Monday, 29 December 2008

Canadian Students Build Robot

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STEALTH UNDERWATER ROBOT HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

Cutline: McGill University graduate student Olivia Chiu and York University’s Jim Zacher hold AQUA at the Adventure Show held in Mississauga earlier this year.

AQUA, a new experimental underwater robot, can walk on the ocean floor, noiselessly swim amongst school fish unnoticed, and quietly crawl out the of the water and walk onto the beach when its mission is over. So stealthful is this 6-limbed robot that it almost went unnoticed when it made its Mississauga, Ontario debut at the February Adventure Show.
Built over a period of four years, AQUA is described as “an amphibious walking and swimming robot”. However, for visitors to the Adventure Show, AQUA looked like a safety deposit box with three flippers sticking out of each side.
“ This is the second generation of AQUA” said Jim Zacher, a York University graduate student. “ IT is the result of an on-going research study involving McGill, York University and Dalhousie universities. We started work on this project back in 2002. Over the past six years we have been combining the capabilities demonstrated by both insect and marine life, to make a robot that is comfortable in both the terrestrial and aquatic worlds.”
The 18 kg robot swims through the water powered by its six flippers. It is almost noiseless and swims freely amongst fish who don’t consider the slow moving aluminum box as a threat. It has already reached a depth of 43 metres on a shake-out trip to the Bahamas.
It has two cameras in front and one in the back. The images it sees are fed back to the surface by a thin fiber optic tether. A technician on the surface directs the robot through the water. As well the university students have programmed the robot to be able to “read” simple instructions printed on waterproof cards so that it need not be tethered to the surface to operate.
The AQUA project has received funding from a number of government and educational sources, including the Canadian Space Agency. Waterline Sports, a Toronto dive shop has become a sponsor, assisting the students involved in the project, with scuba gear used in their open water robot trials. They also gave the students space in their booth at the Adventure Show to let divers get a glimpse of the mini-robot.
“If we can get investment money we want to take this project even farther,” said Zacher. “ This unit can go anywhere a diver can – in fact it is strong enough to tow a diver through the water. It can swim in a 21/2 knot current and it doesn’t have to worry about passing through toxic waste or other environmentally challenged zones. “
The robot is small and light. In warm water trials conducted in Barbados two years ago, AQUA was launched by simply tossing it into the water from shore. It is currently powered by removable 48 volt lithium ion batteries that give it over 2 hours of bottom-time.
Zacher estimates that the Aqua prototype brought to the Mississauga show cost about $50,000 to make. That price tag will fall dramatically if the robot ever goes into production.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Pacific Yachting Magazine story by Stephen Weir about the St Maarten's 12 Metre Challenge


St. Maarten’s 12 metre Challenge. It’s the 1987 America’s Cup over and over again…


Tired old racehorses are put out to pasture. Over-the-hill greyhounds become family pets. And retired 12-metre racing yachts? For five veterans of the extended 1987 America’s Cup campaign, the Golden Years are spent forever rerunning that famous series of races in the warm waters off St Maartens in the Caribbean Sea.
Now that America’s Cup has switched to the International America's Cup Class size, the 12-metre has begun to fall out of favour with competitive racers. Although not dead yet (there still a few key 12-metre races being held) in terms of the Big Show, the once mighty 12-metre class seems destined for marine museum collections.
But wait, in St Maartens, Canadian businessman Colin Percy has rescued five of the greatest 12 metre yachts ever sailed and brought them to the Dutch/French island of St Maarten. Three to four times a day visitors can now participate in a mini-America's Cup race in actual boats from the 1987 competition, including Canadian yacht designer Bruce Kirby’s Canada II and Steve Killing’s True North I 12 KC-87 and True North IV 12 KC-4.
For over a decade Colin Percy has been operating his 12-metre Challenge races out of the port city of Philipsburg St. Maarten. Headquartered beside a mammoth cruise ship dock which annually welcomes a million tourists, Mr. Percy has no trouble finding wanna-be sheet jockeys willing to pay up to $100 each to crew on the 12-metre boats and spend two hours racing a stripped down version of an America’s Cup race.
Most days the faux competition features two boats from the company’s stable of five yachts. For my race, (held on a day when 4 oversized cruise ships were in port), a “match race” was held with three boats – Canada II, and Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes US-55 and Stars and Stripes US-56.
“Star BORED “ complained one teenager as he sat in the Grinder pit waiting for the onboard humourous pre-race talk by the skipper and his three crew members to end. A burley chap wearing a Princess Cruise Line cap (who rate this as the number 1 attraction in the Caribbean) loudly explained to his winch-wench wife that the front of the boat is called the “curtsey”.
This was obviously not a crew who had much knowledge of anything nautical beyond the free rum (and beer, and wine coolers) rations. No matter, over the course of the race the 18 volunteers on each of the three yachts, hoisted the sails, ground the grinders, winched the winches, and screamed at each other across the opens seas as the trio of skippers tried to steal each others wind.
It was a noisy race, with the paying crew depended on the skipper to explain exactly when and why we were whooping it up! But, by the time the boats had completed the triangular shaped course most of the people on board had a clear understanding of how a 12-metre challenge is run and had some insight into strategies needed to win a high stakes race.
“ I was really happy when Colin Percy acquired both True North vessels,” said yacht designer Steve Killing. “True North I raced in Pacific Sea trials, but the other boat was never finished. You know the syndicate ran out of money and her unfinished hull was in East Coast yard for years.”
“They bought her, took her down to St Maartens and finished her. That is great! “ he explained. “They made some modifications, but basically it is the 12-Metre I designed. I haven’t been down yet to see them but I am glad they are still be raced today.”
The modifications that Mr. Killing referred to are minor. The St. Maarten outfit has a policy to maintain the boats in as original condition as possible. The only changes being those designed to improve guest safety, such as lifelines, raising the boom and roller furling systems.
True North never did race in America’s Cup. It was built as the first of two – its owner Don Green (the winner of Canada's Cup) wanted to build one boat from Mr. Killing’s plans and test it thoroughly. From the lessons learnt they would build a second boat incorporating those modifications considered key to improve the speed. Following this, both boats would be "maximized" by racing against each other, constantly improving. Unfortunately, due to over zealous spending in the early days the second boat -- the one designed to compete for the Cup – was never finished.
In preparing for America’s Cup, True North competed in California and lost to Canada II (now also part of the St Maarten fleet).
Canada II was the Western Canadian yacht designed by Bruce Kirby. She was originally built for the 1983 America's Cup and race under the name Canada I. For 1987 she underwent major alterations, in keeping with the Australia sea conditions. Renamed Canada II she was outfitted with a new bow, stern section, and a state-of-the-art winged keel.
Canada II was defeated by Dennis Conner's Stars & Stripes '87 12 US-55. The winning vessel, along with Mr. Conner’s alternate boat Star & Stripes '86, 12 US-56 are now also in St. Maartens.
Quite often these days True North IV 12 KC-4 and Stars and Stripes ’87 face-off against each other in the race that should have been. Guess which boat has won the most races? Nobody knows.
“Due to the fact that we are open 364 days per year and we do up to 4 races per day with up to 2 pairs of 2 boats, we do not keep records of who wins each of our races,” explained Kim Van Loo with the St. Maarten 12 Metre Challenge. “ However, during the Heineken Regatta of ‘96 we invited Dennis Conner to helm his America's Cup winning Stars & Stripes, this developed into a match race between True North IV and Stars & Stripes over a period of 4 1/2 hours of racing during which the lead changed some 8 times.”
“Canada’s True North IV (the unfinished Killing boat) was driven by one of our own skippers,” she continued. “Skippy Hammond managed to pip Stars & Stripes at the post by 13 seconds. This raises the very big question... what if?”


Sidebar 1 - Just the facts

The dual nation island of St. Maartens and Saint Martin is in the Caribbean Sea, 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. It covers 37 square miles, with Dutch St. Maarten on the South spanning 16 square miles and French Saint Martin on the North covering 21 square miles.
As a part of the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, St.Maarten (population 41,000) boasts 77 different nationalities. Saint Martin (population 36,000) is a commune of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France. English is spoken everywhere, but Dutch is the official language of St.Maarten, and French the official language of Saint Martin.
Currently there is direct charter service to St. Maartens from Canada via Conquest Vacations (Toronto and Halifax). Scheduled American carriers with routing out of Canada include American Airlines, Delta, US Airways, Continental and Northwest.
Canadian citizens need only a valid passport and a return/continuing ticket to visit the island. No vaccination certificates are required. St. Maarten is the only completely duty-free port in the Caribbean.
For more information visit: www.st-maarten.com or call the St. Maarten Tourist Office in Toronto (416-622-4300).


By Stephen Weir
416-801-3101 cell
416-489-5868
s1weir@aol.com and/or sweir5492@rogers.com

St Maarten sailing story Sidebar



Sidebar: And try the Aussie challenge!
Cutline: size chart. 12-metre boat vs car

Can’t get enough of the 12-metre Challenge experience? The next time you are in Australia visit the Melbourne 12-metre Challenge experience.

The Aussie 12 Metre Challenge provides a day of America's Cup Style Racing on board the prestigious "Kookaburra" and "Kiwi” and caters for groups from 10 to 120 people.

