George Bowers Sr.: The folly of Millennium Tower

George Bowers Sr.

In 2002, Millennium Partners pitched a proposal to build the tallest residential building west of the Mississippi in San Francisco. The Planning Commission approved their request and the $350 million construction project began in 2005.

Four years later, the 645-foot, 58-story skyscraper known as Millennium Tower was completed and one bedroom units began selling for only $3.8 million while the pricey penthouse went for over $13 million. As the finished tower shimmered like a translucent crystal in the California sun, the designers and builders received prestigious engineering, architectural, and business awards as well as income nearly double their investment. What’s not to like?

Not only did these tycoons resemble geniuses, they resembled multi-millionaires. Until last May, when the apartment owners received notice that their towering home is now tilting toward the northwest 2 inches at the bottom and 6 inches at the top. To compound matters, this tallest concrete structure in the city stands near the San Andreas Fault, which has produced some of history’s most devastating earthquakes. How do you like me now?

It turns out that the concrete piles driven into the mud and sand under the building are over 100 feet short of the bedrock. As a result, the building has actually sunk 16 inches so far, and the price of apartments has sunk by $200,000. Numerous lawsuits now face the rich masterminds who designed and built this structure.

These folks would have done well to heed Jesus’s building advice of 2,000 years ago. In Luke 6, he warned that foundations laid on rocks are secure, while those on sand are not. Although the literal interpretation is proved true yet again, the spiritual applications are even more significant. Individuals, families, churches, and cultures will be sturdier if they are built on the rock-solid truths of God’s word. Failing to do so will result in embarrassment at least and disaster at worst.

Today, many marriages, institutions, and governmental structures are listing badly and some have already collapsed. Persons who ignore Jesus’ words often end up destroying themselves as well as others. A multitude of calamities could be averted through wise building ahead of time instead of repair and remediation later. Sadly, it seems many are uninterested in sound advice and continue to build their lives and value systems disregarding Jesus’ guidance.

Jesus indicated that a building’s integrity will be tested when, not if, floods come. Floods always come. Winds always blow. Earthquakes always hit. Builders in San Francisco should expect these things and we should expect storms, floods, and earthquakes in our lives as well. The time to prepare is not when the waters are rising or our buildings are swaying, but during construction years before.

Some of our structural issues may not be apparent at first. Our foundation may only be a little out of kilter, or as my Dad would say, catawampus. It is barely discernable until disaster strikes and it all comes crashing down. It may be a habit of alcohol, drugs, pornography, lust, or lying. It may be selfishness, anger, doubt, or bitterness. We should invite Jesus to inspect and expose our weaknesses and remedy them now rather than be destroyed by the storms later.

In contrast to Millennium Tower, Samuel Kercheval describes how Valentine Rhodes built his mill on Cedar Creek in “A History of the Valley of Virginia.” The foundation’s west wall was 5 feet thick and consisted of stones 8 feet long, 18 inches thick, and weighing several tons. His neighbors probably thought it was overkill, but the author said that in spite of several floods, the immense walls resisted the waters and the mill was not damaged. People may call us fanatical, extreme, or foolish for radical obedience, but I’d rather endure abuse now and be able to withstand the floods, than get washed away with others later.

Sturdy lives are built one godly decision at a time like cinderblocks or stones laid in a foundation. Decision by decision. Choice by choice. Day by day. Course by course. Until the walls rise up sturdy to hold life’s pressures and strains. We must build our foundations with strong faith and obedience for Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 that “Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Let’s heed his words and build our lives upon them.

Building for Jesus, George

George Bowers Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume III.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at gabowers@shentel.net.