Helical Piles: Underpinning the future of the Historic Aqueduct Building.

by | May 15, 2023 | Helical Historic Preservation, Helical Piles

One of downtown Rochester’s most distinctive landmarks, the Aqueduct Building at 50 E. Broad St., fronts the Genesee River, and is part of a 1.7-acre parcel  called Aqueduct Park. This incredible building is topped by a 21-foot, 700-pound statue of Mercury.

Built in 1870, the building has served many purposes in its long history. Having housed a shoe company and a variety of law firms, the building’s future is now guaranteed as a mixed-use development, complete with office space, loft and micro-apartments, a rooftop terrace, bar and restaurant, fitness center and yoga studio. 

During renovations, it was discovered that the foundation was in need of repair. Due to the age of the building, several columns in the foundation had deteriorated, and needed to be reinforced.

That’s where we came in, providing 3.5” helical piles that were installed to support the deteriorating columns. . 

We’ve supplied helical piles to  CMI Structural Solutions for over  22-years. Their hardworking and highly experienced team and unmatched service is what makes them upstate New York’s leading geotechnical design and installation specialist. 


Accessing the Aqueduct buildings foundation presented several challenges. Access was limited by the arched aqueduct pillars in the foundation and small entries designed to preserve the historical building. The extremely limited access install space made it impractical to install most alternate deep foundation solutions. 

CMI did an incredible job of installing the 11 helical indoor piles, using an excavator with the cab removed and some creative operating! 

Helical piles offered three overarching benefits on this project: no vibrations , no spoils and compact installation equipment.

This building and it’s already deteriorating foundations would only be damaged further by vibrations. Therefore any foundation methods that involved pounding would not be an option. Helical piles are screwed into the soil so they produce no vibrations, allowing them to be installed without disturbing the historic structure.  

Installing helical piles also requires very little earthwork. Some excavation was needed to allow the machine to reach the installation area, but no soil had to be removed from the site. The installation of helical piles is also relatively mess-free and produces no spoils. This is a significant cost saver when installing inside an existing building, as spoils are costly to remove from the site and can cause delays.

Helical piles are an economical solution for sites with low headroom and other limited access scenarios. This is because minimal support equipment is needed to install helical piles, and the equipment is also compact. For this project, the piles were installed using a mini excavator that was modified to accommodate the overhead restrictions.  

Find out more about the installation in CMIs post here.

Need a deep foundation solution that can be installed in extreme limited access areas?

Contact us and ask us how we can help you with your next new-build or renovation project.