The Kookaburra I (KA II) is a high profile 12 Metre Yacht, known for its participation in the 1987 America's Cup Defense in Perth. Kookaburra defeated the Bond Group's Australia IV to defend the Cup for Australia. She also appeared as the feature yacht in the movie "Wind".

The Kiwi (New Zealand - KZ3) also campaigned in the 1987 America's Cup. It was nicknamed the "Plastic Fantastic" for being the first fiberglass boat ever built. Kiwi was sold to the Japanese Syndicate and called "Nippon", before being brought back to Australia in 1998.

They are berthed at the RYCV in Williamstown – also the training camp of Australia II and Challenge 12 in 1982.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Feeding Sharks - posting of older National Post article at the request of a reader


Underwater encounters off St. Maartens
The sharks’ bad table manners leave bloody bits of
half-eaten mackerel in spectators’ hair

By Stephen Weir

Underwater, a mile off shore from the island of St. Maartens, surrounded by a pack of hungry 10 foot sharks I learned an important life lesson. Always look an incoming shark in the eye and stare ‘em down … and if that shark’s nictitating membrane suddenly drops over the eye you are glaring at, put your hands under your armpits and pray!
“Show fear?” said shark trainer Estanda Koblasa. “You can’t even think fear. They will know and they will be on you like a pack of dogs chasing a mailman.”
Three afternoons a week Estanda is the centre of attention at an underwater sushi party for sharks. While the Czech diver dishes out hunks of raw meat to the sleek gray fish a dozen paying customers sit on the ocean floor and watch this high voltage dinner.
“There are shark feeds in a couple of other Caribbean islands, ” said Estanda. “Here in St. Maarten’s we do it a little different. I have been training these sharks for the past year. I can actually lead an eight foot shark right in front of a diver before it will take a bite from the food.”
How close is close? When I got out of the water after a half-hour shark encounter, I found fish bits, which have fallen from the mouths of the passing sharks in my hair!
Estanda works for Dive Safaris, a dive firm headquartered in Philipsburg, the capitol of the Dutch side of this two country (French & Dutch) island. The local company is kept busy catering to the cruise market – a million tourists make land within site of their fleet of dive boats every year.
In fact most of the people who take part in the St. Maarten’s Shark Awareness Dive, are passengers from any of the 490 cruise ships that call on the tiny Caribbean island.
“We screen out the inexperienced and the nervous by making everyone who wants to take part in the afternoon Shark Awareness trip take a check-out dive with us in the morning,” explained Dive Safaris owner Whitney Keough. “We want them to do at least one regular dive with us to make sure they are competent – their air consumption needs to be good. “
Getting low on air in the middle of the shark feed may not be a very good thing. Imagine swimming up from 50 feet through a dozen circling and darting Grey Reef (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) and Caribbean Reef (Carcharhinus Perezi) sharks who are so intent on getting a piece of meat that they would sooner swim through you than go around.
Most days a dozen brave souls qualify to take part in the $100 cd half-hour dive. (Because most cruise ship goers don’t have equipment, the fee includes the rental of all underwater gear, the boat ride and all the raw fish the sharks can drop on you).
“ We advise people to overweight themselves,” said Ms. Keough. “We have placed cement blocks in the feeding area and we ask everyone to grab a block, hold on tight and watch. Having a few extra pounds of lead around your waist will keep you well planted.”
The dive site is a 10-minute run from the harbor out to a sandy shoal a mile offshore. Dive Safari’s boat 38ft Still Waters, has on open transom, you simply get into your dive equipment and waddle back to the stern and step off into the warm blue water.
The feeding zone is a short swim from the base of the mooring pin. In fact as you fall slowly down to the sand bottom 50 ft below, you can see the sharks begin to gather, near a semi-circle of cinder blocks.
Estanda brought a small box filled with pieces of frozen mackerel to this underwater theatre. He quickly transferred the fish into a larger weighted box that is permanently chained to the bottom.
The brief exposure of the “chumsickle” was enough to get the attention of the 14 sharks that could be seen off in the distance. Within seconds the sharks, ranging in size from 3 ft to 10 ft long, began to circle around Estanda and the box. Gil Antigua, the safety diver, positioned himself behind me; he had a small pole that could be used to ward off any shark that might get too frisky.
The glass faceplate on a dive mask magnifies by a factor of 40%. When I went on the solo shark dive with Estanda, the 8ft Grey Reef shark looked about 10 ft long. He said that looking through my mask my eyes were about the size of “soup bowls.”
Estanda opened the box and took out a piece of meat and skewered it with a spear. He looked at an incoming Grey Shark, then nodded at me to get my camera ready.
As the shark opened its mouth and lifted its nictitating membrane over its eye (sharks instinctively do this to protect their eyes when they are taking prey) Estanda began to lead the shark towards my camera lens. When it was 2 feet away, he made an audible click with a dolphin underwater training device and the shark bit down on the food.
Mouth dripping bits of half-chewed fish; the big shark passed right over my head. It didn’t touch, but I could feel the current created by the swimming motion of the shark.
After that the feeding was methodical, with each shark taking its turn. Estanda’s training appeared to work with only a few of the sharks; they would pause in mid-flight waiting for the audible command before snatching their meal from the stick.
All of the sharks were female. One or two nuzzled the feeder and let him scratch their heads and rub them above their gill slits.
Most times when you encounter a shark underwater the meeting is very brief, it happens so quick there usually isn’t time to take a picture of the much-feared predator. In Saint Maarten your face-time with the sharks is only limited by your consumption of the air in your scuba tank.
After the initial rush of having 8 feet of teeth swim under my left armpit, I was able to relax and study the sharks as they whizzed by. Most of them were identifiable. Some bore white scars on their flanks, souvenirs from the aggressive behaviors of males during mating. Others had parasites attached to their dorsal fins.
“I know them all and they know me. They are much smarter than you think. If you work with the sharks on a regular basis you get to easily recognize them.” Estanda said. “ We give them names . . . Big Mama, Scratch, and Notch are just a few of our regulars.
So docile were a couple of the small sharks, they let Estanda flip them over onto their backs. As was first noticed by dive pioneer Jacques Cousteau, when a shark is turned upside down it stops swimming and goes stiff-as-a-board rigid until it is righted again.
Despite his claims that the sharks would turn on him if he showed fear, Dive Safari’s safety record is impeccable. Not a single shark or diver has been injured on the Shark Awareness Dive. And, unlike shark experiences elsewhere, Estanda, and his guides shun the wearing of protective gear (underwater chainmail).
It takes about 20 minutes to conduct the feeding. Even after the food supply has been exhausted, the sharks continue to whizz over my head, across my chest and near underwater camera.
Waiting for the sharks to leave town, Estanda and I kept busy sifting through the sand around the food box. Sharks feed agressively, even when their meal is handed to them on a fork, we found several shark’s teeth which had come loose and fallen out of their jaws during dinner.
By the time we swam back to the boat the area appeared to be shark free. The beasts had moved on to look for the next meal.
“We do not want to harm them in any way,” said Whitney Keough. “In order to preserve their natural feeding instincts, we only feed them a small amount every other day.”
““We decided to feed our sharks for a couple of reasons,” she continued. “First off, we love watching them and diving with them. Secondly, we want to educate divers on how important sharks are to the future of the Eco-system. In addition, we want to dispel and relieve people’s irrational fear of sharks.”
Not everyone agrees that these sorts of programs benefit sharks or people for that matter. In fact, in the state of Florida, shark dives have been banned for the past year.
The state’s wildlife department has made it illegal to feed marine animals. Officials in Florida have not linked shark dives with a spate of shark attacks last year. However they do say that shark-feeding dives cause sharks to lose their natural fear of humans and may serve to attract and concentrate sharks in areas near popular beaches, increasing the possibility of attacks.
The Florida-based International Shark Attack File recorded a total of 60 unprovoked attacks in 2002, down from 72 in 2001 and 85 in 2000. Three of those were fatal -- two in Australia and one in Brazil, compared to five in 2001 and 13 in 2000. None of the fatalities included scuba divers or snorkellers.
“We are monitoring the Shark Awareness dives,” said St Maartens Tourism Director Regina LaBega. “We know that the species of sharks they are feeding (Grey and Caribbean reef) are not particularly dangerous, however we are aware of the Florida concerns.”

