by chunk, the great jaws chewed her down foot-by-foot.

The Cowell Smokestack had an auspicious beginning over 73 years ago. It all began as a lawsuit (believe it or not), to protect the area farmers' crops. The cement factory supported by the stack, The Cowell Portland Cement Company, was the largest in the world for a time. The cement produced was used in many of the buildings built in the bay area at the time including the Bay Bridge.

She stood tall for over 73 years but barely used for just 10 of those. Her real legacy came in the landmark status she gained over the years. People would know they were nearing home when they saw her. Pilots coming into Buchanan Airport in Concord used it as a marked when communicating with the tower there. And for Walnut Country (The Crossings), she was a source of pride and a place where people met and weddings were held (it's true!)

She is not gone, just 270 feet shorter. The Cowell Smokestack Demolition and Restoration Project has been a huge success. It was completed faster and for less money than anticipated. The result is a beautiful monument befitting her legacy where all can come and reminisce. Today, we celebrate the completion of the project and the rebirth of the Cowell Smokestack as a monument. I have been honored and humbled to be a part of it and here form so many of you how it was a part of your lives. Please join us today at 11:30 a.m. for the dedication and the fun.

Thanks for joining us for all of these weeks and keep your eyes posted here for more info in the future.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cowell, We Have a Memorial!

Another major milestone has been reached in the project...the memorial is now complete! On Monday, the pedestal was lined with brick and our beautiful plaque, just flown in from Ohio, was installed. The fence is down so all can come and take their first close look.

And attention, skateboarders, the edges of the stack are lined with "skateboard stoppers" so we can keep the memorial in good shape.

The landscaping is coming along very nicely with the addition of boulders at the entrance to the site from Lawson Ct. This week, we will be planting several new plants in the area (drought tolerant to save water as well!). All of this will be leading up to our celebration this coming Saturday, August 29th beginning at 11 a.m.
I am extremely proud of all who have supported the project including our homeowners with their patience and financial support, our Board of Directors, our wonderful and tireless Smokestack Committee volunteers and our contractor EBI and our awesome construction manager, Ron Gaither of Swinerton. Without all of these folks, none of this would have happened and it wouldn't look as good as it does! Thanks to ALL of you!

See our Urgent News section to the left for details on our celebration event. See you Saturday!

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...DONE!

Our beloved greenbelt and smokestack memorial are looking more complete every day and getting quickly back to "normal". But there is still the absence of the shadow of the great concrete monolith that once towered there.

This week it's all really coming together. The memorial had the pedestal completed and is awaiting only the brick masonry and the installation of our memorial plaque next week. The landscaping has made the most progress turning what used to be 4 foot high weeds and dirt into an emerald green carpet dotted with new trees. As Project Manager, I take a lot of pride in what all of our volunteers and contractors have done and created. It will be a monumental end to a long journey which will come to a celebratory end on Saturday, August 29th.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Fence is Down and We're in the Stretch!

As we enter the home stretch to the Cowell Smokestack project, the activity is reaching a fever pitch in anticipation of completion.

LAST Chance to Get Your Brick! - Tomorrow, Saturday, August 15th is the last chance to get your souvenir brick. We'll be at the Walnut Country (Crossings) Business Office on Lawson Ct. from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Anyone in the community can come down and choose their very own souvenir smokestack brick. We'll give them out until we run out so come on down!

The Memorial Grows... - The smokestack memorial is looking better every day. The outside has been "skim" coated to smooth the surface and the paint is being applied to make it look like ti once did. The inside will stay in it's natural state so those who visit can see what it looked like. The form for our pedestal is ready for its concrete this coming week. It will then be lined with brick and have our memorial plaque installed.

Landscaping! - The fence has been taken down so our crack gardening crew, Landscape Contractors (LCC), can begin the final irrigation work in preparing for planting of our new maple trees and sod next week. With the fence down, you can get a close up view of how nice the memorial has turned out. Come take a look!

Mark Weinmann
Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Bricks Are Moving Out...

I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance and enthusiasm of our Crossings community at our first brick distribution. We had over 100 homeowners show up to pick up their very own piece of history. We had folks from the old town of Cowell along with long time homeowners, their kids and grandkids. We thought the best brick recipient was this little guy who brought his own wagon to cart his brick home.

