June 5, 2009
Toronto condos seek to preserve the past
New developments on heritage property in Toronto’s inner city are becoming more complex as builders struggle with how to preserve a vestige of the past while erecting large buildings.
In many cases heritage buildings are disassembled during construction and reassembled — often merely as facades — and attached to the new buildings. In other scenarios heritage facades are shored up in-situ while construction of new buildings goes on behind them.
At 100 Yorkville, a new eight- and 17-storey condo complex, a different approach was taken to an existing heritage building. The property was home to the original two-storey Mount Sinai Hospital, a designated heritage building with a heritage easement agreement that required any work to be of a restorative nature.
Rather than dismantle or shore up the two-storey buff brick building, the house was moved by Laurie McCulloch Building Movers about 15 metres off its foundation to rest on the sidewalk in the tony uptown neighbourhood. And left there for almost two years while a large underground parkade was constructed and the condo development was built.
Before moving, the 75- by 16-foot building portions had to be rebuilt and reinforced in-situ. At the time it was “a vacant ruin,” Andrew Pruss says, noting the façade and side walls were all that remained.
“It looked like a whole building from the street but if you walked around back you could see painted rooms open to the sky,” says Pruss, the on-site project manager for E.R.A. Architects Inc, the heritage consultant for the job.
Builders constructed a temporary rear wall of concrete block, installed a temporary roof and the old hospital was underpinned with a steel structure to keep it stable during the move.
Prior to moving it, the neoclassical façade was restored to its 1930s look. Work involved removing multiple coats of paint from the buff brick, wood trim and windows. Twins Painting & Decorating Co. Ltd. saturated the paint on the bricks with water to “soften it up” before applying a non-aggressive “glass bead blast” using an olivine sand to carefully remove paint, explains Vito Caputo, president of Twins Painting, noting the process took seven weeks to complete.
The double-hung sash eight over 12-pane windows and frames were removed and taken to Twins shop to strip the paint using heat guns. Panes were carefully removed through a steam process to soften the old putty. The panes were reapplied once the windows were stripped and repaired. Twins Painting is no stranger to the restoration business, having worked on more than 250 historic buildings, including Queen’s Park, Casa Loma and Osgoode Hall.
On its new sidewalk location, the building sat on timber cribbing designed to distribute the load to prevent the sidewalk from caving in, resulting in damage to underground utility services. During the two years, the old hospital façade was used as a front for the sales office of the condo development.
Moving the building back on site was challenging. A large area was required to dismantle the temporary steel support framework and a bracing steel structure was constructed over the façade before the temporary rear wall and roof could be demolished, explains Pruss.
Tying the old hospital into the new condo involved the application of a carbon fibre material to the back of the wall for additional strength. A concrete structure was formed up to the face of the wall where connections were made between the two structures. The structural engineer for the three stages of the move and stabilizing program was David Seberras.
The hospital was erected in 1934 as an addition to a 19th century house. E.R.A. was retained as a heritage consultant for the project in 2004 and the firm was involved in the early planning and the preparation of a Heritage Impact Statement starting in 2001.
Pruss says the project was particularly challenging because of its extended timeline.
He says it was fortunate the building was saved, considering it had been unmaintained and abandoned for many years. “These types of projects can be a way of not only rescuing old buildings but returning them to their grandeur – revealing their importance to the city.”
Marrying historic buildings with new developments is increasingly common in the inner city of Toronto because of neighborhood intensification programs that are resulting in so many residential highrises.
“It can be a challenge to save smaller buildings that have been around for a long time because of the increased density and cost of development in downtown has raised the complexity of these kinds of projects. They are very challenging projects because obviously the sites are very important to people,” says Pruss.
E.R.A. has also been retained on similar types of projects in downtown Toronto, including a condo development that incorporates a 1930s auto dealership on Bay St. and another that integrates the façade of a series of 1820s Georgian rowhouses on University Avenue.
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