Friday, 30 September 2011

Toronto Sun: Back On The Rails

Downtown Market Wharf  is now  under construction --
But first --  a massive train barrier ad to be built

By Stephen Weir                                                       
Published in the Toronto Sun  September 23rd nd 25th

Putting off that downtown Toronto condo purchase because you suffer from Siderodromophobia (irrational dread of trains)? One project in the St Lawrence Market District will allay that fear: The Market Wharf condominium complex, currently under construction, has installed a steel reinforced concrete barrier wall to stop any runaway Go trains!
Market Wharf is a multi-level condominium tower project at Jarvis and The Esplanade, just south of the back-end of the St Lawrence Market. Plans for the city block include a 34 -storey tower which when built, will abut six busy Go and Via Rail tracks, Lakeshore Blvd and the Gardiner Expressway.
The derailment containment wall – built last fall – protects the south-end tower currently under construction.  The side of the building is very, very close to a myriad of tracks used daily by Go, VIA Rail and CN.
“We began work on this back in November 2009 when we began clearing the site,” explains Lou Hack, one of the principals of Bluescape Construction Management, the company overseeing Context Development’s challenging condo project.
“Theoretically a train could hit the wall and you wouldn’t feel it inside the building” said Hack. That is because there are now two walls at the south end of the building. “The outer barrier wall is 24’ tall and 18” thick with a 2” gap between it and the (building’s outer) wall.”
While the building of the crash barrier is an oddity in Toronto (there is no record of a train ever colliding with a condo building in Canada), there are other unique challenges that the builders have dealt with since the project was first launched.
The largest problem? It wasn’t construction related, it was all about the lack of investment money in North America. 
The train barrier under construction

Market Wharf’s Dream Team – Context Development, architectsAlliance and TACT Design – found that despite strong interest from condo buyers there was scant investment money available for a project of this size. Not in Toronto. Not in Canada. Not in Dubai, Not anywhere in the world.
It was 2008. “No one really knew where the market was going and since the project consisted of a large podium and a tower, we decided to phase the construction and split the building into two condo projects,” explained Craig Taylor, Director of Design and Marketing for the developer, Context.
Two different investment deals were cut to bankroll the construction and, for the most part, two different building teams reported for work. 
Phase One  is just about complete – it is a seven story podium which will include at ground level a soon to be opened large Shopper’s Drugmart facing St Lawrence Market.  Phase Two  is now beginning to reaching upwards (continuation of the podium and a 27 storey tower on top of that) and the project is starting to look like one big happy building! Right now you can see that there are two distinct structures but over the next few months exterior bricking will hide the great divide.
There are other quirky things that have caused Architects Alliance’s Peter Clewes and Bluescape Construction to think outside the typical condo box.
Take for instance the question of nearby Lake Ontario. Two hundred years ago, the spot where the Market Wharf now sits was totally underwater. Toronto was a busy lake port and many sailing ships anchored here. The lake is a long way away now, but the property is all reclaimed land.
The water table is so close to the surface that Market Wharf is being built sans basement. The parking garage, typically found underground at most large condo towers, is on floors 3 through 6. From the street you won’t see the cars, there is a ring of small flats (576 to 673 sq ft) on both sides of the building separating the parked cars from the outside world.
Since there is no basement at the Market Wharf, almost 200 caissons - concrete shafts that extend down to the bedrock - have been sunk. These 33ft long concrete beams take the load bearing role of the basement. It is upon these caissons that the condo podium and condo tower are being built.
The first 5 floors are brick and include small condo flats and parking. Sitting on top of the masonry levels is a two-storey horseshoe shaped level of townhouses.
Most of these 2-bedroom townhouses have their backdoors facing out onto Lower Jarvis and Market streets from behind a walkway of glass. The living rooms and master bedrooms look inward to a garden and private patio space that can’t be seen by the outside world.
Along the western side of the building a number of these townhouses angle out over the rest of the building. Driving south on Jarvis you can see how some of the units dangle over the sidewalk below. 
At the south-end of the building the townhouses give way to a soon-to-be-built peanut shaped glass walled recreation centre. What little green space there is on this property will be on the rec centre’s green roof and in a small outdoor treed garden that will be constructed beside the recreation centre. There will also be a patio where owners can sun themselves and wave at the harried commuters sardined into the never-ending parade of Rush Hour Go Trains.
The Tower will rise dramatically from the Rec Centre. The Penthouse suites take up the top two floors and will be curving walls of glass, which, if viewed from an airplane will look like a second giant peanut!
For people more rooted to the earth, whether they are walking in the neighbourhood, riding the rails or driving by, the thing that will make this building visually different is the shape of the balconies.
The balconies will not be rectangular; instead they will be a series of undulating in-and-out curves of cut concrete. The curves on one floor don’t match the curves on the floors directly above and below, which should give the building a undulating wavy look.
With two levels of commercial space and a public passage through the building, Market Wharf is designed to interact with the city. The store and other commercial units and much of the podium housing will be ready for occupancy this year. The Tower should be completed the year after that. When the last condo is occupied, there will be about 1,000 people living on the safe side of the steel reinforced runaway train concrete barrier wall!

