Builders top off new downtown office tower

Rick Lipsey
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Tradition marks completion of exterior of 351 Water St.

From left, Rodney Marsh, project engineer, Lindsay construction; George Collins, structural constuction manager, Linsday Construction; Strat Barrett, project architect, Stantec; Chris Voisey, president, Trendex Construction; Art Singleton, structural engineer, DBA Consulting; Judy Wall, vice- president, East Port Properties and John Lindsay, president, Eastport Properties, lift their hard hats at a topping-out ceremony on the roof of 351 Water Street. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Not even a centuries-old Scandinavian tradition is a match for Canadian bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, East Port Properties held a "topping out" ceremony Wednesday atop its office tower under construction on Water Street, a ritual that sees builders place a tree atop a building once the last beam has been placed. East Port stood up an undecorated Christmas tree Wednesday, to mark the completion of the roof and the exterior of the six-storey building, St. John's first new office building downtown in more than 25 years.

A topping-out ceremony traditionally involves a toast, but - since "this is Canada. We're not allowed to do beer on the roof anymore," noted East Port Properties president John Lindsay - hard-hats were doffed in salute instead, while wind swept around about 15 people there for the ceremony.

"This wind is a testament today to how much challenge there is to completing an exterior structure in St. John's in the winter, and we got through it and did a great job," said Lindsay.

Lindsay noted that the foundation started to be dug out just over a year ago.

"In little over a year, we went from nothing to all of this garage, and then all of this steel structure," he said, adding congratulations to the tradesmen and tradeswomen present.

Originally slated to open late this year, Lindsay said they'll be moving in their first tenants in March or April of 2014, a slight delay he chalked up to the foundation work.

"If there was anything that took us much longer than we expected, it was getting the caissons and foundations and all the work below the ground completed," he said.

"All along the shore of St. John's harbour, the rock, although solid, is in fact fractured. It is really quite difficult to find the solid piece for each caisson that will allow it to be secured to hold all the structure."

St. John's windy winter proved a challenge to construction of the building as well, said Lindsay. "We had over 60 days between November and March where the winds were in excess of 50 kilometres, and it was impossible to use the crane to be able to lift everything," he said. Still, the building - costing more than $60 million - is on budget, said Lindsay.

The 168,000-square-foot tower also includes a 445-car parkade, of which 245 spots will be public parking spaces. Husky Energy will be the anchor tenant of the building, occupying four floors, while marine engineering and construction firm Subsea 7 has signed on to rent a floor as well.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Husky Energy

Geographic location: St. John's, Water Street, Canada

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  • Ian Lambert
    May 22, 2013 - 01:46

    Only in Newfoundland us a six-storey building considered a "tower". Pretty ridiculous. Elsewhere, 20 storeys is the general height just even to be considered a high-rise.

  • Saucy Face
    May 20, 2013 - 19:27

    Well, the owners of Atlantic Place must be happy knowing that they no longer own the worse looking office building n the downtown, Man, that new so called office tower is butt ugly. What was the designer thinking? Did city hall even look at the design before passing it?

  • Gordon Gekko
    May 17, 2013 - 14:49

    Mark you are probably right. City hall has always been hostile to business and common sense in general, the chance to develop a proper modern city center came and went a long time ago, it should have been planned around MUN and the Avalon Mall decades ago, but wasn't. Putting Mile One and the convention center on New Gower was probably the most recent in a long line of colossal screw-ups, although this new office tower is a step backwards as well. I doubt that St. John's will ever be taken seriously as a modern city when we have such a foolish and ill-planned city layout. Just to clarify once again, I have no sympathy for the heritage crowd. Those firetraps on Water and Duckworth may be old, but old does not necessarily mean historic or culturally significant. I think many of the downtown rubberbooters know this as well, they are mostly just NIMBY types who don't want towers, traffic congestion, and construction affecting the value of their homes. I only side with them on this because I realize that downtown SJ isn't worth developing. This city is a joke.

  • rgh
    May 16, 2013 - 19:46

    I have been involved in many topping out ceremonies in Western Canada, some as much as twenty stories plus! Usually , the persons employed on these projects are so thrilled at being reckonized for their efforts > A lot of times , under adverse conditions, yet they push on to complete the task. In so far as the " topping out " in S.J.'s is concerned, a downtown location for this project is appropiate, as like many cities in N.America it is a catalyst to prop up, so to speak, a decaying downtown. Think beyond the box ! You have a wonderful City and should be very proud you have entered the 21st century. Congratulations to the group involved in this and you join your worker colleagues in many European cities , that celebrate in this fashion...I know, as I have been there !

  • Sherwin
    May 16, 2013 - 15:41

    Yes Gordon, let's spread the higher density areas out even more. Pretty soon St. John's will be bordering Corner Brook.

  • Mark
    May 16, 2013 - 15:07

    Gordon, you make some good points. Downtown St. John's certainly was not intended for this sort of structure. Regrettably, the corprorate community will want to locate its members into the downtown area. Whether we like it or not, the downtown is the financial heart of the city. It is where the banks have their headquarters, lawyers have their firms, accountants have their offices... Unless they can avoid it, no company will want to move out to Topsail Road unless a government offers them some sort of incentive (for example, remove developers' fees or building permits). Maybe city hall could consider this.

  • Turry from town
    May 16, 2013 - 14:32

    I think it is a great addition to downtown and alot more of the painted heaps of bricks like the one this building relpaced should be on the demolition list.

  • Gordon Gekko
    May 16, 2013 - 14:00

    I don't normally side with the anti-development crowd but I really don't understand why we need to put these sorts of buildings downtown. This isn't about preserving heritage or whatever, it's about practicality. I don't care how many parking spots they build, we just don't have the right infrastructure downtown to support these big office developments. The area wasn't designed for this, and nothing short of tearing everything down and starting from scratch will change that. Put these sorts of buildings on Topsail Road, Kelsey Drive, or out by Stavanger.

    • Jason Williams
      May 16, 2013 - 14:35

      Don't worry if St. John's is stupid enough to vote in O'Leary and her band of merry NDP candidates.......it will another 25 years before we see an office building built down town.