July 18, 2011

Tucker Hi-Rise, Great Gulf “ready to rock and roll” on One Bloor in Toronto

Tucker Hi-Rise Construction Inc. is almost ready to start building One Bloor, a $450-million, 70-storey structure in downtown Toronto featuring indoor palm trees and full curtainwall, with the help of a computerized building system that accounts for the logistics of moving materials at a busy downtown intersection.

When finished, One Bloor will be primarily condominiums, with 100,000 square feet of retail space, at the southeast corner of Yonge and Bloor streets in central Toronto.

The site was originally owned by Concord, Ont.-based Bazis International, which officially launched an 80-storey tower that it called “1 Bloor” in 2007. However, Bazis was unable to fully fund the development after its financing partner, Lehman Brothers, went under in 2008. Bazis sold the land to Tuscany Ridge Developments Inc. , an affiliate of the Great Gulf Group of Companies, the following year. Great Gulf said occupancy for One Bloor is slated for December, 2014.

Gulf Group of Companies plans to build a 70-storey condominium tower at this empty lot at the southeast corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto.

Together with Tucker Hi-Rise and its designer subcontractors, Great Gulf held what it called a “virtual groundbreaking” at the site July 15. Great Gulf president David Gerofsky and two politicians made digging motions with shovels towards the ground in a tent while reporters and other attendees watched a video of an artist’s rendering of the building rise on a large screen in the background.

The politicians who participated in the virtual groundbreaking were Ward 2 Councillor Doug Ford, who was on hand to represent his brother, Mayor Rob Ford. The other councillor was Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale), in which One Bloor is located.

David Gerofsky, president and chief operating officer, the Great Gulf Group of Companies, at the virtual groundbreaking of One Bloor. On the left is Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto city councillor for Ward 27 (Toronto Centre-Rosedale) and on the right is councillor Doug Ford, who was on hand to represent his brother, Mayor Rob Ford.

“We are close to getting a permit,” Tucker Hi-Rise president Michael McGrath told a Daily Commercial News reporter after the groundbreaking, adding that as of July 15, the firm was still waiting for approval from the Toronto Transit Commission. “We’re ready to rock and roll.”

The TTC Yonge and Bloor subway lines runs under the site and Great Gulf plans to build a direct connection to the Yonge-Bloor subway station, which is a transfer point between the two lines.

“The ground floor has been designed to include a mid-block connection into the Yonge-Bloor subway station,” Gerofsky said during a press conference preceding the groundbreaking. “This will provide a direct transit link for building residents, and retail patrons from Yonge Street will also have a new access into the subway system. We’ve worked closely with our neighbours, the Toronto Transit Commission, the Toronto planning department and other city agencies to make this happen.”

Tucker Hi-Rise used a process it calls building elements execution and modeling (BEEM), which McGrath described as his company’s version of building information modeling (BIM), to design and plan construction.

BEEM takes the electronic files made by the designers and allows Tucker Hi-Rise to factor in other considerations, including interferences, volumetric estimating and logistics.

“We have a lot of material, a lot of trucks to move in and out of this site in a very busy downtown intersection,” McGrath said. “We have been able to model that to develop scale concrete trucks and tandem dump trucks. We literally drive the intelligent model using (Microsoft Corp.’s Project software). You can get as detailed as you like.”

Great Gulf originally planned to build One Bloor to 65 storeys but later changed it to 70 storeys. As of last week, eighty-five per cent of the 732 condo units had been sold.

Michael McGrath, president of Tucker Hi-Rise Construction Inc., a Great Gulf affiliate and the general contractor for One Bloor.

Getting workers up the structure will be a major challenge, McGrath said.

“We’re basically using the existing elevator shafts to create a jump lift,” he said. “The elevator gets built as we climb the building, so we will be using sort of a temporary elevator in the real elevator shaft.”

The building will also be full curtainwall, he added.

Another challenge to building a 70-storey tower at Yonge and Bloor is that the ground is about 143 feet above rock, McGrath said. The excavation, which includes a six-storey garage, does not go down that far.

“We’re going to be drilling large caissons that will go down and lock to the bedrock,” he said. “They will be carrying the core of the tower. The tower itself is a mild steel tower. We don’t have any post tensioning in this tower, so it’s fairly straightforward from that point of view. There will be a damper on the roof to limit building acceleration. It’s a computerized, water-based damper.”

The condo units range in price from $511,990 to $1.7 million and Great Gulf has designed the building with what it calls “resort-inspired” amenities. Located southeast of the upscale neighbourhood of Yorkville, One Bloor includes a spa area on the sixth floor, outdoor terraces, sculpture gardens, bar and private dining room. The seventh floor also includes outdoor terraces, plus foot baths, fitness centre and a pool. “The seventh floor has two pools inside and two pools outside, which are linked,” said Raphael Justewicz, an associate with landscape architecture and urban design firm Janet Rosenberg and Associates. His firm, along with Hariri Pontarini Architects and Cecconi Simone Inc., provided design services for One Bloor.

You will be able to swim from inside to outside and back even in winter, he said, adding the connection will be insulated. “We’re still looking at what the connection is,” Justewicz said.

Justewicz, a landscape architect and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional, said the building will include a heat island effect with the use of stone, plus a monitoring system for irrigating the vegetation. Both will be a factor in applying for LEED certification, he said.

“All terraces are open joint so the water comes through the terrace and drains through the substrate as opposed to shunting it off through a pipe,” Justewicz said. “We’re not flooding the city system with one big shot. It’s allowed to percolate within the terrace and find its way through to the pipes eventually.”

The indoor garden will include palm trees, he added. Tropical plants do not require as much water and have smaller root bulbs than trees indigenous to the Toronto area, Justewicz said.

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