Planning has Continued for the New Estonian Centre in Toronto
Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents to all aspects of our lives, the International Estonian Centre (IEC) project team is charting good progress. The team is working steadily on next steps toward opening the new Centre in mid-2022.
The new Estonian Centre (to be located at 9 and 11 Madison Avenue in downtown Toronto) will consolidate the largest Estonian community in Canada.
The new Estonian Centre will be a vibrant hub—as part of an “Eesti Keskus”, or “Estonian Village” next to neighbour Tartu College. It will consolidate services, community events and organizations into one location that will serve the Estonian community now and for future generations. While the two centres will remain separate, there will be opportunities for cost sharing, event synergies, collaboration and exploration of new ideas and cultural links that will be further developed.
Project Manager David Kalm and architect Alar Kongats provided a look at the planning and work that is taking place.
What is the status of the work underway for the IEC?
In early March, the drawings required by the City of Toronto for the IEC’s Building Permit were completed. This was a mammoth task, representing literally thousands of hours of work by the project team. The permit submission shows the IEC from every conceivable angle and strata through to detailed drawings. It describes the building’s construction methods and proposed materials.
Consultants who contributed to the permit process included geotechnical, structural, acoustic, mechanical and electrical engineers; the landscape architect; heritage architect and the kitchen/catering consultant.
Another major task recently completed was another separate submission to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) since the building straddles subway tunnels.
Why is the TTC approval so important?
The TTC concern during construction is about impact on the subway tunnel and ensuring that the IEC’s foundation work is conducted safely, doesn’t impact transit and doesn’t cause damage. The construction schedule includes a site verification before the construction starts, and the structural, soil/geotechnical and shoring engineers have all provided impact calculations to ensure there will be no problems. As one would expect, the level of scrutiny is high to ensure public safety.
The foundation of the IEC will be specially constructed to support its weight and impact, so that the vibration from the subway won’t be felt within the building. This is key, since many of the activities at the IEC will be musical and cultural performances. The firm retained by the project was the vibration engineering consultant for the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto, home to the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada, and this building also contended with subway tunnel considerations so the project is in experienced hands. The working relationship with the TTC is positive.
Where are things at now with the permit process?
The submission to the City was made before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Toronto. While the pandemic has slowed the permitting process, it has not stopped. The City of Toronto continues to review the submission, and we have been responding to comments from the various municipal departments as they come in. When there is mutual agreement that the process has been completed, then the permit will be issued.
We are grateful to the whole team, and to City of Toronto and TTC officials, who are working diligently despite the restrictions. Everyone is being so cooperative in helping us make progress.
How will the construction of the IEC be managed?
The general contractor, who will be the “construction manager” overseeing the construction, will be hired shortly through a competitive Request for Proposal (“RFP”) process which has been underway and concluded over the last month and closed earlier this month. It will be their job to oversee all aspects of the IEC’s construction, and to conduct the tendering of all the sub-trades needed for the project.
This includes a long list of experts including the contractors who will do the excavation work, shoring and preparation of the building site; build the foundation; install the sound and vibration attenuation; install the steel structures for the “frame” of the building; prepare and pour the concrete foundation; manage the waterproofing; install the mechanical systems for the HVAC (heating and cooling system); install the systems for plumbing, fire protection, electrical//technology, roofing and windows. There are also a host of contractors who will later work on the interior finishes such as drywall, woodwork and plasterwork.
All hiring by the general contractor will take place in an open and transparent manner. The Project is working together with the Business Diplomacy Division of Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs [see https://www.aripaev.ee/arvamused/2020/10/16/nuud-eksportima-uus-keskus-j... to ensure that where possible, Estonian materials and know-how will figure prominently in the IEC. The IEC will be able to review the bids and have a say as to which sub-trades will be hired. We will also remain involved in all aspects of the construction performed by the sub-trades as this is method most commonly used in project management to ensure a high-quality end result within budget.
Are there special considerations for the heritage house at 11 Madison?
Indeed. A valuable member of our team is the heritage architect, who is working with Toronto Heritage Conservation services as part of the building permit process. The 11 Madison property, which comprises part of the IEC, is a heritage-designated residence built over 100 years ago. It is a typical brick home found in this part of Toronto, known as The Annex. This is an historic neighbourhood with many beautifully preserved homes and buildings, and retaining the integrity of the 11 Madison house allows IEC to blend in with the area.
Toronto homes built in this era had a lovely soft, red brick typically sourced from the Don Valley Brick Works. The brick on the exterior of 11 Madison was painted by a previous owner. The paint will be removed and the masonry repaired. The design of the IEC blends this historic property with the modern, Nordic-inspired elements of the rest of the Centre.
When will the design finishes be finalized?
The design team continues to refine the final choices of what materials will be used and who the suppliers will be. Please see https://www.estoniancentre.ca/post/march-10-2020 for a detailed description of the finishes proposed for the IEC. The quality of the finishes are to some degree determined by the success of the capital campaign, which will shortly be reignited. We are also intending to include a work stream whereby certain design components are put out for competition to invigorate the Centre’s aesthetic with artist input.
How long will the construction take?
It’s estimated the building process will take the time of the Estonian House leaseback to complete. It’s important that we remain committed to the “one-move” scenario so activities, equipment and supplies can move right from the Estonian House to the IEC with as little disruption as possible.
How does the inspection process work?
There are a series of checks and balances throughout the whole process and lots of eyes on everything. The general contractor calls the appropriate city official to the site when they are ready for an inspection.
In addition, a third party engineering firm will also come in at several key points during the construction. This takes place during tasks such as measuring strength of concrete for the foundation, the glass installation, electrical and plumbing systems, elevator operation, etc.
When the project is complete, all the final details are in place and the building is safely and securely ready to operate, the building department grants the occupancy permit and the doors to the new International Estonian Centre can open!