December 2020

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D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 | 45 James Avenue Pumping Station P H OTO G R A P H Y BY J A M E S B R I T TA I N + R EN D ER I N GS CO U RT E SY 5 4 6879 6 A RC H I T EC T U R E JAMES AVENUE PUMPING STATION by ROBIN BRUNET O ver the course of 14 years, 17 attempts by various enti- ties were made to repurpose Winnipeg's historic but long dis- used James Avenue Pumping Station – and all of them failed. By the time Alston Properties Ltd. and 5468796 Architecture Inc. stepped in, city administrators had decided that another failure would provoke them to demolish the entire structure and start fresh. Alston, which owns the property, and the architects delivered. In the spring of 2018, 15,250 square feet of unique office space in the pumping station was made available, and as of November 28, high-end rental apart- ments in a new seven-storey wood frame building were taking shape at one end of the station. The final phase of this ambitious project will see two more identical wood frame apartment buildings con- structed at the other end of the station, ready for occupancy in the spring of 2022, and bringing the total square footage to 18,600. First opened in 1906, the pumping station is a single-storey brick struc- ture built around the huge flywheels, pumps, and engines that provided firefighters with high-pressure water. Spanning each of two gabled bays are two large cranes that move along a steel I-beam track. The tracks rest on a steel frame, with each support con- tinuing below grade in concrete piers. That the building structure is so inextricably linked to the massive machinery made the past revival attempts impossible. "The five remain- ing pumps sit on seven foot thick concrete slabs in a large trench that runs along the middle of the structure and would be a logistical nightmare to modify," says Sasa Radulovic, founding partner at 5468796 Architecture. "Past proposals called for new structures on top of the station, but the slabs made that impossible too." After numerous inspections of the pumping station, Radulovic came up with a plan on how the interior could be repurposed without removing the pumps. "The gantry crane capacity was 20,000 pounds, and structural experts [LDA Structural Engineers] confirmed that this capacity applied to every point within the interior," he says. "This enabled us to install four large beams with open web joists on the beams, and develop 16,000 square feet of new floor, while leaving the pumps on the main floor free of the complicated programming proposed in past revitalization attempts." While the station itself was in fairly good repair, Radulovic proposed sky- lights to bring natural light deep into the large facility. Thick glass, guard- rails, and sliding doors would add to the trendy industrial ambiance of the offices, further augmented by the architect's suggestion that thick coats of black paint would be a better sub- stitute on aged metal components that would otherwise be sandblasted. "It was a very inexpensive approach to developing office space," he says. The development of a finan- cial/building pro forma made the repurposing effort financially fea- sible, and given that the Alston family's Victoria-based com- pany had completed over a half a dozen such repurposing projects in western Canada, the City was confident enough to rescind its demo- lition plans. Alston-owned Brenton Construction began pre-construction in October of 2016, and tenants began moving into the pumping station in early 2018. As the facility station was being revitalized, Alston received approval for phase two's seven-storey wood frame building, which would sit on an elevated structural steel base and whose exposed two by sixes set on edge and other architectural details give the impression that the entire building is metal frame or concrete. Exterior walkways and skip-stop cor- ridors increase the efficiency of the building, allowing for cross-venti- lation in all apartment units (retail stores will be at ground level) and per- mitting a maximum number of suites to overlook the river. Radulovic located the structure 20-feet away from the pumping station, and the elevated base that cantilevers over the existing sidewalk increases the yield of the property overall. As of November the apartments were almost complete, and Alston was already anticipating work on the final two new builds; Radulovic notes that in keeping with the utilitarian nature of the pumping station, the new-build volumes bookending the existing structure will subtly support its esthetic through deliberately simple, modular forms, enhanced by street-level alley- ways and overhead walkways. As for breaking the long losing streak of redevelopment, Radulovic says, "We were successful because Bryce Alston [heritage restoration specialist and owner along with Rick Hofer] is a guy who was amenable to my ideas and wasn't afraid of getting down and dirty. He should be proud of what is being achieved." A LOCATION 109 James Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba OWNER /DEVELOPER Alston Properties Ltd. ARCHITECT 5468796 Architecture GENER AL CONTR ACTOR Brenton Construction Corp. STRUCTUR AL CONSULTANT LDA Structural Engineers MECHANICAL /ELECTRICAL / CIVIL CONSULTANT MCW Consultants TOTAL SIZE 18,600 square feet TOTAL COST Undisclosed

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