Next Saturday, August 15th from 9 to 11 a.m. will be our last distribution for anyone interested to come pick up a brick. We still have plenty and encourage you to come down and get yours and take a look at how our restoration and memorial are coming along.

We hope to see you there!

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager

Friday, August 7, 2009

It's All Coming Together!

As an old friend of mine used to say, "I love it when a plan comes together!" Our smokestack project is definitely coming together. The pace of progress is picking up as we near the completion of the construction phase and, at the same time, begin our landscaping phase.

The new walkways and floor of the memorial were completed today. Landscaping preparation has begun in earnest as well. Come take a walk by and check out what has been done. It definitely gives you the feel of how it will soon all look when it's finished.

The next steps will include the building of the pedestal in the middle of the memorial and finishing the concrete of the memorial itself. This will give it a smooth outer finish. The inside will retain some of the "old" feel.

Our firstd day of souvenir brick distribution will be tomorrow. We hope to see many of you there. When you come by, take a walk down by the site to see the great work that's been going on. We are also hard atwork on planning our community fair and celebration and will soon post details of this event to celebrate the end of the project and show off our newly landscaped greenbelt and memorial.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Monday, August 3, 2009

So You Wanna Brick? Come and Get It!

After much anticipation, we are pleased to announce the Cowell Homeowners' Association will be distributing souvenir bricks on a limited basis in the coming two weeks!

Many of you have asked for a “piece” of the smokestack’s history. We are pleased to announce that we will distribute a brick to all interested homeowners and other interested folks. Brick samples have been tested and contain no hazardous materials. However, as this is a piece of construction rubble, each recipient will be asked to sign a liability release waiver in order to receive a brick. The bricks will be distributed to our Crossings homeowners one time only at a special day and time. They will not be available other than this date and time.
Only one brick will be distributed per household. Bricks are available on a first come, first served basis until gone.
  • Homeowners can receive their brick by coming to the CHOA Business Office on 4498 Lawson Ct. on Saturday, August 8, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • We will have a second distribution following this for members of the community who are not homeowners on August 15, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Please do not contact our business office with any inquiries about bricks. We can answer all questions on the distribution day. Any further questions can be sent to

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tip 'o the Cap to the New Monument

The smokestack monument is beginning to take shape! The concrete cap was poured earlier this week. As you can see, it will provide a nice look to the structure when completed. But skateboarders beware, it may look like good boarding terrain, but skateboard "impediments" will be installed to discourage this. Sorry.

The next step will be the construction of the new sidewalks and floor of the monument. This will take place in the coming week. Along with that, landscaping of the site will begin as well.

We have finalized and ordered our memorial plaque which will be beautiful with the artwork and text commemorating the site where the Cowell Smokestack once stood. Homeowners of the Crossings, watch you mailbox this week. A letter will be delivering some great news and announcing the distribution of souvenir bricks and our coming community celebration and dedication. More details will be available here soon.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack PM, CHOA

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hey, Smokestack, What's Going On?

Looking a little inactive around the Smokestack these days? Don't worry, we're still making progress in the project. So what IS going on, you ask? Here's a summary:
  • The monument ring construction will begin proceeding again after a short delay. In order to build it properly, we need to insure that the prep work is done well and to our specifications. This has taken a little longer than expected but is now moving once again.
  • Replacement of the sidewalk had a couple of glitches. When it was removed, we discovered electrical lines for our lighting and irrigation that were not up to today's construction standards. We have received approval of our plan to remedy this and will begin work this week to properly place the lines so sidewalk construction can start.
  • We anticipate the concrete work for the monument and sidewalks will also commence this week which will be bringing us near the end of our construction phase of the project.
  • Landscaping the area will begin soon as well. We've added some improvements to the entrance to the area from Lawson Ct. This area will be much improved with new plants that will be more drought resistant as well.
We have also begun our planning for our coming celebration and dedication of the new memorial. We are currently targeting the last Saturday in August and will have more details soon!

Check out ore new aerial photo above of the Crossings and surrounding area. We'll have this picture and a similar one taken in the late 1960's on display in our business office soon.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 3

So were you brave enough to climb 235 feet up a Smokestack? Tonight's Smokestack Stories show there may have been some brave souls out there who did just that.