Market Wharf - Just the Facts

Sidebar #1
Just the Facts
There will be approximately 475 separate living spaces within Market Wharf, with an expected population of close to 1,000 people all living in one city block.
There will be 4 different styles of units built. It depends on where the units are within the tower and podium. The four styles are:
• Market Flats – being built on the low rise brick podium on Floors 2-5), no balconies, typically smaller units. 77 in total
• Townhomes are atop the podium on the 6th floor and are two storeys and have their own “back yard” terrace (some have balconies facing the St Lawrence Market as well). 34 in total.
• Watersuites are all single storey units in the tower and are named as such since they all will have water views of the lake. Approximately 355 in total.
• Penthouses. 2-storey glass walled penthouses. Top two floors are shaped like a peanut. Up to 10 units available.
As of November  15, over 85% of the units have been sold
The project’s website is

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Renfrew Stories: Even while at school in Windsor, Renfrew Foundry Made a Big Impression

x YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF RENFREW BUT ... x George Heath, a former Renfrew resident and a keen follower of, sent me a clipping announcing the January closure of the H.Imbleau & Sons Foundry in Renfrew. George's wife Marie is a member of the Imbleau family. The company, founded in 1858, is the town's longest running business. For over 150 years the factory has put the Renfrew name on the map ... literally. One of the company's most successful products is manhole covers. When I received George's note about the closure, I wrote him a quick letter, reprinted below, which tells my story of the impression the foundry had on me in the early 70's while a student at Windsor University. .
Back in my days at Windsor University I worked a variety of part-time jobs so that I would not have to move back to Renfrew and work in the mines at Haley's Station in the summer. One of my steady gigs was in the student pub, which was held in the residence cafeteria between Laurier and McDonald Halls. In 1970 our student pub had to get special banquet permits to operate on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. To qualify as a banquet, every person entering the pub had to pay $1.00 for 3 sandwiches, ham, ham & a cheese slice and a straight cheese slice sandwich. There was a big garbage bin by the front door where you could throw out your sandwiches as soon as you passed the on-duty cop checking to make sure we complied with that license. I spent Thursday, Friday afternoons and Saturday afternoons making the sandwiches. I spent the rest of the week eating the sandwiches people didn't buy or wouldn't eat. They kept me feed for one whole semester. Bruce Payton briefly stayed with me, and those sandwiches feed him too. But I digress. Back at the pub, I also worked as a waiter. I was pretty bad. The music was too loud to hear peoples' drunken orders. Ask me for whatever you wanted but you always got a 50 or jug of draft. I would lie and say we were out of Black Horse, or Red Cap or whatever someone might have asked for. . "Oh, they aren't cold." "Oh man, sorry, last bottle just got sold." Didn't matter, how much they asked for something different, I always gave them a 50 or a jug of draft. We sold a lot of 50. Most nights, but not every night, we drained a lot of draft beer kegs. The music was terrific. Live. Many of the acts were from Detroit, coming over to Canada to slum on a Thursday night. Mitch Ryder. Alice Cooper, the MC5, the Stooges and my favourite Detroit band ... The Frost. There were Windsor bands too, Danny Bonk (who died three years ago) and Buzz and the Blues Train (Buzz died before turning 25). The student pub was student run. The tips were bad. The food never changed. But the music was oh, so, good. Favourite