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Info on the island

St. Maarten is the smallest Island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. The Dutch side, with Philipsburg as its capital occupies the southern 17 square miles of this 37-square-mile island; St. Martin, a French dependency, occupies the northern half.
On the Dutchside the official currency is the Antillean guilder, but the American dollar is extensively used. The Guilder, the Euro and the US dollar is honouredFrench side.
St Maarten is a safe and pleasant place to visit, The total population has grown from 13,156 in 1980 to nearly 40,000 in year 2003. It is estimated that the population of St. Maarten consists of 77 different nationalities. The native languages are English and Dutch.
There are close to a dozen dive operators on the island of St. Maarten. Dive Safaris is the only firm offering a shark dive. For more information:
Dive Safaris
6800 SW 40th Street #100-46
Miami, Florida 33155
Bobby's Marina In Philipsburg
Shop: 011-599-542-9001
Cell: 011-5995-573436
Fax: 011-5995-428983
La Palapa - Simpson Bay
Shop: 011-599-545-3213
Fax: 011-5995-453209
http://www.diveguide.com/divesafaris/f2115.htm

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sidebar - Five things you shouldn't do when feeding sharks


cutline - food falling out of shark's mouth at St Maarten's underwater feeding. Photo by Stephen Weir

5 things to avoid doing during a shark dive and their consequences if you do

1. Don’t pet the sharks.
They may nip at your hand thinking you are another shark trying to steal their food. Because of the sharp nature of those teeth, even a small nip requires immediate medical attention. If still have to stroke a shark, wear gloves, their skin is sandpaper rough.
2. Don’t pick up discarded meat and hand feed the sharks yourself.
Sharks rip, they don’t chew. When the meat is grabbed the shark will immediately shake its head back and forth with enough force to dislocate you shoulder (if you don’t let go).
3. Don’t point! These sharks aren’t interested in you, but, if you offer finger food ….
If you aren’t holding a camera, and hanging on to a cement block the experts advise you to put your hands under your armpits.
4. Don’t use an external power source for your underwater flash.
Sharks are very sensitive to electronic noise. The sound of a flash recharging can attract the unwanted attention of a shark (from personal experience, while in Florida my cameraman’s underwater housing was constant being bitten by angry sharks). Best is to use an underwater digital video camera with the light constantly on.
5. Don’t leave the dive until the food has gone.
The shark dives are usually held on a sand bottom. Both the fish and the spectators get rather excited during the feed and as a result the water gets very murky, what with the dust and the fish bits. It is hard to see and you don’t want to block their way to the buffet table! Always make sure you can see who has come to dinner before you decide to leave the dining area.

Diving in St Maartens by Stephen Weir
Published in Diver Magazine and the National Post Newspaper

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Metro picks up Toronto Star story about College Park





cutine: artist's drawing of an Aura condo suite

College Park condo set to top Eaton’s vision
Stephen Weir, for Metro Canada
13 November 2008 01:31

(The subway newspaper Metro - owned in part by the Star - picked up my College Park story from the Star, edited and added a couple of sidebars that they found on this website.) The article had two pictures.

College Park is on the upswing of a roller-coaster ride of boom, bust and boom all over again.
A revitalized Eaton’s College Park building, with its iconic, five-star Carlu Hall, has reignited an economic fascination for one of downtown Toronto’s most prestigious and historic blocks, bounded by College, Gerrard, Bay and Yonge streets.
Canderel Stoneridge is poised to begin construction of Aura, a 75-storey condominium tower just south of College Park at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard. The residential skyscraper will cover the last street level parking lot along Yonge Street downtown. It will create a vertical community of close to 3,000 people on a block that was once supposed to be the retail epicentre of Canada.
The British Empire is now a dusty memory, but an 80-year-old architectural dream for a classier, bigger and higher College Park still lingers. Aura will be one of the tallest residential buildings in the Commonwealth of Nations and will almost fulfil a corporate dream made by the Eaton family business during the Depression.
When the sod for the limestone and granite College Park store was turned back in 1928, Eaton had grandiose plans to construct the tallest building in the Empire, says Toronto historian, author and broadcaster Mike Filey.
The lower levels would become the retail flagship of Eaton’s department store chain and the upper floors would become both corporate headquarters and rental office space. Before the stately skyscraper could become a reality, the plans were drastically slashed from 36 floors to just seven. The dream of international greatness for the College Park block was put on hold.
“I believe, among other things, the designers (the same firm that designed the Royal York and Maple Leaf Gardens) ran into water problems on site. And while they dealt with that (there was) the economic downturn caused by the Depression,” explained Filey.
The seven-storey limestone and granite Eaton emporium, complete with a looming street-level Roman style archway, wasn’t noteworthy by British Empire standards, but was a bold retail statement for the Dominion. In 1977, the Eaton College Street store was shut down with the coming of the Toronto Eaton Centre.
College Street was converted into a warren of street level, small high-end boutiques. Most of the upper levels were converted into apartment and courts.
Six years after the close of the College Street Eaton store, a decidedly not art deco-style building was cleaved onto the west side of the building — 777 Bay St., a 30-storey sterile glass and steel office tower best known for housing a Haida totem pole — Three Watchmen — carved by Haida artist Robert Davidson.
A row of 10 multi-storey townhouses now line the west side of the Barbara Ann Scott Park and ice rink that is right outside the back door of the old Eaton store.
Two new tall condos — The Residences of College Park — have been built on the west end of the block and are now linked by tunnel to the retail malls and subway station. The Liberties, a 20-storey L-shaped condominium complex at the southwest corner of Bay and Gerrard, completes the block.
In 2003 and 2004, the Carlu — named after its famed designer, French architect Jacques Carlu — was reborn. The banquet facility and auditorium now look exactly as they did in the glory years, except that they are updated with 21st-century technology.
The challenge for the Aura architects is to make sure their super-sized condo does not completely overshadow the Carlu — the very building that is attracting buyers to the block as it is in constant demand for five-star wedding receptions, private parties, fundraisers.
“The Aura will respect the lines of the Eaton building. The podium matches the height lines of the old building. It is an art deco treasure. We cannot mimic it, our design refines it,” said Berardo Graziani of Graziani + Corazza Architects.
Aura will be massive. Its builders will be pouring concrete for the next few years as it goes up 75 storeys (including a four-storey podium). There will be a large retail operation in the podium, above and below the street. An underground mall will link Aura with College Park and the subway.
Eventually, all the buildings on the College Block will be linked to the city’s underground “Path” network. There will be no surface level parking around the Aura. With entrances off Bay and Gerrard streets, a massive garage and loading dock will connect the condo with College Park, 777 Bay St. and the two other Canderel Stoneridge-built towers. The building plans have gone through many changes to answer the concerns of the community.
When will the big hole begin to get dug? The answer, like the multimillion-dollar suites that will populate the upper floors of the Aura, is up in the air. A construction start is dependent on the overall sales of the condo units (they range in price from $500,000 to $17.5 million).
“We are very close to that point,” said Dhanji. “We have sold approximately 75 per cent. Once another 5 to 10 per cent have moved we can begin.”

Big

• With close to 1,000 condo units, Aura will have the population of a town the size of Lakefield.

Standing tall

• The tallest residential building in the Empire and the world is the Eureka Tower. The 12-year-old building is a 300-metre, 91-storey skyscraper located in Melbourne, Australia.
• The 78-storey Q1 Apartment Tower, also in Australia, claims that it is the tallest residential building in the world when measured to the top of its spire, which reaches a height of 322.5m.
The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat note that there are several residential (condominium) towers being built that will eclipse the Eureka Tower when completed. They are:
• Burj Dubai, Dubai. 160-plus storeys. Office, condo and hotel building and 800m tall.
• Pentominium, Dubai. 120 storeys or 618m.
• Russia Tower Moscow 118 storeys. Office, hotel, and residential building, 612m.
• Chicago Spire, Chicago 150 storeys. Condominium building standing 609m tall.

Memories
Historian, author and broadcaster Mike Filey remembers the great Eaton College Park store:

• Building showed the status of the Eaton firm, to be able to build that big during the Depression.
• Building was designed by the same firm that designed Maple Leaf Gardens and the Royal York hotel.
• Building was to showcase what was then the northern end of downtown Toronto. However, expansion jumped over College Park to the Bloor-Yonge intersection.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The rebirth of a Depression-era dream





An artist's rendering shows Eaton’s original plan in the 1920s for a tower at College and Yonge Sts. On a block once meant to be Toronto's retail epicentre, a 75-storey condo is poised to rise


November 08, 2008
Toronto Daily Star. Saturday Condo Section. 3-page Cover Story
Stephen Weir
Special to the Star