Our own "Mayor of Claycord" reminisces about two such incidents in our first story. "I remember one time in the 80's somebody had to be rescued off the smokestack after they tried to climb it, and were too scared to climb back down. They didn't make it far, but far enough that they didn't want to move anymore. I went to school with the kid, I think it was around 1989, he was about 13 at the time and lived in the Crossings.

Then again, in 1995'ish, somebody climbed the stack and hung a banner from the top. He was a Clayton Valley High School student, and an expert climber (obviously). I don't remember what the banner said though, I just remember him telling everybody he climbed it and then I saw it later that day."

"Sum Random Dork" offers what may be an explanation to the Mayor's second story in his memory. "Having grown up in the Crossings (one of the 1st homes built I was 6 months old), I always loved the Smokestack. Drives home you could always spot it ahead and know you were almost home. But, my favorite story comes from when I was coaching the swim team in the early 90's, someone climbed the Smokestack overnight and hung a large sign. It was something about the President but nobody could make any sense of it. I guess whoever wrote it thought it made sense, but none of us had a clue. Because it referred to the President, the Secret Service was called in and took pictures of it. The issue became they couldn't figure out a way to get the sign down, so we just had to wait for the wind to take care of it. We (coaches) were asked to monitor the sign and if it came down when we were around to gather it up so the Secret Service could get a hold of it. Sadly, we were not around when it was finally blown off and nobody could figure out where it went."

We had our Board of Directors meeting tonight and all we're very pleased with our progress. We approved new additional landscaping at the end of Lawson Ct. to make the entrance to the memorial area look even better. We also made progress on the brick issue and hope to have news soon on their possible distribution.

Mark Weinmann
Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 2

Today we have a couple of different stories on folks who grew up with the Smokestack and their memories. First Ajayanand10 relates growing up in its shadow:

"I remember there being a lot of stories about the smokestack. One thing is for sure, I will definitely miss the smoke stack, it definitely wasn't an eyesore to me. I liked the fact that I could describe the area that I grew up from birth in as the area surrounding the tall stack. People would laugh at how random it was, just standing there, but I knew the story of what it was before. I even remember having nightmares when the kids used to tell me some scary stories about it! I remember, one of my friends told me that it was a cement factory, and late at night, the workers came out and started to pour cement into the people living around it! That freaked me out, but looking back on it, it was hilarious. I used to hang out on the hill across the smoke stack, even had my first kiss over there!"

Frank Sabatini of Martinez has some fond memories of it as well:

"As a child I grew up in Concord and we spent many hours during the weekend taking bike trips to Cowell. I remember many times going inside the tower as a child, before the door was cemented, and coming out a little bit dirty. To me, as a young child, it was a place to go and a monument that always left us speechless. What a tremendous site it would be each time we would come over the hill from the Clayton road side as the tower would get bigger and bigger the closer we got to it. I was around 13 years old at the time and I clearly recall planning my trips to Cowell with my brothers to see the Fire House, the tower itself and talk with the firemen as they burned down the houses one by one as practice. The town just slowly disappeared in front of our eyes and each day it became harder and harder to watch. You can take the tower down but it, and the town itself, will always be a big part of my childhood memories."

Thanks to both of you for sharing your memories.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Smokestack Stories - Volume 1

As the Smokestack project has entered the construction phase, we thought it would be a good time and fun to share some of your stories. Our first comes from De Ann Jones.

"I lived in the small town of Cowell with my parents and four siblings from 1962 to 1969. We kids have a lot of fond memories of the wide-open spaces that were available to explore and play in each day. We'd grab our bikes, a few snacks, and be off until dinnertime. The most vivid memory I have of the smokestack is the day a couple of neighbor boys locked me in it! Yep, we had complete access to the smokestack and the door at the base was left unlocked. I remember it was very windy inside and looking at the opening some 200 feet up made me dizzy as I watched the clouds roll by. I think they let me escape after about five minutes inside but it seemed much longer to a seven year old.

I now live in Martinez with my husband and two teenagers and can actually see the smokestack (albeit very small) from on top of the hill in my backyard.

We lived in Cowell until the day they (the fire department) burned down the house we were renting--I remember watching it burn. I used to be able to locate the large pepper tree that stood in our front yard until a few years ago. I think the current homeowners decided it was too big and it's gone now. I can, however, still locate some of the landmark oak trees that we climbed in as kids."