night was Saturday. When it all ended at 1am we waiters cleaned off the tables, carried the bodies to the front door and talked to the music acts. We'd also drink beer and stuffed those sandwiches into our mouths ... as a favour to the establishment. Seriously. Our pub manager Brian Ducharme, now a Windsor lawyer (who made his fortune defending strippers in the all-nude Windsor Clubs dubbed collectively as the Windsor Ballet) would let us finish off the kegs that hadn't been drunk dry. A half open industrial sized beer keg wouldn't keep from Sunday morning until the next Thursday night.
It was the difference between the optimist and the pessimist. Sometimes the keg was half full, sometimes the keg.... well you know how it goes. The night I called the Imbleau night, the Keg was way more than half full. In fact it was a shot glass less than full. Some thirsty waiter cracked it open just as we were screaming "Last Call". 10 waiters drank 20 jugs in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Security shared a jug or two too and then threw us out. I left upright. But by the time I crossed the main campus I was staggering. I remember crawling sorta along the sidewalk that lined University Avenue (Windsor's Raglan St). I kept one knee in the gutter and the other on the sidewalk. Figured I wouldn't get run over, and I wouldn't block pedestrians if I went down for the count. It was a 3-block crawl. Just as I got to my house I realized I was going to be sick. I was ashamed of myself. Had I sunk so low that I was about to be vomiting in the street? (Yes!) In my limited and failing vision, I saw a manhole cover -- I was saved. I crawled out to the cover. My plan was to lift the cover and void all that swirling beer and sandwiches in my stomach into the sewer. Who was I kidding? I reached the cover. I tried to get my fingers into the crowbar opening to pull the cover up. No luck. Fingers too thick. No strength. No chance. I was sick. 2 Jugs worth. And 5 ham and margarine sandwiches and 4 pickled eggs. I lay my head down in the mess I made. Three hours later, with dawn breaking, I awoke. Still in the street. Still with my head on the manhole cover. Lucky for me, Windsor in 1970 was as busy on Sunday morning as Calaboogie on Friday night ... no cars out and about to run me over. No good citizens to look the other way as they walked by. I got into my apartment on McKay Street. Cleaned off my face and looked in the mirror. I could see that lying on the manhole cover had created, momentarily at least, a Renfrew tattoo, for there on my cheek you could see the word Imbleau. You can take the boy out of Renfrew, but some nights, you can’t take Renfrew out of the boy (although, aside from my blood shot eyes, my face returned to normal pretty quick!) Pictured Top: A Renfrew manhole cover Pictured Bottom: Photo of Danny Bonk tribute story, Windsor Star

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Just The Facts About Market Wharf

Sidebar #1  Just the Facts About Market Wharf Condos

There will be approximately 475 separate living spaces within Market Wharf, with an expected population of close to 1,000 people all living in one city block.
There will be 4 different styles of units built. It depends on where the units are within the tower and podium. The four styles are:
  • Market Flats – being built on the low rise brick podium on Floors 2-5), no balconies, typically smaller units.  77 in total
  •   Two storey Townhomes are atop the podium on the 6th floor and are two storeys and have their own “back yard” terrace (some have balconies facing the St Lawrence Market as well).  34 in total.
  • ·      Watersuites are all single storey units in the tower and are named as such since they all will have water views of the lake.  Approximately 355 in total.
  • ·      Penthouses. 2-storey glass walled penthouses. Top two floors are shaped like a peanut. Up to 10 units available.