College Park is on the upswing of a roller-coaster ride of boom, bust and boom all over again.
A revitalized Eaton's College Park building, with its iconic, five-star Carlu Hall, has reignited an economic fascination for one of downtown Toronto's most prestigious and historic blocks, bounded by College, Gerrard, Bay and Yonge Sts.
Canderel Stoneridge is poised to begin construction of Aura, a 75-storey condominium tower just south of College Park at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard. The residential skyscraper will cover the last street level parking lot along Yonge St. downtown. It will create a vertical community of close to 3,000 people on a block that was once supposed to be the retail epicentre of Canada.
The British Empire is now a dusty memory, but an 80-year-old architectural dream for a classier, bigger and higher College Park still lingers. Aura will be one of the tallest residential buildings in the Commonwealth of Nations and will almost fulfill a corporate dream made by the Eaton family business during the Depression.
When the sod for the limestone and granite College Park store was turned back in 1928, Eaton had grandiose plans to construct the tallest building in the Empire, says Toronto historian, author and broadcaster Mike Filey.
The lower levels would become the retail flagship of Eaton's department store chain and the upper floors would become both corporate headquarters and rental office space. Before the stately skyscraper could become a reality, the plans were drastically slashed from 36 floors to just seven. The dream of international greatness for the College Park block was put on hold.
"I believe, among other things, the designers (the same firm that designed the Royal York and Maple Leaf Gardens) ran into water problems on site. And while they dealt with that and the economic downturn caused by the Depression, the city's downtown business leapfrogged from Queen right over College to Bloor," explained Filey.
"Bloor and Yonge became one of the important intersections. However, College Park was still a terrific building and store. Carriage trade, for sure."
The seven-storey limestone and granite Eaton emporium, complete with a looming street-level Roman style archway, wasn't noteworthy by British Empire standards, but was a bold retail statement for the Dominion. With its indoor art deco shopping concourse and an exquisite seventh floor Round Room restaurant and auditorium, the store catered to the rich and famous without forgetting the needs of the common folk.
It was the first real carriage trade super store for Hogtown's hoi polloi. Fine furniture ("the largest furniture and house furnishings store in the British Empire") was its stock-in-trade. There was also an art gallery that regularly exhibited Group of Seven painter Frank Johnston. Dinner in the banana yellow seventh floor Round Room – formal dinner wear, please – before attending a Leafs game down the street, was the real Hockey Night in Canada. Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, the National Ballet of Canada and Glenn Gould all performed in the auditorium.
In 1977, two doors close, one big set of glass doors opens. The 56,000-square-metre Eaton College St. store and the Eaton store at Queen and Yonge Sts. were shut down with the coming of the Toronto Eaton Centre. College St. was converted into a warren of street level, small high-end boutiques. Most of the upper levels, excluding the now-empty auditorium, were converted into apartment units and provincial court facilities.
Six years after the close of the College St. Eaton store, a decidedly not art deco-style building was cleaved onto the west side of the building – 777 Bay St., a 30-storey sterile glass and steel office tower best known for housing a Haida totem pole – Three Watchmen – carved by Haida artist Robert Davidson.
Once the headquarters for Maclean's magazine and the Maclean-Hunter publishing company, the building's office floors are now leased by the province. About 65 per cent of the building houses government activities.
While all this business brought thousands of people daily through the building's subway station, that traffic did little to halt the building's slide into a land of fast food, coffee emporiums, magazine stands and dry cleaning dropoffs. Today, the biggest retail tenants at College Park and 777 Bay are Winners, Metro (formerly Dominion) and Dollarama.
There is also a bank of criminal and youth provincial courts, holding cells and probation offices installed in the upper floors of the old Eaton's store, making the decline of high-end shopping complete.
However, the winds of change are blowing hard. Very few empty spots can be found on the retail levels of the block buildings. A row of 10 multi-storey townhouses now line the west side of the Barbara Ann Scott Park and ice rink that is right outside the back door of the old Eaton store.
Two new tall condos – The Residences of College Park – have been built on the west end of the block and are now linked by tunnel to the retail malls and subway station. The Liberties, a 20-storey L-shaped condominium complex at the southwest corner of Bay and Gerrard, completes the block.
For a brief moment in time, the 51-storey Residences of College Park was the highest – based on floors – condominium in the city. That has been eclipsed by the 54-storey Minto North Tower on Yonge St., and over the next five years will be dwarfed by its own 75-storey Aura condominium, shown left.
"I think what really held the rebirth of College Park back," said Kyle Rae, the city councillor for the ward, "was the reluctance of the caretakers of the building to preserve and restore the iconic seventh floor. They wanted to gut it and turn it into offices (for the Toronto Dominion bank). We wouldn't let that happen."
As a result of city opposition, that floor sat empty for 25 years. They (Toronto College Street Centre Ltd., controlled by London Life Insurance) found themselves at odds with the city. Great West Life (GWL) bought London Life in 1997 and made a commitment to restore what was a badly damaged and neglected historic site. The city, in return, supported GWL's bid to build two huge condos on Bay St.
"Yes, we put a gun to their heads, but look at what has been achieved," said Rae. "The Carlu is the linchpin for the rebirth of College Park."
In the summer of 2001, Toronto entrepreneurs Jeffry Roick and Mark Robert leased the seventh floor and began what they called the highest profile heritage restoration in Canada. A year and a half, later the Carlu – named after its famed designer, French architect Jacques Carlu –was reborn. The banquet facility and auditorium now look exactly as they did in the glory years, except that they are updated with 21st century technology.
The Carlu is in constant demand for five-star wedding receptions, private parties, fundraisers and most recently, rocker Bryan Adams (he performed two unplugged concerts in September).
"This was not a Disneyland-style reconstruction, this was the real thing," explained Mark Robert. "Yes, we are pioneers, but there is a real opportunity here and our success has validated that. We show, every night, that people will spend the big dollars to be here. People are even willing to ride the subway in black tie.
"It is fabulous, the city is so gung-ho," continued the Carlu's managing partner. "This is now a 24/7 community where people live and work. There is a greater presence of police – their headquarters are across the street – making it very safe. And having a dedicated elevator service directly to our floor separates us (from the courts and its clientele)."
The challenge for the Aura architects is to make sure that their super-sized condo does not completely overshadow the Carlu – the very building that is attracting buyers to the block.
"The Aura will respect the lines of the Eaton building. The podium matches the height lines of the old building. It is an art deco treasure. We cannot mimic it, our design refines it," said Berardo Graziani of Graziani + Corazza Architects.
Aura will be massive. Its builders will be pouring concrete for the next few years as it goes up 75 storeys (including a four-storey podium). There will be a large retail operation in the podium, above and below the street. An underground mall will link Aura with College Park and the subway.
Eventually all of the buildings on the College Block will be linked to the city's underground "Path" network. There will be no surface level parking around the Aura. With entrances off Bay and Gerrard Sts. a massive garage and loading dock will connect the condo with College Park, 777 Bay St. and the two other Canderel Stoneridge-built towers. The building plans have gone through many changes to answer the concerns of the community.
With close to 1,000 condo units, Aura will have the population of a town the size of Lakefield. Unlike most of the other new condos being built below Bloor St., this building may well need childcare facilities. Aura has a number of family-sized 2 1/2- and three-bedroom suites."When we first looked at the College Park Block, we realized that nothing focused on this beautiful inner city park. There was no edge to it, only back doors," explained Graziani.
"When we designed Phase 1 and 2 (The Residences of College Park) we decided that there should be eyes on the park. The condos that were constructed look directly down into the park. As well, we put in a row of townhouses with front doors that open onto the grass."
"Aura will have a two-storey lobby – a high wall of curtain glass – that opens right onto the park," he continued. "there will be public space inside, the art that will be hung will look more like a gallery than a lobby. It will animate the edge of the park. To have this amount of space is invigorating. Canderel Stoneridge from the start has wanted to fix up this open space, especially in how people come into the park."
The Mississauga-based architect says that right now, most people are unaware of the park. That is because Yonge St. pedestrians must cut through a parking lot, or nip out the back door of the College Park buildings, to reach the well-groomed green space.
Back in the day, there used to be Hayter St., an east/west roadway between College and Gerrard Sts. Once Aura is built, Hayter will return, albeit as a mall, giving pedestrian access to the park, the stores and the skyscraper.
"People love to live in tall buildings, especially tall buildings overtop subways, that is the new way," said Riz Dhanji, Canderel Stoneridge's vice-president of sales and marketing. "At the Aura you can walk to the subway, to work, to school or use your bike (Aura will have 200 bike racks). With a direct link to College Park and its Dominion store, people won't have to go outside.
"We will have a landscaped rooftop (patio) on the fifth floor, and top-notch recreational facilities," he continued. "What people are looking for is convenience, and we will have a combined 180,000 square feet of retail space available for the right set of tenants." All of the stores, boutiques and restaurants will have floor-to-ceiling windows, facing onto Yonge St.
When will the big hole begin to get dug? The answer, like the multi-million-dollar suites that will populate the upper floors of the Aura, is up in the air. A construction start is dependent on the overall sales of the condo units (they range in price from $500,000 to $17.5 million).
"We are very close to that point," said Dhanji. "We have sold approximately 75 per cent. Once another 5 to 10 per cent have moved we can begin. We are (also) waiting on the necessary approvals from the city, TTC and other stakeholders in order to get started, which we anticipate will happen in the spring."
It will take years to construct the 245-metre Aura. Just as the Eaton company dreamed, when Aura is finished, the College Park block will be one of the tallest residential towers in the Commonwealth – but not for long. Already, there are two condo towers in Australia that break the tape measure, and more tall town-sized towers are planned for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Tallest Condo Buildings in the British Empire - sidebar that didn't make it in my Toronto Star feature story



Cutline: Otis Elevator's artist rendition of the Burj Dubai (currently under construction in Dubai) - soon to be the world's tallest residential towers.

On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. There was no room to place the attached sidebar. The actual article appears above (scroll up)

Tallest Residential Building in the Empire

• The tallest residential building in the Empire and the world is the Eureka Tower. The 12-year old building is a 300-metre (984 ft) 91-storey skyscraper located in Melbourne, Australia.
• The 78-storey Q1 Apartment Tower, also in Australia, claims that it is the tallest residential building in the world when measured to the top of its spire, which reaches a height of 322.5m (1,058 ft).
• The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat note that there are several residential (condominium) towers being built that will eclipse the Eureka Tower when completed. They are:
o Burj Dubai, Dubai. 160+ storeys. Office, condo and hotel building 2600+ ft (800m) tall
o Pentominium, Dubai. 120 storeys. Residential 2028 ft (618m) tall
o Russia Tower Moscow 118 storeys. Office, hotel, and residential building, 2009 ft (612m)
o Chicago Spire, Chicago 150 stories. Condominium building 2000 ft ( 609 m)

#5 College Park Story - Sidebars that didn't make it into print



On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. The actual article appears above (scroll up)

Historian, author and broadcaster Mike Filey remembers the great Eaton College Park store

• It is part of the city’s history, it is part of our fabric
• My Dad worked there … in the men’s wear. That is where my mother met him
• Building showed the status of the Eaton firm, to be able to build that big during the Depression.
• “flagship of the Eaton Empire”, but soil conditions and the Depression caused the company to scale back the size of the building
• A Grey Coach bus would take shoppers from the Queen Street Eaton’s to College Park. They even had their own transit ticket.
• I used to get my car serviced at the BA Gas Station at Eaton College Park’s Automotive Centre off Hayter Street
• Building was designed by the same firm that designed Maple Leaf Gardens and the Royal York hotel
• Building was to showcase what was then the northern end of downtown Toronto. City core grew faster than Eaton anticipated and expansion leapfrogged over College Park to the Bloor and Yonge St intersection
• Carlton and College Streets originally did not meet head on. The city convinced Eaton to give up land so that one streetcar line could run from College to Carlton in front of the store.