Thanks for sharing with us De Ann!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Construction Phase Begins

Another milestone has been reached in the Cowell Smokestack Demolition and Restoration Project. With demolition complete, we are on to the construction phase! So what are we building? This phase will entail the following:
  • Building of the Smokestack memorial. This will include a concrete floor and walkway, a concrete "cap" around the ring of the monument to give it a smooth finish, and the memorial plaque pedestal. The pedestal will be concrete but lined with bricks salvaged from the demolition giving it an authentic feel.
  • Replacement of the sidewalks around the memorial that were damaged in the demolition phase.
  • New and rerouted irrigation lines to accommodate the coming landscape restoration.
This phase will take the next few weeks to complete. After that we'll be looking towards the new landscape plan.

Starting tomorrow, we'll share pictures and stories submitted by YOU! So please tune in!

As a reminder, please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Demo Deed is Done

It's over and done. The Cowell Smokestack demolition has officially come to an end. Wayne Evans of EBI, our contractor, said he was extremely pleased with the progress.

With the demolition now complete, the last of the Smokestack rubble has also been removed from the site giving a preview of how things will look. The remnant of the Smokestack, seen above, has been chipped down and is being prepared for construction of the memorial. The center was filled and compacted in preparation for the concrete floor. There will also be a concrete "cap" of about 8 inches placed on the ring to provide a smooth surface. The temporary road will be removed tomorrow and the actual construction phase will begin next week. We continue to be ahead of schedule and on budget.

As a reminder, please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Demolition is Near Complete...

A shadow of its former self, the Cowell Smokestack begins to take the shape of the new memorial.

The torch cutting and concrete sawing was completed today as the Smokestack begins to take on the shape of the new memorial. We are all extremely pleased at the leadership of EBI and Ron Gaither, of Swinerton Management and Consulting in the progress being made. Overall, we are ahead of schedule and on budget for the project. We have had very few issues and no safety concerns or injuries thus far.

Please see our note in the in the Urgent News section to the right for celebration planning assistance. When the project is complete, we will be holding a celebration and dedication ceremony. If you're interested in helping, please let us know.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Final Demolition Underway Today

The final acts of demolition are currently playing out on the Cowell Smokestack today. The concrete cutting company is on site and the 1 inch thick rebar is being cut with a torch. EBI says that it will largely be done with the demolition today. It is a sad day but the beginning of the smokestack's rebirth as a memorial to how it once stood tall over this area of Concord.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

The Final Demolition Begins

The Smokestack is moving ever closer to its final height of two feet. Today the bulk of the rubble was moved out and the stack was measured for the final memorial size. has a great picture of it here by "Radar". EBI will chip it down from its height of 10 feet yesterday to just above the line and the saw cut it with a diamond blade to get to the final height. It should be interesting watching over the next several days. I'll have more picture and start sharing some of the stories we received this week.

For you souvenir fans, we haven't forgot and have saved some bricks for "possible" distribution. We just need to make sure we can clear the legal and regulatory hurdles. More details will follow as soon as available.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Load Out Continues...

While it's good to be back home, so much has happened in a week. I was out of town last week on vacation. When I left, the Smokestack was still over 100 feet tall. On my return, the crane was gone and it was down to about 10 feet with trucks loading out the rubble. I'd first like to thank my son, Derek, for all of his hard work in keeping the blog updated in my absence. Way to go, son! I'd also like to thank Smokestack Committee Chairman, Parmod Kumar, another homeowner for managing the project in my absence. He has been on invaluable assistance through this entire journey.

Demolition is currently "paused" with the Smokestack at about 10 feet. The rubble is being loaded out of the site to a local recycling facility. Nothing generated from the demolition will go to a landfill. It will take to the end of this week to finish the load out and to begin cutting the remainder of the Smokestack down to its memorial height.

Today the committee met to finalize the design of the plaque that will be installed at the memorial. One of our young residents did a fantastic job creating artwork that we will incorporate into the final design. I will be sharing that with you next week. A note of caution to souvenir hunters, we are still working on the plan for possible distribution of bricks. We ask that everyone PLEASE stay out of the site. We do have Security watching to keep all folks out due to the safety issues. We don't want anyone hurt. Until next time...