As of the summer, 85% of the units have been sold
The project’s website is
Sidebar #2
Who is buying Market Wharf housing?
According to Marketing Director Craig Taylor:
·      The demographic is a mix of downtown professionals and empty-nesters.
·      Buyers tend to be couples without children who are a mix of first time buyers and move-up buyers and people who want to sell their house and live by the St. Lawrence Market.  Predominantly end-users ( i.e. owners who will live in the building) 
·      St. Lawrence Market is always the core attraction of this project for purchasers, followed closely by the overall St. Lawrence neighbourhood and its proximity to the downtown financial core (where many of the buyers work). 

Sidebar #3
Good Tall, Strong Fences Make Good Neighbours

Why a steel enforced safety barrier is being built between the GO tracks and the south end of the condo tower:

·      On a typical weekday, there are 117 GO train trips operating on three separate corridors -- Richmond Hill, Stouffville and Lakeshore East – all of which will pass by the Market Wharf tower.

·      On a typical weekday there are 34 VIA trains, two Ontario Rail trains and one CN  freight train that pass  by the Market Wharf

·      There is a reduced speed limit in the Market Wharf neighbourhood of no more than 30mph for passenger trains. Freight trains are limited to 15 mph.

More about those train barriers

Market Wharf project is not the only project in the GTA that has to build a train barrier.  Metrolinx (the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority) manages road transport and public transportation agencies in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, and is responsible for ordering train safety barriers to be built around new projects.

According to Metrolink spokesman Ian McConachie, “one example of a recently constructed crash wall is at the Metrogate residential project - on the Stouffville (train) line just north of Highway 401.”

“A crash wall will be included in the forthcoming residential tower project at 507 Esplanades - just west of Market Wharf,” continued McConachie. “Crash barriers have been contemplated for various projects that are still in the early planning stages.”

Not all crash barriers are made of concrete and steel. According to Metrolink there are a multitude of crash barriers used in the GTA including crash berms (a mound or wall of earth or sand) and soil embanking.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Believe it Or Not Toronto will soon have a Ripley's Aquarium

Artist's drawing of proposed Shark tank and glass walkway

Canada’s Biggest City Building Canada’s Biggest Aquarium

By Stephen Weir 
Believe It or Not Toronto is finally going to have an aquarium. Work has already begun on a new building at the base of the world famous CN Tower.  Even though it will be two years before the first Sand Tiger Shark and Carpenter Shark  (sawfish) move into Shark Lagoon, three levels of government have already laid out the welcome mat for Ripley Entertainment, the owners of the future aquarium which is scheduled to open in 2013.
At a late August press conference Canadian entrepreneurs, Jim Pattison Senior and Junior, officially launched the construction project.  The Jim Pattison Group, one of the country’s largest private companies, owns Ripley Entertainment (Ripley’s Believe It or Not), and operates aquariums in both Tennessee and South Carolina. 
The new Toronto aquarium project has strong financial support and redevelopment monies from the Federal Government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. Heavy political hitters from all levels of government attended the event. Speaking at the aquarium splash were federal MP Ted Opitz, Ontario Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. 
Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan

“I look forward to coming back here with my scuba suit, when the work is all done,” joked Michael Chan the Province of  Ontario's Minister of Tourism and Culture.  His Ministry has invested $11-million in the $130 million construction “Getting an aquarium of this caliber in Toronto is a major win for our province. It will entertain and educate, bring in millions of visitors, fill our hotels and create hundreds of jobs for Ontario families.”
Mayor Ford told Diver Magazine that project negotiations between the city and the Pattison Group had taken over two years.  The city has agreed to provide up to one million dollars a year in tax incentives over the next twelve years.

