Very superstitious? Construction companies keep the tradition of the topping-out ceremony alive

hilton topping outby Dan Rafter

Are construction companies superstitious? Maybe just a bit.

Consider the tradition of topping out.

Topping-out is a construction tradition dating back more than 1,000 years, and it’s all based in an old superstition. Back in the old days, people believed that they needed to appease the gods and ancestral spirits who made their homes in the trees that people cut and used to erect new buildings.

Construction companies today often honor this old tradition. When they wrap construction of the top story of a new building — especially on high-profile projectes — construction workers will hold their own topping-out ceremonies.

Just look to downtown Cleveland. Turner Construction Company is in the middle of building the $272 million Hilton Cleveland Downtown, scheduled to open in June of 2016. The 600-room convention center and hotel will be a key addition to the city’s center, located adjacent to FirstEnergy Stadium and connected to the new Cleveland Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation.

The hotel celebrated a milestone yesterday when officials from Turner Construction Company, Hilton Worldwide, the city and Cuyahoga County gathered to mark the building’s official topping-out ceremony.

For this particular version of the topping-out ceremony, attendees signed a signle symbolic construction beam. In a nod to tradition, ceremony organizers had mounted a small tree on top of it. The beam also came with its own American flag, in recognition that the 2016 National Republic Convention will be held in downtown Cleveland.

“The topping out is a significant accomplishment, and we are on track to complete the work in the spring as planned,” said Marty Burgwinkle, project executive with Turner Construction Company’s Cleveland office. “We think the community will be proud of this hotel.”

The new hotel is just the latest evidence that downtown Cleveland is on the rise. The 32-floor Hilton Cleveland Downtown will add more than 46,000 square feet of function space to the city’s downtown, including a 20,778-square-foot grand ballroom and 15,729-square-foot junior ballroom.

The hotel will also include nine meeting rooms and a subterranean passage that will connect hotel visitors to the Cleveland Convention Center.

The hotel project is a collaboration between the Cuyahoga County Council, Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council and the City of Cleveland. The hotel is expected to open in June of 2016.

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