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Panoramic View of the Smokestack Site

pan of site 2
The site of the Cowell Smokestack has changed dramatically over the last two weeks. First, our 235 foot smokestack was reduced down to about 10 feet. The ground is covered with a white dust. The are huge piles of rubble with spaghetti strewn rebar, cement chunk remnants, plaster, and a bricks. Again, great work to everyone involved with the journey to get to this point.

Thanks to Derek Weinmann for the panoramic photo of the site.

What's Next?

Picture by Duane Otis

With the actual Smokestack demolition coming to a close, the big question is, "What's Next?" First comes the haul off of the rubble. Concrete, bricks and rebar are being taken to a recycling facility. Some bricks are being saved until CHOA has made a final determination if we can distribute some as souvenirs to interested folks. Next week, the clean up of the Smokestack site will begin. It will take about a week to clean up all the rubble on site. After the clean up comes the construction of the monument. After the monument is built, fences will be taken down, landscape re-done and the project will be 100% complete. We will also be having a dedication and revealing of the monument plaque followed by a community celebration. More info to follow soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's Almost Gone!

For more then seventy years, the Cowell Smokestack has stood watch over Concord. With the crane gone, part two of demo began. To date, the Smokestack has lost more than 200 feet leaving only about 10 feet remaining. The remants will be used to create the 2 foot high monument ring. We know that everyone will miss the Smokestack. It has a long past and history. Alomst seven years ago, the journey began with the discovery of damage. That journey is now culminating. It has been done swiftly and safely. We are proud of all of those involved and thank them for their efforts. The site will continue to be cleared so we can begin construction of the monument and restoration of the site.

Photographer's Wanted

Now that the Smokestack is gone, we want YOUR before and after photos of the smokestack! So please upload them. Winning photos will be used in articles and headlines! Please leave your name so we can give credit (first and last).

Entries due by June 29th.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brick Survey Results

Thanks for voting! 181 (89%) people want a brick, 19 (9%) said they don't care, and 3 (1%) still haven't decided. More details on possible distribution of the brick will be forthcoming. Caution: please don't take brick or rubble from the site, it is still very unsafe and we don't want anyone getting hurt. Thanks!

Part Two of Demo

Part two of demolition begins tomorrow. But what exactly does "part two" consist of? With the crane demobilized, EBI will use an "excavator" (a tractor wil a long arm and bucket) to demolish the rest of the Smokestack. On top of the excavator will be a much smaller concrete pulverizer. The concrete pulverizer will "tap" one section of the tower at a time. The "tap" is fast and powerful. When complete, trucks will come load out the rubble from the site.

The Crane is DOWN!

After five days of being shadowed by a 250 ton crane, today June 24, 2009 the crane was demobilized. Demobilized basically means to take down. Workers began at 7:30am this morning. They brought in some new equipment for part two using the crane and then they took the crane down. After they began to clean up the sight a little. Tomorrow part two of demolition will begin.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Week Two Begins with News

The Cowell Smokestack project is back and running for week two. Already this week we have some important info. First we want to tell you all that the smokestack is now forty feet tall. Yea! Second, the crane will be demobilized (taken down) this Wednesday 6/24/09. We are a few days ahead of schedule. Take a look at how much the Smokestack has lost, you can almost not see it! Let's think last September the Smokestack stood watch over, but know nearly 5 days after the start of the project it is almost gone. The Smokestack has been "chewed" down nearly 195ft from the 235ft it was at. Great work every one!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Demo Week One Complete

The smokestack has stood watch over our city for more than seventy years; but through the last week it has slowly begun to disappear. The smokestack has lost over one-hundred feet already. Week one of demo has been great. Progress has been ahead of schedule.

I am very proud and humbled by the work of EBI and Bigge and their crew of men who work hard, fast, and safe to get the job done. I am also very proud of Ron Gaither from Swinerton who has manged this project excellently. I tip my hat to these guys and say, "Great work everyone."

I also found this really cool picture from Cowellian's site showing the week.s significant progress. Take a look!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day Three - I'm Not Half The Stack I Used To Be

As I arrived home this evening, I was both shocked and surprised to see the Smokestack is almost half gone. I am surprised at the tremendous progress EBI and Bigge Crane are making. After just three days, the stack is a shadow of its former self. I was shocked as it truly is disappearing. I can't see it from my front porch anymore. It is sad, which puzzles me, as I'm the one in charge of making sure we bring it down.

