FIVE Condos at 5 St. Joseph St.

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Extensive downtown Toronto renovation transforms brick warehouse into 48-storey condo tower

GTA Construction Report

One of the most extensive renovation projects ever undertaken in Toronto will transform a 1905 Gothic Revival brick warehouse. The building at 5 St. Joseph St. (at the corner of St. Nicholas St.) is being transformed into a 458,000 sq. ft., 48-storey modern glass condominium tower.

The new FIVE – Condos is the first project by Five St. Joseph Developments Ltd., a collaboration by Graywood Developments Ltd. and MOD Developments Inc. and will offer 539 condominium units once it is completed later this year.

The site has many challenges, especially safety management. Fortunately SDS Safety Consultants have been engaged as the project’s current safety consultant, ensuring safety compliance in the project’s later stages.

Hariri Pontarini Architects (HPA) has created a design to connect new and old. It has been reported that the “1905 Gothic revival façade of 5 St. Joseph will be the largest façade retention ever undertaken in Toronto.” This façade has become the building’s new main entrance.

In addition, “the fronts of 25 and 17 St. Nicholas (six storeys) and 15 St. Nicholas (three storeys) were documented and new façades built to match the architectural spirit of the originals.”

HPA’s website describes the design as an elegant tower featuring “contiguous glass curves and undulating balconies.”

The project also maintains the frontage along Yonge St. and required restoration of nearly half a block of historically significant buildings there. Work included new windows, roofs and storefronts, as well as cleaning work. E.R.A. Architects has been responsible for managing the heritage restoration work.

Besides the new condominium tower, the restored buildings will be home to new street level shops and will offer 14 residential units on the second and third floors.

Landscaping design, including a 6,000 sq. ft. outdoor roof garden topping the tower’s podium, various terraces and the streetscape, has been designed by Janet Rosenberg & Studio.

The building already received two BILD (Building Industry and Land Development Association) Awards in 2011 for High-Rise and Best Building Design.

SDS safety consultant Bill Glover says projects like this are naturally challenging because of restricted egress and access surrounding the downtown core, heavy traffic and the risk of building a large tower structure. “The first challenge is getting out of the ground, the depth of the opening, shoring installation, and the water accumulation that is often a hazard.”

After that there may be structural challenges and then human nature kicks in. “Once a tower like this is out of the ground there is a certain monotony to the work as it grows floor by floor. The risk however clearly increases as the tower rises in height so extra care must be taken to ensure everyone is engaged and attentive.”

Glover says his company’s efforts were additionally challenged because they were not the first consultant on site. This meant they had to redirect the culture from what had been in place, increasing protocols and adding precautions.

He says there had also been multiple fatalities from falls at adjacent projects so SDS took lessons learned from those tragedies, increased its own site presence and added more stringent requirements.

Those accidents created additional concerns. “There had been a number of false alarms in the area and we were very concerned about what could happen if we actually needed emergency responders to the site.”

Additional site challenges included coordinating parking, lay-down space and coordinating deliveries to the site.

Glover says the project began with an amazing site superintendent who had the skill set and years of experience needed to get the project through its most critical stages of the entire base building. Unfortunately, he died tragically from cancer. “The newly appointed superintendent is very passionate and supportive of safety and administering the culture within the entire work site.”

The real success behind any project he says, comes from the people involved, and from the team that is created. “In this case everyone from the management at Graywood to the trades has been fantastic.”

“In the end,” he added, “the building went up without even a critical injury so this has been a highly successful project in many ways.”

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