Builders top off new downtown office tower

Tradition marks completion of exterior of 351 Water St.

Published on May 16, 2013

From left, Rodney Marsh, project engineer, Lindsay construction; George Collins, structural constuction manager, Linsday Construction; Strat Barrett, project architect, Stantec; Chris Voisey, president, Trendex Construction; Art Singleton, structural engineer, DBA Consulting; Judy Wall, vice- president, East Port Properties and John Lindsay, president, Eastport Properties, lift their hard hats at a topping-out ceremony on the roof of 351 Water Street. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Not even a centuries-old Scandinavian tradition is a match for Canadian bureaucracy.

Nevertheless, East Port Properties held a "topping out" ceremony Wednesday atop its office tower under construction on Water Street, a ritual that sees builders place a tree atop a building once the last beam has been placed. East Port stood up an undecorated Christmas tree Wednesday, to mark the completion of the roof and the exterior of the six-storey building, St. John's first new office building downtown in more than 25 years.

A topping-out ceremony traditionally involves a toast, but - since "this is Canada. We're not allowed to do beer on the roof anymore," noted East Port Properties president John Lindsay - hard-hats were doffed in salute instead, while wind swept around about 15 people there for the ceremony.

"This wind is a testament today to how much challenge there is to completing an exterior structure in St. John's in the winter, and we got through it and did a great job," said Lindsay.

Lindsay noted that the foundation started to be dug out just over a year ago.

"In little over a year, we went from nothing to all of this garage, and then all of this steel structure," he said, adding congratulations to the tradesmen and tradeswomen present.

Originally slated to open late this year, Lindsay said they'll be moving in their first tenants in March or April of 2014, a slight delay he chalked up to the foundation work.

"If there was anything that took us much longer than we expected, it was getting the caissons and foundations and all the work below the ground completed," he said.

"All along the shore of St. John's harbour, the rock, although solid, is in fact fractured. It is really quite difficult to find the solid piece for each caisson that will allow it to be secured to hold all the structure."

St. John's windy winter proved a challenge to construction of the building as well, said Lindsay. "We had over 60 days between November and March where the winds were in excess of 50 kilometres, and it was impossible to use the crane to be able to lift everything," he said. Still, the building - costing more than $60 million - is on budget, said Lindsay.

The 168,000-square-foot tower also includes a 445-car parkade, of which 245 spots will be public parking spaces. Husky Energy will be the anchor tenant of the building, occupying four floors, while marine engineering and construction firm Subsea 7 has signed on to rent a floor as well.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TelegramDaniel