#4 College Park Story - Sidebars that didn't make it into print

On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. There was no room for this and several other sidebars. The actual article appears above (scroll up)


Lawyers. Guns and Money

30 minutes in Court Room 2 – College Park, Ontario Provincial Criminal Court:
• A Boston Pizza waitress tells the court that she has found new friends, changed her lifestyle and will go back to school. She was stopped by RIDE on Eglinton Avenue during the summer. She is fined $600
• A translator is needed to help a man plead guilty to drunk driving after he too was caught by RIDE on Eglinton. He is fined $1,000 and prohibited from driving for a year.
• A 19 –year old is lead into court handcuffed. He is sentenced to a few days in jail for missing court dates and for stealing a lap top computer. The judge is told that the man – a professional DJ - went to an apartment to apologize to another man for an earlier incident. When that person left the room he took a computer.
• A young mother is lead into court in handcuffs. She has missed probation meetings and court hearings. She tells the court that she is waiting to get into a rehab programme for crack addicts and wants out of jail to celebrate her daughter’s third birthday. The judge does not want to release the woman but does so after discussions with the Crown Attorney. The woman is shown to the Parole office.
• A man wearing a black AC/DC T-shirt pleads guilty to a charge of shoplifting from a Canadian Tire store. He pleads not-guilty to a charge of possession of a controlled substance (he says the pills are Tylenol) and his held over for trial.

#3 College Park Story - Sidebars that didn't make it into print





On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. There was no room to place the attached sidebar. The actual article appears above (scroll up)

Cutline: artist's drawing of an Aura condo living room

Three new levels of government will be created when the Aura is built!

Condo unit owners of almost 1,000 suites and the owners of the Podium retail floors must belong to self-governing condominium associations:

• Three condo associations based on floor location will be created
• One condo association for the retail floors up to the 4th floor
• Second condo association for floors 5 to 55
• Third condo association for floors 56 and up.

#2 College Park Story - Sidebars that didn't make it into print



On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. There was no room to place the attached sidebar.The actual article appears above (scroll up)

777 Bay Street Dollarrama. University of Ryerson students ‘08 version of an Eaton’s department store.

What you can buy there for a dollar:
• Individual plates, cups, glasses and cutlery
• 3 movies on 1 DVD including Peter Lorre in Mr. Moto’s Last Warning
• Pregnancy test kit
• Deluxe can of Vienna Sausages
• Bendable pen in the shape of a dolphin
• 100 sheets of paper
• Squeezy container of bright yellow paint
• CD album case covered in poodle pictures
• Energy star light bulb
• Box of Uncle Ben’s rice

#1 College Park Story - Sidebars that didn't make it into print

*

On Saturday November 8th, the Toronto Star ran a major feature I wrote about the downtown Toronto city block of College Park. The 3-page story appeared on the cover of the Condo section. There was no room to place the attached sidebar. The actual article appears above (scroll up)

7 Things To Do At the College Park Block

• Renew your driver’s license in the giant ServiceOntario Centre -- basement of 777 Bay
• Witness people loose their driver’s licenses in provincial criminal court. Justice system at work on the 2nd Floor College Park
• Photograph the Three Watchmen Totem Poles carved by Haida artist Robert Davidson in 1984 to mark the city’s Sesquicentennial year. The work is made up a 50 foot and two 30 foot totem poles – center mall 777 Bay Street
• Do something nice – dig deep and take in a charity event at Carlu
• Get off the subway buy dinner in the College Park Dominion Store (soon to be Metro store) and get onto the College streetcar before your transfer times out
• Dangle you toes in Barbara Ann Scott Park pond
• Buy a tube steak from Mrs. Dalloway’s hot dog stand at the corner of Yonge and Gerrard. Meet Ryerson students and thrifty out-of-town Delta Hotel guests
• Get invited to College Park Apartment tenant appreciation roof garden party
• Buy a coffee at Residence of College Park’s Starbucks (on Bay Street) and listen for stock tips, police stories and political gossip
• Try a West Coast pizza at Ponago. The BC Company has 160 outlets across Canada but only one in downtown Toronto -- the Liberties on Gerrard.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

#6 - Sidebar that didn't make it into print in Toronto Star Story about College Park

*
Rent a Piece of the Block

In addition to the condos already built on College Park, there are over 400 apartments available for rent in the old Eaton building. Great Western Life’s College Park Suites has bachelor, 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom units for rent.

• Two bedroom apartment rent starts at $2,250 a month
• Parking for residents is $85 per month.
• 24-hour surveillance and monitoring
• When residents take the subway late at night, they can have a security guard meet them at the station and escort them to their suite.

Last Missing Sidebar from Toronto Star's article on College Block

*
Who Lives Where

777 Bay Street

• Retail, service and office building, built in 1983
• 30 floors. 898,060 sq. ft.

College Park

• Built between 1928 and 1930
• 7 floors of offices, Provincial Courts, retail stores, rental apartments
• linked to College Park subway station
• 1979 – reconstruction completed, 210 rental apartments added Approximately 400 residents

Residences of College Park

• Two buildings -- 51 and 46 storeys high
• 10-parkside townhouses.
• Approximately 2,600 residents

The Liberties

• The complex has two 20-storey towers and one 19-storey tower.
• Two towers are on Bay (711 and 717) and the third is on Gerrard.
• Approximately 1,000 residents.

Similar Sized Communities

There are an estimated 4,000 people living in the College Park Block. When the Aura skyscrapper is completed the Block population will be an estimated 7,000 people. According to StatsCan, Ontario towns with similar population include:
• Alymer 7,126
• Crystal Beach 6,686
• Essex 7,002
• Kincardine 6,410
• Lively 6,702
• New Hamburg 7,003
• Porcupine 7,196
• Port Elgin 6,766
• Port Perry 7,244
• Wasaga Beach 7,164

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Books Across The Ocean


Noreen Taylor and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction help
promote Canadian books in the United Kingdom


The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
is giving the nation's book industry assistance in marketing Canadian
literature to the people of the United Kingdom. At the International Festival
Of Authors (IFOA), held in Toronto over the past two weeks, Noreen Taylor, the
founder of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, donated nearly
140 non-fiction books to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International
Trade (DFAIT), to be used by the Canada High Commission in London, England.
The books, all non-fiction titles, were entered for the 2008 Charles
Taylor Prize. On stage at IFOA Ms Taylor presented a signed copy of the
winning book, Richard Gwyn's "John A.: The Man Who Made Us: The Life and Times
of John A. MacDonald, Volume One: 1815-1867 to John Bonar of DFAIT. Pictured
left to right are: Authors Lewis Desoto and Richard Gwyn (seated), Noreen
Taylor, and John Bonar. Photograph by David Tollington.

The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction is presented annually
by the Charles Taylor Foundation with the support of its partners: AVFX, Ben
McNally Books, Book TV, Bravo, Canada Newswire, CBC Radio One, The Globe and
Mail, Le Meridien King Edward Hotel, Quill & Quire publications, and
Windfields Farm.

The trustees of the Charles Taylor Foundation are Michael Bradley
(Toronto), Judith Mappin (Montreal), David Staines (Ottawa), and Noreen Taylor
(Toronto.

Photograph and story placed on cross-Canada newswire through CNW Group.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Art in Ottawa - story for Ottawa Regional Tourism



There is an art to every Ottawa trip
It is Roger Rabbit. It is 50. It is 100. It is timeless beauty

Toronto, September 6, 2008 – There is always something artistic happening in Ottawa. Depending on one’s taste, this fall you can spend an animated weekend in Ottawa being Goofy (and Porky and Bullwinkle), plus you can see how photographers snap the moment, and, admire the traditional beauty of sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is one of the world’s leading cartoon events providing first class screenings, exhibits, workshops and entertainment for both the entertainment industry and visitors alike. This annual festival is one of the biggest of its kind and attracts artists, production executives, students and fans into the city September 17 – 21, 2008 in Ottawa.

Visitors are welcome to take part in many of the festival’s activities. Staged at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa, the OIAF has a number of public screenings of both new, experimental and classic animations. There will be over 100 animated films screened at the Festival including the latest from Oscar nominee Bill Plympton, as well as Fear[s] Of The Dark - a Twilight Zone-like anthology feature of surreal tales of phobias by six international animator/directors,

Classic cartoon episodes with clips of favourite characters including Porky Pig, Felix the Cat, the Flintstones, Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle can be seen at the screenings. There will also be a 20th anniversary screening of the breakthrough film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, with its Oscar award winning animation director Richard Williams in attendance.