Mascots pose at the Aquarium construction site

"This state-of-the art facility will provide jobs for our residents and a wonderful tourist attraction for our city,” said Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto.  Over the past two decades his city has seen three different aquarium proposals (at Ontario Place, on the CNE Grounds and in the basement of the CBC building) from three different companies, before supporting the Ripley’s project.  The new aquarium will be a reported 35,000 sq. feet larger than Canada’s largest aquarium located in Vancouver.
The press conference was held inside the Convention Centre directly adjacent to the CN Tower and the new site. With a full construction team digging and moving dirt visible through the backdrop window, the talk was business -- very little was said about the building, their proposed collection or their themes
Jim Pattison Junior did announce that the new facility would NOT house any whales, dolphins or other mammals.  It will, he told the business audience, have several salt and fresh water tanks that will showcase both Canadian freshwater and saltwater fish.  He anticipates that they will have 13,500 fish from 450 species, in the living collection.
And while the Minister of Culture is already looking forward to scuba diving inside the aquarium's Shark Lagoon, the Pattison Group is not sure yet whether or not they well be letting divers into the water when the building is opened. "That has not yet been decided. We are just starting similar programs at our other aquariums, so I am not sure," a spokesman for the aquarium told Diver Magazine. "It’s really too soon to create any specific programs."

Aquarium Factoids provided by Ripley's Aquarium of Canada
What to serve at an aquarium launch lunch? Melon Jaws!

In a press kit handout the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada listed Quick Facts about the coming attraction:
  • Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is expected to draw nearly two-million visitors each year;
  • The Aquarium will be one of the largest in North America, with a capacity of 5.7-million litres (1.5-million gallons);
  • Featuring 450 species, the Aquarium will be home to more than 13,500 inhabitants;
  • Well-trained staff dedicated to the highest standards of aquatic husbandry will include biologists, scientists, divers and aquarists who will work diligently to ensure all the animals are safe, well-tended to, and allowed to flourish;
  • The Aquarium will conduct breeding/conservation programs for endangered species, including ongoing tagging and tracking programs for sand tiger sharks in conjunction with universities and government agencies.

Ladies and Gentlemen - a big hand for the big (and little) fish!!!

CUE THE FISH:  - Aquarium is all about fish, but, who are the stars in 45 different display tanks?
  • notes for a news article that will appear in the next edition of Diver Magazine.

Sand Tiger Sharks thrive in captivity. Toronto Aquarium will feature the species. Photo - North Carolina. sweir files.
 For now the  aquarium isn't releasing much information about what it will be showing inside.  Ripleys' Vice President Joe Chromanski told Diver they will be releaseing information closer to the opening date.
" We don't want to steal our own thunder," he said.  " I can say that we will have up to 45 different tanks inside  - the largest is the 750,000 galleon shark tank, the smallest will be a 6 to 10 galleon space for baby seahorses."
"In the Great Lakes (tank) we will have a cross section of what divers are likely to see  - everything from pike to paddle fish,"said Chromanski."  Paddle fish aren't in the Great Lakes but we do find them in their drainage area. " Ripleys fresh water exhibit will be  covering  both the lakes and their ecosystem.
"We  will acquire as many of the animals as we can ourselves.  We are legally permitted to collect sharks (for the most part in the Florida Keys)," explained the Florida based Chromanski.  "We also work with commercial collectors in Canada and the United States."
The company has no plans to capture sharks in Canadian waters. Chromanski, a fisheries biologist says that local fish, like the Six Gill, the Seven Gill and the Greenland sharks are too big to live in the Toronto aquarium tank. Large fish that adapt well to aquarium life include sand tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, reef sharks and manta rays.

Bio Notes: Joe Chromanski is Vice President at Ripley Entertainment headquarters in Florida. He studied Fisheries Biology at Oregon State University. He currently lives in Orlando, Florida. The 51-year old Chromanski was born and raised in Ohio.
Update:   No sooner did I imply that the Sand Tiger Shark is not a fish found in Canadians waters did the CBC report differently.  The following is a link to a story about a Sand Tiger being caught in East Coast river!