Niagara brownfields development success Meridian Centre recognized with CUI Brownie Award

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STAFF WRITER

The GTA Construction Report Special Feature

The Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) has recognized the $50 million Meridian Centre in downtown St. Catharines with a 2015 CUI Brownie Award in the category of RENEW Project Development: Neighbourhood Scale.

The award was presented at the Canadian Urban Forum and Awards gala in October.

CUI director Glenn Miller says the award categories have remained the same over the years but that the criteria have evolved and the interpretation has changed as the industry, and the practice, has evolved. “People for instance now have a better understanding of the economic impact of renewing brownfield sites so that is something the jury looks at in deciding winners.”

Winners were selected by a judging panel representing eight different professional associations from across Canada, including the Canadian Brownfields Network, the Canadian Institute of Planners, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and the Ontario Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure.

In selecting the Meridian Centre, Miller says judges looked at the project in the context of a downtown revitalization. “The project team did a great job of overcoming soil remediation challenges on the former landfill site, overcame grade challenges and tied into existing buildings in the area to make the centre into a hub for the downtown and a draw for future development in the area.”

The award citation noted achievements including: stimulating neighbourhood scale reinvestment; using adaptive reuse of heritage and other structures to encourage integrated multi-phased redevelopment; demonstrating high levels of collaboration, inspiring many land owners and investors to engage with community support of a shared vision; and promoting comprehensive neighbourhood transformation by reenvisioning public realm, improving functionality, liveability and character of an area.

The project, constructed by Ball-Rankin Construction Inc., designed by PBK Architects Inc, with CBRE Ltd. as project manager, included an arena with seating for 5,300 for OHL Niagara IceDogs’ games and 6,000 for concerts. The building also includes 12,000 sq. ft. for business and hockey offices, a players’ lounge, sauna, change rooms, an oxygen chamber, coaches’ area, training and fitness rooms. Public areas feature a Wall of Fame and a Hall of Fame dedicated to the IceDogs and the history of hockey in St. Catharines.

Rankin senior vice president Sto Tritchew explained some of the project’s challenges: “The Meridian Centre is situated on top of the old Welland Canal which was filled in with 20 m. of fill and refuse over the years. We had to drive 356 steel Hpiles each more than 100 ft. in length to support the building.”

The site also had to be raised by up to two meters with clean fill to avoid any excavation of contaminated materials. Installation of a methane venting system and barrier below the entire building helped to mitigate existing site issues. Add to that one of the most severe winters in history, lack of access to the facility from the downtown core and an extremely tight guaranteed maximum price contract and the rest of the picture falls into place.

Built in an existing lower level parking lot behind St Paul St., the city’s main thoroughfare, two pedestrian bridges donated by Rankin Construction Inc. connect St. Paul to the Meridian Centre’s upper level.

“St. Paul is a hub for restaurants, bars and other services,” said IceDogs’ owner Bill Burke in a previous interview. “Connecting the Meridian Centre directly will make this the entertainment district of Niagara.”

The Meridian Centre has also been recognized with the 2014 Niagara Community Design Award for a large scale project. Tritchew says the project team is proud to have been recognized.

“It doesn’t matter what age, professional status or stage of your career you are in, it is always exciting to be recognized for your hard work, dedication and achievements. And when you can do it as a team it is even more special because it means a lot of people (owner, consultants, contractor, architects, engineers, subcontractors, stakeholders) all pulled together to make a project like this a success.”

Tritchew says projects like the Meridian Centre will stand for future projects as an example of what can be done. “The Meridian Centre has already done a great deal in terms of revitalization in just a short period, and coupled with the Brock School of Performing Arts and the St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre the downtown core is more vibrant than it has been in decades.”

He says the Ball-Rankin joint venture “was extremely fortunate to have such a great team of architects, engineers, subcontractors, and suppliers to work with and had great co-operation from the owner and stakeholders to make the project the success that it is. We are all very proud of this world class facility and very honoured to have received the awards we have for this project.”

Miller says the diversity in project type and geography of all of this year’s winners demonstrates that this level of design and integration and imagination is not confined to big cities.

OTHER CUI BROWNIE AWARD WINNERS INCLUDED:

REPROGRAM Legislation, Policy and Procurement: City of Vancouver Metropolitan Core Jobs & Economy Land Use Plan, Vancouver, BC

REMEDIATE Sustainable Remediation & Technological Innovation: Mississauga Rd. LID Pilot Project, Region of Peel, ON

REINVEST Financing, Risk Management & Partnerships: City of Edmonton’s Brownfield Redevelopment Grant Program, Edmonton, AB

REBUILD Project Development – Building Scale: 151 West Hastings St., Ormidale Block, Vancouver, BC

REACH OUT Communications, Marketing & Public Engagement: Zibi, Windmill Development Group, Ottawa, ON and Gatineau, QC

Best Overall – Building Scale : Queen Richmond Centre West Commercial Office Project, Toronto, ON

Best Overall – Neighbourhood Scale: Queens Quay Revitalization, Toronto, ON Best Overall: Technopôle Angus, Montreal,QC

Brownfielder of the Year Grant Walsom, vice president, Canadian Brownfields Network

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