Concerns over crumbling concrete, falling debris
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Aug 13, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Concerns over crumbling concrete, falling debris

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert

Crumbling concrete and falling debris has prompted the city to take action to better secure the former CNR shops on the Cooper site.

At Monday's finance subcommittee meeting, a recommendation was passed to have the city spend approximately $38,000 to immediately address the ongoing deterioration of the abandoned building's west wall by removing any loose concrete and continuing to monitor the site.

According to Stratford's chief building official, Dave Carroll, the issue was brought to the city's attention in June when large pieces of concrete fell from the top of the wall. Upon further examination it became clear that extensive cracking and spalling of concrete has occurred, some possibly accelerated by the 2003 fire that destroyed parts of building's west end.

What makes the falling concrete more of a concern, Carroll noted, is that the west wall is only about 12-15 feet from the property line.

Read Jones Christofferson was brought in to examine the site and provided several options for the city to consider, including removing the loose concrete, which was by far the least expensive of the scenarios. The other options were to demolish the wall ($270,000) or rehabilitate it ($610,000).

Acting on the suggestion of the consultants, city staff were also recommending that a permanent fence be installed around the permitter of the building, at a cost of $240,000, to protect pedestrians from falling debris from the roof and to better secure the site from trespassers.

But that idea never made it to a motion. Coun. Kerry McManus said restricting public access to the site is a policing issue that could likely be dealt with by using simple technology.

"If we set up cameras and there's any hint of someone in the building we have the police located in close proximity," she added.

Carroll noted the city has secured and removed loose materials on the roof over the last three years, but noted those efforts have only been "somewhat successful." He suggested an engineer should be retained to determine the full extent of the work that needs to be done.

"It's in such a condition now that if you send a contractor up there you don't know where to stop with trying to remove debris and secure it," he said.

Additionally, people keep finding ways to enter the building despite attempts to secure any exterior access points. In 2012 a man died after falling from the roof of the building and last year police stopped a suicide attempt inside the structure. A recent risk assessment summary prepared by the city's insurer, the Frank Cowan Company, shows further evidence of people being inside, including a makeshift skateboard ramp.

Carroll suggested that due to the ongoing safety concerns, the site should be restricted to only city officials and consultants engaged to review or work on the building.

The subcommittee meeting also attracted heritage proponents who wish to retain the former railway building.

Roger Hilderley of the Grand Trunk Railway Site Heritage committee asked that his group be allowed into the building with local restoration contractors to determine how much it will cost to make the building safe. The heritage group has proposed using the structure for a parking garage and would also like to put solar panels on the roof to generate "hundreds of thousands of revenue for the city."

He said the group wishes to work cooperatively with the city to determine a costing on the project but recent offers to do so have been declined by city staff.

If the city can't afford to look after the site, its former owner, Lawrence Ryan, suggested the city give it back to him.

"Failure to maintain the shops amounts to demolition by neglect," he added in a written presentation to subcommittee.

The recommendation to proceed with removing the loose concrete from the west wall while not proceeding with a fence will now go to council for consideration.

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