In addition to the screenings, there are also lectures, demonstrations and many evening parties, open to the general public. For more information visit www.animationfestival.ca. Get Drawn In.

Many of the cartoons that will be shown at the Animation Festival hail from the 1950s. The theme for Festival X, Ottawa’s annual citywide photography festival, looks farther back in time.

The second annual Festival X -- www.festivalx.ca -- which opens September 18th and runs until September 28th, is a photographic art celebration that will take place at art galleries, public buildings, and restaurants in Ottawa and Gatineau.
The theme for this year of X, the Decisive Moment, was chosen to celebrate the 100th anniversary of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s birth. Cartier-Bresson stated that, “there is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative.”

On view at the National Gallery -- www.gallery.ca -- from November 28, 2008 to March 8, 2009, is the exhibition Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture. Four hundred years ago, Italian born sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was redefining portrait sculptures, and he made a name for himself carving the likenesses of popes and saints.

In partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the National Gallery will host an international exhibition that explores the remarkable development of the sculptural portrait in early 17th century Rome. An exhibition on this topic has never been mounted before; the level of virtuosity displayed by Bernini and others in his sphere in coaxing such a rendering from the intractable medium of stone is astonishing.

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Inuit, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, American and Asian Art, as well as drawings and photography. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada’s national cultural institutions. For more information, visit www.gallery.ca.

Tourists wanting information, tickets and lodging reservations can visit www.ottawatourism.ca, a powerful website operated by Ottawa Tourism and supported by the region’s growing tourism industry.

Ottawa Tourism provides destination marketing, strategic direction and leadership in cooperation with members and partners to service the travel media and attract visitors, tours and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region. Its vision is to build recognition of Ottawa as an outstanding four-season tourism destination.

Cayman to sink US subtender


Wreck to be sunk at popular dive site - story written for divermag.com.

A 63-year old decommissioned US Naval vessel will soon be acquired by the government of the Cayman Islands and is slated to become Grand Cayman’s newest dive attraction. At a recent press briefing held in Toronto, Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce Minister Charles Clifford told Diver Magazine that he expects the USS Kittiwake to be sunk off the popular Seven Mile Beach in June, 2009.
Just a few days before speaking to Diver Mag, Minister Clifford signed an agreement on behalf of his government with the Cayman Islands Tourists Association. The agreement formalizes the government's plan to acquire the decommissioned naval ship in order to create a new dive site and give “desired relief for some of our frequently visited dive sites.”

For years the Tourist Association has been trying to acquire a US navy ship to sink off Grand Cayman. Spearheading the campaign to find and sink a ship is Canadian diver Nancy Easterbrook. Easterbrook runs Divetech, a popular dive operation in Grand Cayman and has been appointed the project manager for the sinking of the submarine tender.

In a recent government press release Easterbrook is quoted as saying, “The Kittiwake has been a labour of love and really hard work for over five years, but it is coming to fruition now. It will be transferred to government before year-end for cleaning and remediation, with an expected sinking date around June 2009.”

According to Minister Clifford, the dive industry in Cayman has already established where the vessel is going to be sunk. She will be put down onto a sand patch north of the capital city of Georgetown, off the Seven Mile Beach.

“We all look forward to seeing water-based tourism in Grand Cayman stimulated by this new underwater attraction, suitable for both divers and snorkelers,” said Easterbrook.

Built in 1945, USS Kittiwake (ASR-13), the ship is 251ft 4in (76.6m) long and 42 ft (12.8 meters) wide. During her service from 1946 to September 1994, the Kittiwake made numerous voyages between the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in support of the American submarine fleet and to conduct rescue missions for the US Navy.

During her years of service, the official crest of the Kittiwake bore the twin images of a submarine and divers hardhat. Much loved by the thousands of sailors who served on her the vessel was often called the “Kitty Cat”. She carried a compliment of 102 officers and sailors and had two large 20 mm deck guns.

Recent dive travel short stories for Diver Magazine and divermag.com


Above: the island of Nevis Below; Diver Travel News

ß The Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, once a favoured holiday retreat for Lady Di, and now a popular Nevis hotel for divers, is offering a $500 Airline Credit this fall. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club will reimburse hotel guests up to $500 toward the cost of their vacation. From October 10 through December 1, 2008 the Nevis property will apply a $500 credit at check out to help offset the cost of airfare. This 36-square-mile Caribbean island lies a couple miles south of St Kitts near the top of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.

ß The collapse of the UK's third largest package holiday group in September left hundreds of British divers stranded in the dive resort city of Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and thousands more in England holding unusable tickets. A statement on the now bankrupt XL Leisure Group's website said the closure was “a result of volatile fuel prices, the economic downturn, and were unable to obtain further funding."

ß The 78-year old John G. Shedd Aquarium’s Oceanarium (dolphin and whale tanks) in Chicago is closed for renovation. For the next eight months, the aquarium’s seven beluga whales and four Pacific white-sided dolphins are being housed and displayed in the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration. Mystic Aquarium, located in Mystic, Connecticut is the base for the famed oceanographer and explorer Dr. Robert Ballard - known best for his discovery of the RMS Titanic.

ß The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is funding a mooring project aimed to protect the fragile coral reefs of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This summer a number of permanent moorings were installed in key scuba diving areas of the sanctuary located 100 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico. The underwater park is a no anchor zone, these moorings that allow boats less than 100 feet long, to tie up and access the sanctuary. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Thursday, 21 August 2008

You Tube to accompany Toronto Star Whale Shark article


The Toronto Star has begun airing videos on its popular website thestar.com, to accompany in print articles. When i visited Atlanta, the Aquarium staff shot a video of my dive in the Whale Shark tank. George Socka added music and edited the video for use on the Star website. Ultimately the video did not run (they didn't realize there wasn't going to be any talking ... its all underwater) so it is now posted on You Tube.



www.youtube.com/watch?v=99HXO_I_v94

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Toronto Star Runs Stephen Weir Whale Shark Story: Posting of the Orginal Version of the Story



A whale (shark) of an experience
Toronto Star July 19, 2008

The Toronto Star published my whale shark story on July 19th. The three-page feature was the cover story on the Travel Section. I originally wrote a 1,300 word story for the Star. The assistant-editor Susan Pigg asked me to cut it back to 700 words. That shorter version appeared in the Star with only minor edits. You can see that story on the Star's website at: http://www.thestar.com/Travel/article/461491

What follows is the first version of the whale shark story.

A Whale (Shark) of a Tale and its all true
Dive Tourism in Land Locked Atlanta. Big Fish. Big Tank. Big Thrill

By Stephen Weir

The Georgia Aquarium dive master was a great salesman. He easily sold four scuba divers on the concept that the aquarium’s mammoth whale sharks are in fact gentle giants. So, no one flinched when a 3ft tall dorsal fin cut through the water within touching distance of their dangling flippers. But, after slipping into the lukewarm water all the divers’ eyes went wide; no one had talked about the man-sized black tip and hammerhead sharks that now lazily circled the scuba tourists.

The two lithe sharks completed their inspection of the divers and headed out towards the far end of the 6.3 million gallon tank, a football field away. As the sharks departed the divers suddenly found themselves in shadows. Call it an indoor eclipse, a 20 ft long whale shark was passing directly overhead, effectively blocking out the direct light of the halogen lamps suspended overtop of the aquarium’s Ocean Voyager tank.

Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium has just started allowing visitors to dive and snorkel with their four Gentle Giants. And even though only a handful of scuba tourists have jumped into the Ocean Voyager tank the thousands of fish who live inside are accustomed to sharing space with scuba diving staff who are constantly cleaning and maintaining the largest single aquarium habitat in the world.

Everything about the downtown attraction is BIG. The whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean and they are kept in the planet’s largest Aquarium. The building has several different salt and freshwater tanks filled with more than eight million gallons of water giving Atlanta the bragging rights for maintaining the largest collection of living aquatic animals on earth.

“We are the only aquarium in the Western Hemisphere that has whale sharks and we are the only one anywhere that allows you to swim or dive with them,” dive master David Adams told the four visitors in a one-hour pre-dive orientation.

“ Our whale sharks – two females and two males - are 16 to 22 ft in length and we are expecting them to grow,” Adams continued. “ We don’t know a lot about whale sharks, so we don’t really know how big they can get or how long they will live. Having them here is a great opportunity to research and learn.”

Each day the Aquarium is allowing six qualified divers, aged 12 and older, to dive in what they call the Swim With The Gentle Giant Experience. As well, once the divers have exited the pool six swimmers are daily permitted to snorkel for half an hour in the Whale Shark tank.

“ We have a 5 ft rule. Divers should never get more than 5 feet from your partner, and we ask that you don’t get within 5 feet of the fish,” continued Adams. “ But, the 5ft rule doesn’t count if the fish swims up to you and takes a look!”

The whale sharks are indeed curious. Once the divers have gotten into the water and congregated on the bottom of the pool, the four grey and white whale sharks slowly begin to cruise overtop of them, letting the divers’ bubbles play across their wide white bellies.

