DCN ARCHIVES

September 15, 2004

Photos courtesy THE MILLS CORP.

Vaughan Mills shopping centre

Scenes from a mall nearing completion

BY DAN O’REILLY

DCN CORRESPONDENT

VAUGHAN, ONT.

With less than two months before scheduled opening day, almost 1,000 construction and service workers at the Vaughan Mills shopping centre are pushing hard to meet that deadline.

“We open on Nov. 4 and we’re very much on schedule,” said Paul Gleeson, vice-president development with Ivanhoe Cambridge, the Montreal-based joint venture developer with The Mills Corporation of Arlington, Va.

Gleeson made those comments during a recent media tour of the 1.2-million-square-foot centre on Rutherford Road, just west of Jane Street in the City of Vaughan.

Promotional material describes the centre as an enclosed “shopping, leisure and entertainment destination,” which incorporates the design concepts created by the Mills Corporation. Not only is the first enclosed regional shopping centre to Canada in more than 14 years, it is the first Mills project in this country.

JPRA Architects of Farmington Hills, Mich., designed the single-storey steel frame structure. Bregman Hamann Architects are the project architects and the structural engineers are Halsall Associates Ltd. Both are based in Toronto.

The design focuses on an “Ontario experience” with different patterns, colours and materials to highlight the province’s different regions, said Gleeson.

The basic configuration is a central court with a circular walkway or ‘main street’ that passes through a series of ‘neighbourhoods,’ which use different combinations of colours, fixtures and other design elements to create their own identities. An example is a canoe in the Canoe and Cottage Court hung with rooftop cables. Other areas include a city, rural and smalltown sections, said Gleason.

Transitional zones let visitors know when they’ve left one neighbourhood and are entering a new one, while the central block area is divided into two via a 1,000-seat food court, he said.

Vaughan Mills will ultimately house 16 anchor tenants and more 200 specialty stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. The largest is a 140,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shop, the first of its kind in Canada for the Springfield, Mo.-based retailer. Other tenants include the world’s largest Tommy Hilfiger.

Describing Vaughan Mills as a super regional centre that won’t compete with more traditional malls, Gleason pointed to features not found in those malls. High on that list is approximately 75,000 square feet of hardwood flooring. The rationale for this “Mills concept” are market studies that show consumers will spend up three hours in a mall if the flooring is “soft on their feet.”

An eight-year process that included land assembly, three years of municipal approvals and the design/engineering work has been invested into the $250-million project, he said.

Construction started in May 2003, with Mississaugabased EllisDon Construction in the role of construction manager.

“It’s (the centre) main complexity is its sheer size,” says EllisDon senior project manager Geoff van der Lee.

Between 50 to 60 subtrades have been involved at various stages and the project is now at its most feverish peak with about 1,000 workers now on site, he says.

“It’s going to become even more intense as we get closer to the opening,” said van der Lee, citing the demanding and time-consuming work involved in installing and erecting the intricate and/or decorative fixtures, fittings and amenities (FFA) such as the suspended canoe in the Canoe and Cottage Court. This component of the project alone probably has a $10 million value, he says.

Equally challenging is the 75,000 square feet of hardwood flooring.

EllisDon and its subtrades are building the basic shell and common areas. The tenants are responsible for their own interior furnishings and decorations, he points out.

Despite the project’s complexity and the high number of workers, the trades have managed to avoid getting in each other’s way. Six site superintendents and seven project manager/co-ordinators kept the construction schedule on track through “day-today and minute-to-minute coordination,” says van der Lee.

There have been more than a few challenges and setbacks along the way, most notably the wet, rainy conditions last year and this year.

“We lost two to three months last fall because of wet weather,” says van der Lee, who credits the diligent performance of the site service contractor, Woodbridgebased TACC, and paving contractor Warren Bitulithic Ltd., Toronto, for recouping that lost time.

Roofing contractor Hamilton- based Schreiber Brothers also worked through January and February to complete the roof when the original plan was to shut down during those months. “We really pushed the roofers hard.”

A combination of tarps and hoarding was also used on the exterior walls to enclose the shell and create the right temperature conditions for pouring concrete and other interior work. The erection of the Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) wall system got under way this spring and is still continuing, says van der Lee.

EllisDon’s contract also included the construction of a $4-million ramp and bridge near the south end of the mall, which will enable commuters to enter and exit from Highway 400.

"The bridge is in place and the ramp will be completed by opening day.”

The structure has standardized bay sizes of 40 by 40 feet and 40 by 60 feet, says Halsall Associates’ Stephen Kwan.

“Lateral stability against both wind and earthquakes is attained by moment frames as opposed to conventional cross bracings, resulting in a facility that is highly adaptable to future changes in layout and space utilization.”

Special barrel vault trusses in the food court and four fashion courtyards will be the main visual structural attractions in the mall, says Kwan.

Ivanhoe Cambridge’s Paul Gleeson says his firm has an agreement with The Mills Corp. to build three other centres, one each in Quebec, Alberta and B.C. But development depends on several factors, including obtaining the best building site, he says.

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