We are watching the site closely as more and more rubble piles up. We want to insure the security and safety of all who are nearby. We have security around when the workers are not so please be respectful.

EBI continues to get better at there job and refining their methods. Dust control continues to improve and Thieu new method of chewing grooves farther down has sped up progress. At this rate the Smokestack will be gone in a little more than a week. As it comes to an end, we will begin anew by honoring it with our memorial Smokestack ring. Stay tuned for an image of what it will look like in future posts.

Cowellian, I hope you don't mind my use of your picture. Check out his blog with great Smokestack stories and memories here.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day Two - Great Progress Continues!

The Cowell Smokestack is slowly being chewed down. As I came up over the crest of the hill on Ygnacio Valley Road, it took just a little longer for the top of the smokestack to appear on the horizon - a telltale sign that it is shrinking. EBI and Bigge Crane continue to make good progress while running a very safe operation. We are and continue to be impressed. Ron Gaither of Swinerton Management & Consulting is also doing a great job managing the site and taking care of issues. I know he has spoken personally to many homeowners out there and kept them informed. Thanks, Ron!

We continue to get good press for our efforts and their is much interest in the disappearing smokestack. Here's a couple of stories from today:

Contra Costa Times Story - 6/17/2009
CBS 5 Morning News - 6/17/09

On to day three and continued safe progress!

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day One of Demo is Done

Day One of the Smokestack demolition is in the books. We had a very successful day with much progress and no issues to report. Spectators were out in force for most of the day including Tillie and Bill Larkins. Tillie was a resident of the Town of Cowell and worked at the old Cowell Cement Plant in the 30s and 40s. Like the rest of us, she was sad to see it go.

Special thanks to resident Phil Grover for the great close-ups of the jaws working at the top of the stack.

A good 20 feet was removed today with the top cornice being the part requiring most effort due to its thickness and metal plates on top. The jaws chewed through and made good progress . There was little dust and the debirs fell right where it was planned to. All-in-all, it was a very successful first day. The CHOA send out a big thanks to all who are working including Evans Brothers, Inc, Bigge Crane and Swinerton.

See also the post below for new coverage of the event.

-Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Demolition Is Underway!!!

At just after 8 a.m. this morning, a 6 year journey began its final leg. The huge jaws of the concrete pulverizer were lowered on to the top of the Cowell Smokestack. With the push of a pedal, the jaws closed and took their first bite of the smokestack. A collective sigh and shouts of "Awww" could be heard from the crowd of people who gathered to see it. News crews from the local papers and television/radio stations reported on the event live.

"Today is the day," said Mark Weinmann, Project Manager, "we are very excited and sentimental at the same time."

For media coverage of the event, click the links below:

Monday, June 15, 2009

WOW! The Crane is Up!

The 250 ton crane with its 300 foot boom arrived on schedule early this morning. It was an incredible sight as they put section by section together down Lawson Ct. Then the concrete pulverizer arrived and was readied. At about 1 p.m. they "boomed up" raising the boom and positioning it over the Smokestack. It was truly impressive and done quickly and safely by EBI and Bigge Crane with many spectators staring in awe.

Ann Notarangelo from Channel 5 News was on hand to watch and spoke to several residents for a story that aired Monday night on their 6 p.m. newscast. Click this link for the story from CBS5.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Crane Day is Here!!

Today is Crane Mobilization Day! In a few hours, the 250 ton crane will be here and beginning to set-up and mobilize.

I was out at the Smokestack earlier this evening and was pleasnatly surprised to see many friends, neighbors and other from the community stopping by to say a fond "goodbye" to our beloved Cowell Smokestack. We took some final pictures before the big days this week. As we get closer to the demolition, I find myself becoming extremely sentimental. This puzzles me somewhat because I don't have nearly as much "history" as many of you I've heard from. But it alsoplease me. With a little more than a day to go, it is fun abd gratifyibg to see people coming out to the stack.

I, like all of you, will miss it terribly. See you tomorrow.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The End is Near

At our project status meeting on Friday, plans an preparations were finalized for the beginning of demolition of the Smokestack next week. Monday will see the mobilization of the 250 ton crane and its 300 foot boom. Lawson Ct. will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m for this activity which will also be noisy. Bigge Crane, the operators, hope to have the crane set-up before that time but we have scheduled the closure until 5 p.m. in case there are issues. Once the crane is set-up, it must be rigged with the hydraulic lines and the concrete pulverizer which will perform the actual demolition.