The Atlanta whale sharks are young and still growing. The largest, a female is 22 ft long and weighs more than an elephant. They are filter feeders, sucking up salt water to get at bits of frozen aquarium krill (processed plankton).

The whale shark head is thin and flat and its two small eyes are several feet apart! “They have the biggest damn blind spot in nature … from here to here (holding his hands 4ft apart), when they want to see you they have to turn their heads sideways and check you out with just one eye,” Adams told the divers prior to the start of their dive.

True to form, as the divers began their expedition, sitting on the bottom in a shallow area of the pool, the whale sharks lumbered by turning their bodies so that they always had one eye on the humans. The scuba visitors were posing for the Aquarium’s underwater Videographer and ended up with a souvenir of the shark’s eye-to-eye swim by (DVDs are sold après dive).

Guests aren’t permitted to swim around the pool willy-nilly. The underwater tour is lead by a pole-totting aquarium dive master. The pole is there to fend off any shark that might get too close to the paying customers. The divers swim in buddy teams and each pair is shepherded by a safety diver.

Boulders have been placed on the bottom of the tank to the ocean floor. For divers and fish, it is obvious that the seabed illusion has been created with concrete and paint, but for the dozen of spectators who stare up and madly wave from a Plexiglas tunnel that bisects the pool, and the hundreds who stand behind a wall of glass at the end of the tank, it looks like the real thing.

There are over 70 species of fish in the tank, and it is estimated that there are over 50,000 fish swimming freely with the divers. There are fish everywhere. There are cownose rays sitting on the bottom, nearby gnarly Australian woebegone sharks hide in crevices amongst the faux rocks. Silver Atlantic tarpons, pompano and humphead wrasses envelope the human visitors. Sharks of all shapes and sizes zoom around, over and between the divers. While one buddy team look at an Indian Ocean sawfish coming across the bottom of the tank, another tuck in their arms as a leopard shark swim between them.

The Georgia Aquarium supplies all the gear – tanks, regulators, fins full wetsuits, gloves and weight – they do this because they are worried about outside gear contaminating the water. Two whale sharks died last year poisoned by an insecticide used in cleaning the glass windows.

The rental of the gear, the pre and post dive lectures and the swim itself come at cost. Divers pay $290 per dive, swimmers $190 for swimmers. Even though the Georgia Aquarium is not advertising the dive programme, most weekends for the next six months are sold out (there are mid-weeks slots available).

The Aquarium is a non-for-profit institution. Monies earned from the dive program will be used for fish research and rehabilitation projects.

Whale Shark Sidebars



Sidebar #1

Getting in touch
Georgia Aquarium
225 Baker St
Atlanta, Georga
(404) 581-4000
Register for Swim With The Gentle Giant Experience at
www.georgiaaquarium.org

Sidebar #2

Indoor Diving for Scuba Tourists
The Atlanta Aquarium is not the only place you can dive indoors. Other locations that open their doors (and pools) to scuba tourists include:

Epcot Centre – Disneyland, Orlando, Florida. The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a 6-million-gallon indoor aquarium with more than 65 species of marine life, including sharks. $150 per dive.
Bonne Terre Mine – Bonne Terre, Missouri. The Bonne Terre lead mine flooded in the sixties. Qualified divers are escorted to see mining artifacts, and spooky tunnels. $65.00 per Dive
The Florida Aquarium. Located in Tampa, Florida the large aquarium has a Dive With the Sharks Programme in Shark Bay. $150 per dive
Blue Water Aquarium. Chester UK. Dive in 10 year old aquarium and see one of Europe's largest collections of sharks, £199 per dive
Nemo 33, Brussels• World’s deepest indoor pool for scuba divers, 33 metres deep (hence the name Nemo 33). 20 euros per dive.
Siam Ocean World, Bangkok Thailand. This privately operated aquarium let divers to swim with the sharks. 5,300 Baht per dive.
Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne, Australia. Certified and uncertified divers can swim inside this 2.2 million litre Oceanarium. The tank contains a lot of sharks,. $150 AU per dive.

Sidebar #3

Whale Shark Factoids
The Whale shark (Rhincodon ) is the planet’s largest fish.
It can grow to a length of 18m (60ft) or more and weigh up to 34 tonnes (5 times the weight of a big elephant).
Whale shark skin is both striped and spotted. No two sharks have the same colour pattern
In Asia, Whale Sharks are known as Tofu Sharks because of the taste and texture
The Whale Shark is often called the: basking shark, the Shalaam Waan (Thai), requin baleine and chagrin (French), pez dama (Spanish) and the tuko (Tagalog).
Whale shark are found in all tropical and warm oceans and are pelagic for most of their lives.
They are filter feeders feeding on plankton. They have capacious mouths which can be up to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) wide and can contain between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth.

Whale Shark Fact Sheet


Tail of the Tape. A few factoids about the Whale Shark

Fact Sheet

The Whale shark is the planet’s largest fish.
Whale sharks can grow to a length of 18m (60ft) or more and weigh up to 34 tonnes (5 times the weight of a big elephant).
Whale shark skin is both striped and spotted. No two sharks have the same colour pattern
The Whale Shark is the only member of its genus Rhincodon and its family, Rhincodontidae
In Asia, Whale Sharks are known as Tofu Sharks because of the taste and texture
The Whale Shark is often called the: basking shark, the Shalaam Waan (Thai), requin baleine and chagrin (French), pez dama (Spanish) and the tuko (Tagalog).
Whale shark are found in all tropical and warm oceans and are pelagic for most of their lives.

They are filter feeders. They have capacious mouthes which can be up to 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) wide and can contain between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth.
A Whale shark has five large pairs of gills. Two small eyes are located towards the front of the shark's wide, flat head method of clearing a build up of food particles in the gill

Friday, 18 July 2008

A close look at seaside and lakeshore garbage


The Make-Up of Seaside and Lakeshore Trash
By Stephen Weir
Writer Posts and Reader Responds
divermag.com


I don't usually post on this site articles of mine that Diver Magazine has posted on its website www.divermag.com. Diver's website gets an impressive numbers of daily visitors ( I get in the 10s they get in the 100s and 1,000s). However, one of the drawbacks of the Diver site is that there isn't a forum yet to show how readers have responded to the articles.

The following story was posted a few days ago (July 15) and almost immediately I received a thoughtful response that should get posted. So what follows is what was posted followed by a response from a reader.

The Washington-based Ocean Conservancy earlier this year released its annual report on trash in the ocean with new data from its 2007 International Coastal Cleanup Project. Their findings? Seashore trash is hurting the world!

Beach trash is clogging shorelines and killing birds, animals and fish.

According to the report “more than 378,000 volunteers participated in cleanups around every major body of water around the globe. Volunteers record the trash found on land and underwater allowing us a global snapshot of the problem.”

They estimate that trash in the ocean “kills more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles each year through ingestion and entanglement. In the latest cleanup “81 birds, 63 fish, 49 invertebrates, 30 mammals 11 reptiles and one amphibian were found entangled in debris by volunteers. Some of the debris they were entangled or had ingested include plastic bags, fishing line, fishing nets, six-pack holders, string from a balloon or kite, glass bottles and cans.”

The top ten debris items collected? The hit list includes:

* Cigarettes/cigarette filters
* Food wrappers/containers
* Caps/lids
* Bags
* Plastic beverage bottles
* Cups/plates/forks/knives/spoons
* Glass beverage bottles
* Cigar tips
* Straws/stirrers
* Beverage cans

And the response that the article garnered ...


A comment was sent in about one of your articles on Divermag.
Article: No Butts About Seashore Trash
Article URL: http://www.divermag.com/online/articles/57/1/

Comment:

Your article was very informative but it lacked one thing: A solution to the problem. Many people are under the false assumption that as long as people go to the beach and clean up after themselves, there will be no more problem with litter. What they fail to realize is that only a very small portion of the seashore litter comes directly from trash left on the beach. Aside from direct dumping into the ocean, a great majority of trash that litters the world's beaches comes from inner-city litter that gets washed into the storm drains. For those who do not know the difference between storm drains and sewers, storm drains carry water from the streets directly into the rivers and oceans. It is not treated like sewer water and it does not mix with the sewers, so it does not pass through any treatment facility. Therefore, a plastic wrapper that is tossed onto the ground in St. Louis will eventually wind up in the Gulf of Mexico, choking wildlife. So please, think twice before tossing even the smallest piece of garbage out of your car widow, even if you live far away from the ocean.

Monday, 14 July 2008

News from the Maple Gazette - B&B of the summer in New Hampshire


Manchester’s famed Ash Street B and B is tankful guests are driving inn
By Stephen Weir
(from the summer edition of the Maple Gazette)

Aware of rising fuel costs, the owners of the historic Ash Street Inn have created a package for people taking a motor-vacation to their establishment this summer. The 123 year-old Manchester Bed and Breakfast Inn is offering a $20 refund per night to help guests fill that gas tank.

The Ash Street Inn is a three-story stain glassed filled Victorian home located minutes from Manchester’s cultural and sports attractions. This summer the award winning Bed and Breakfast Inn is offering three packages to lower the cost of a driving vacation.

Guests who spend two or more weeknights received a $20 refund per night. Their “Explore New England” package gives those guests who plan to take driving day trips a $20 a night rebate and for one of those day trips they will also pack a gourmet lunch in an insulated bag for a meal on the road (and guests get to keep the$40 bag). The third travel incentive? The Ash Street Inn is giving room discounts to guests who arrive in hybrid automobiles!

Built in 1885 the Victorian building has been a private residence, rooming house, hair salon, art studio and doctor’s offices. It is now the benchmark Bed and Breakfast Inn in Manchester. Many of the Inn’s original stained glass windows remain including several in a spectacular third-floor tower.

A look at the Inn’s guest book shows why the Inn enjoys a high retention rate for guests. “What do you get when you cross a five star hotel with Grandmother’s house? The Ash Street Inn, of course,“ wrote Doug, a vacationer from Georgia.

The experts agree. The Bed and Breakfast was voted as the Inn with the "Best Customer Service" by readers of the Arrington’s Inn Traveler magazine. As well the establishment was selected as the "Editor’s Pick" by the Yankee Magazine Travel Guide to New England.

Reservations can be made by calling 603-668-9908 or via e-mail to innkeeper@ashstreetinn.com. The Inn’s web site is at: www.ashstreetinn.com

Monday, 2 June 2008

Toronto Star Runs Stephen Weir Trump Tower Story: Posting of the Orginal Version of the Story


On Saturday, May 31st, the Toronto Star ran a story I wrote about the new Trump Tower Hotel and Condo project in Toronto.
The story, with an illustration by ED SCHNURR can be see at: /www.thestar.com/article/432040. Below is the original version which was edited by the Star for accuracy and length.

Donald Trump’s new vision of luxury
Small, Tall and Tight. Really really tight.

By Stephen Weir
Stephen@stephenweir.com
May 22, 2008

Shoe-horning a luxury hotel and condo tower into the already hyper-crowded financial district of downtown Toronto is forcing Donald Trump's real estate company to think small while building tall. The 924 ft (282 metres) Trump International Hotel and Tower is finally underway and as the hole is being dug in a miniscule plot of land at the southeast corner of Adelaide and Bay Streets, a team of architects and builders are importing both people and different construction techniques to build a $400 million tower where a tiny five and dime store used to stand.

Two Canadian companies, Zeidler Partnership Architects and Lewis Builds, have been hired by the Trump Organization to construct Canada’s tallest condominium tower and one of Toronto’s first 5-star hotels. Their lofty plans must be executed without bringing traffic in the financial district to a standstill, and without hindering other nearby construction projects. The project site - the old Bay Street Woolworth department store - is almost completely surrounded by tall buildings including the oversized Bay Adelaide Centre (three buildings: 43, 49 and 51 storeys) currently under construction right across the street.

The image of billionaire real estate magnate and TV personality Donald Trump has always been HUGE. His buildings like his own persona, is larger than life. But here in Toronto, the design of his first Canadian property is a study in accommodation.

" Well, for starters,” said architect Tarek El-Khatib, Senior Partner with Zeidler “there was concern from the city about the building's parking garage (and how it will affect Adelaide St traffic). We handled that issue by having an upside down plan -- the garage is up not down. People will be entering off Adelaide and loading and unloading on the second floor of the building."

"We really flipped our way of thinking," said David Eng, Zeidler’s Trump project manager. “ In most big building the structure extends deep into the ground to anchor the building and to provide parking. " At the Trump the garage goes up seven stories from the ground level.

Owners of low riders need not apply for parking privileges; the gradient of the garage ramp will be very steep. " The ramp has been designed to accept a Crown Vic (Ford Motors luxury Crown Victoria automobile) 97% of all cars will be able to make it in," explained El-Khatib. The big concern isn't tall SUVs (like, say, a Land Rover with roof rack) but ultra low slung cars such as the Ferrari, or, the Beverly Hills’ style 20-person stretch luxury Hummer Limousine.

But, be it a Bentley or a Volkswagen, no matter what condo owners and hotel guests drive into the Trump Tower's porte-cochere they won't be permitted to park their own cars. Residents buy parking privileges, not individual spots. Trump valet staff will park all cars in stacked, two-to-a-level, auto storage units (bunk beds for cars).

Hotel and condo traffic enter the hotel, east bound along Adelaide. The ramped porte-cochere takes vehicles up to the second floor concierge station where drivers surrender their vehicles. Condo owners, not wanting to wait for their car to be brought out of storage have round-the-clock use of two “residents only” chauffeured S-class Mercedes.

It may be a steep ramp but it will be the prettiest garage entrance in the city. The city of Toronto requires that the Trump project spend $2 million on two pieces of public art. Since there won’t be any open space (the site is 15,520 sq feet with 98% of it covered by the building), one of the art installations will be a ramp wall mural that can be seen by passing pedestrians.

The Trump building will descend only two storeys below grade, and much of that space will be used by delivery trucks and service vehicles. With its entrance off Bay, northbound trucks will enter the building and drive onto a large turntable built into the floor. The service vehicles will be mechanically turned around so that they can back into the loading docks. This round-house approach is a necessity, there won't be enough room inside the Trump hotel for even a small sized garbage truck to turn itself around.

From dawn until dusk Bay Street is one of the busiest streets in Canada. It will be difficult for trucks to enter and exit the building during the rush hours. To get everything from furniture deliveries to newspapers into the complex’s receiving area, shipping firms will be required to plan ahead. Deliveries will be staged to take place before or after rush hour.

"“It is a business district and the area is empty after 6 pm," explained Tarek El-Khatib. "Trucks coming in and out late at night will not disturb the city."

The basement is a building's foundation - it is the anchor for everything that is built on top of it. With only a shallow basement, the soaring Trump Tower will have to take measures to make sure the building is firmly rooted to the ground.

" The 9ft thick foundation will float on bed rock," explained Ing. "There will be a concrete frame poured around the perimeter and we will use steel 'tie-downs' to secure the foundation and we will pierce the sides (with horizontal tie-downs) to make sure the perimeter is equally anchored."

" We are still removing remnants of the old Woolworth's store from the site, " said Seattle's tall/small building expert Mark Garland. The professional engineer and other technical experts have been brought in by Lewis Builds from its US affiliate to oversee the construction of the glass and granite tower.

" We will be pouring a huge concrete pad once the site has been cleared," continued Garland. " There will be 100 tie-downs –18ft long high strength steel rods-- punched through the concrete into the bedrock below."

Since the Trump building will occupy almost every inch of land on the site, there is little space for heavy equipment and no room for Lewis Builds’ construction shack. A plan to put a trailer on-top of the fabled National Club, directly south of the site fell through. Over 50 designers, engineers and construction experts are now housed in a Lombard Street office, several blocks to the east.

Tight quarters also means that only one tall crane will be erected on site. To make sure there isn’t a case of dueling cranes overtop of the city’s skyline, the placement of the equipment becomes a safety issue.

“Certainly crane placement is one of our concerns,” said Garland. Pointing at a set of drawings he shows how the arc of a crane currently on the Adelaide site swings within a breath of the edge of the Trump Tower hole. When his crane is erected, the long horizontal boom could easily move into the Adelaide project’s airspace.

On most big building projects in Toronto the high towered cranes are used to lift wooden forms (used to construct interior concrete walls) from one floor to the next as the building project rises upwards. This is done by swinging the forms out away from the building and then lifting them up to the next floor where they are unloaded and used to create walls for the next floor.

Being so close to busy streets, pedestrians and the Adelaide project worksite, has caused Lewis Builds to bring in a building system much favoured in crowded Asian cities, which greatly reduces the need for the cranes to swing material out over Bay and Adelaide Streets.

The forms will be lifted from floor to floor by way of a rail climbing system that is attached to the outside of the building. The tall and wide wooden forms are transported on a vertical set of tracks from one floor to the next without ever being swung out over the street.

“ People won’t see these automatic climbing system,” said Garland. “We will be tenting the building as we go, and the rails will be inside the tent (a three-story covering that stops dust and building waste from blowing out onto the street).”

“ We won’t fill in the garage walls until way into the project,” he continued. “We need it open so that we can stage our materials there. We will do the same at the building’s Sky Lobby on the 33rd floor.”

After the luxury multi-million dollar penthouses have been built (floors 54 to 60) a large sealed tank of water will be fixed on-top of the roof to act as a counter balance against high winds that will batter the tall thin building.

“The curtain wall windows and natural stone are custom built but will be installed rather quickly,” said Garland. “ People will think the building process is going slowly, but, when we start closing in the building, things will move fast!”

The height of the floor and the size of the windows are what the Trump Corporation believes will transform small into carriage trade. Each of the 118 luxury residences and 261 hotel guest rooms and suites will have floor to ceiling windows. The hotel suites have 9 and 10ft ceilings, while the condominium residences will have 11- to 13-ft. ceilings—surpassing the 10-ft. ceilings that are considered premium height. The Grand Skyplex Penthouse Residences at the top boast ceilings up to 28 ft. in height.

There will be no more than six suites per floor—with the majority of suites featuring direct, secure elevator access—offering spectacular views of Lake Ontario and the city below. As “The Donald” said when he came to Toronto last year for the official sod turning ceremony “People really want to own what I do, cause I am known for getting the best location and taking those best locations and building the best buildings.”

“You’ve got the highest ceiling height,” continued Trump, in talking big about his new Toronto small/tall tower. “You’ve got the biggest windows. The best views … you are going to have something that has never been done in Canada before and rarely anywhere else in the world.”