On Tuesday, demolition will begin first thing at around 7:30 a.m. We do expect some media may be covering this event and are asking all residents and media to view from the basketball court at the end of Oakbrook Court or from the end of Black Walnut across from the Smokestack.

I will see you all there. Please come talk to me if you have any questions. I'll be happy to answer them.

Mark Weinmann, Cowell Smokestack Project Manager, CHOA

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do YOU Have a Smokestack Story?

As I was coming home yesterday, I crested the hill just before the Crossings on Ygnacio Valley and saw the Smokestack as I rounded the corner. A wave of nostalgia came over me as I remember the first time I crested that hill when I moved here 10 years ago. I, like many of you, will miss this landmark.

It occurred to me that many of you may have your own stories to share about the Smokestack or the old Town of Cowell. At our community meeting back in May, Mayor Laura Hoffmeister told me about how she used to ride her bike to the area and play with her friends here. We'd like to hear YOUR stories.

Anyone can post a comment to this item by using the link below. Let us know your stories and we'll publish the best of them right here. There just might be a "brick" in it for you.

Mark Weinmann, Project Manager, CHOA

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Day Two - The Site Looks Good!

Our contractor continues hard at work in getting the site ready for demolition next week. With the site cleared, the metal plates have been set to cover and protect utilities underground. Today a "rock" ramp (as seen here) was constructed from Lawson Ct. down top the smokestack which will allow vehicles and equipment better and safer access to the site.

We are currently scheduled to bring in the 250 ton crane next Monday, June 15th. This will take up Lawson Ct. closing it down while they construct the 300 ft. boom. The hope is the the crane will be ready with the concrete pulverizer chewing device on Tuesday morning to begin demolition.

A number of interested people have expressed a desire for a "piece" of history. CHOA is investigating how we can accommodate these requests and will post information here once we have made a determination.

Mark Weinmann, Project Manager, CHOA

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day One Project Start

Our contractor Evans Brothers, Inc. is already hard at work preparing the Smokestack site for the demolition starting next week. I just visited the site and was surprised to see that it has been entirely cleared (trees removed, brush/weeds removed, old fiberglass top cut up)! They are currently laying down the steel plates to protect the utilities. It's GREAT to see that we are finally moving!

-Mark Weinmann, Project Manager, CHOA

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Preparations Underway for Smokestack Demolition Start

Beginning Monday, June 8th, Evans Brothers, Inc. will begin "mobilizing" the Smokestack site in preparation for demolition. The site preparation will take about one week accoridng to Project Manager, Mark Weinmann. "Evans Brothers will be clearing and securing the site and building a ramp from Lawson Ct. down to the site for their equipment over the next week."

This will lead to the arrival and mobilization of the 250 ton, 300 foot crane next Monday, June 15th. Further information on the project can be accessed by clicking this link.

Demolition start will most likely begin on Tuesday, June 16th. More details will follow as they are available.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cowell Smokestack Project Officially Starts!

After more than 6 years of research, work and decision making, the Cowell Smokestack Demolition & Restoration Project was officially begun this week. After months of work, interviewing and hiring contractors and working with the City of Concord, the project was officially kicked off this week through the following activities:
  • Final plans and schedule submitted by the contractor and approved by CHOA
  • Permits obtained from the City of Concord after meeting more tan 50 conditions of approval
  • Project Kickoff meeting held with all project participants on June 5th
  • The Official "Notice to Proceed" was given by CHOA to Evans Brothers, Inc.
Mark Weinmann, Project Manager for the association, had this to say on the start of the project, "This is a momentous occasion months and years in the making. None of this would have been possible with out the dedication of our Smokestack Committee Volunteers, our BOD, our management partner, Swinerton and the City of Concord. While we are all sad to see the Smokestack go, we can now proceed with what is best for the entire community.

This website will keep the community informed with the latest information and developments. On the left hand side of the page you can find the latest announcements, links to information and photos, and more.

Recently, several community meetings were held to pass on the approach and details of the project. The presentation can be accessed here:

Cowell Smokestack Project Overview, June 2009