The Background: One of the main shopping districts in Halifax in the 1980’s, the Bayers Road Shopping Center once held 91 stores, along with a cast-in place parking garage. The 1990’s however, saw a shift in the way people shopped in Halifax. A new shopping area with big-box stores became the hot place to shop.
The Bayers Road shopping Center declined rapidly and changed ownership. The new owners tried modernizing. They gave the new complex a European flavour and renamed it “The Village at Bayers Road” but the changes were not enough to prevent tenants from moving out and relocating. To add to the problems, the cast-in-place parking garage had to be torn down, because the concrete structure was quickly deteriorating and became a hazard for the general public. This spiraling demise continued until the early 2000’s when the complex was sold to the Ramia family.
Turning it Around: Everyone who knew the Ramia’s told them they were “crazy” for buying the shopping center, but the Ramias had a vision for their newly purchased shopping center - Joe, George and the rest of the Ramia family quickly converted the complex to what it was named - a village! Offices were introduced where stores were once located and the empty spaces quickly filled up. To keep up with demand, they added a stand-alone, 5-storey office building in the parking lot. Once the mall’s last anchor store moved out (Zellers) the Ramias capitalized on growing demand and built a modern, 5-storey glass office tower with approximately 50,000 square feet per floor, where Zeller’s once stood.
Design & Planning: Knowing they would soon need more parking, George Ramia contacted Strescon about building a total precast parking garage. After looking at numerous locations for the garage it was finally agreed to put it near the high-tension power lines between Petro Canada and the new glass tower.
When the Ramia’s construct a new building they do not take it lightly. They research every option to make sure they are building exactly what is required for their needs, with the best quality materials. Many layouts were looked at for the garage before a three level, single-helix, two-way traffic design was picked. The resulting 500 x 117 foot garage would add just over 450 parking stalls - giving them more than 2000 stalls on the entire site and allowing for future expansion.
To make sure the design would fit in with their new complex, a 3D model of the site was constructed including the parking garage, so the whole family could review the proposal. Resident Architect Noel Fowler went through numerous spandrel designs before the optimum design was found. With the design finalized, construction could finally start.
In September 2009, Eisener Contracting broke ground. The foundation work started soon after, with formwork contractor Lead Structural Formwork Limited at the helm. Strescon started construction on the precast components at the same time on-site work started. In less than two months, production of the 316 precast components (200 - 10ft double tees; 24 columns; 40 loadbearing spandrels; 9 non-loadbearing spandrels; 4 inverted tee beams; 6 shearwalls; 16 litewalls; 3 stair panels; and 16 stairs with landings) was completed - as the site work wrapped up.
Erection Challenges: By mid November, Strescon’s erection crew was mobilizing on site to start installation of the new parking garage. The garage’s proximity to the high tension power lines presented a big challenge. Garages are typically installed with large conventional crawler cranes but this location required the crane to swing very close to the power lines to install the loadbearing precast components directly underneath.
Chris Greer, Strescon’s Erection Manager, came up with a plan to erect this line of precast first, with two smaller 66-ton RT hydraulic cranes - but it would require the power to be shut down for a week. Numerous meetings between Nova Scotia Power, Rank Inc and Strescon were required. When Project Manager, J.P Lachance; Bedford Plant Manager, John Fraser; and Chris Greer; all of Strescon, met one final time with NS power to hash out the details, November 12, 2009 was finally agreed as the first day of erection.
The first piece of precast was installed that morning, and two and a half days later, all the loadbearing precast components under the power lines were installed so the large 400 ton crawler crane could be moved into place to erect the main portion of the garage. All 316 pieces of precast were installed in less than four weeks - that’s an average of more than twenty pieces a day!
The Needs - Why Precast?: The Ramia’s decided on precast due to a number of factors. They wanted a high quality garage with little maintenance which could stand up to the coastal Halifax climate. They also wanted an open garage with few obstructions, so tenants could feel secure when coming to work and when leaving. As with all projects, cost was also a factor.
How did PRECAST meet those needs?
Quality & Maintenance: Special high-strength concrete mixes were used to prevent chloride attack. Pre-topped double-tees drastically reduce the maintenance required with site topped tees or cast-in place garages.
Security: Strescon’s specially designed litewalls and shearwalls provide many openings through the concrete walls so there are no blind spots where people could hide or where visibility is typically hindered.
Cost: The design allowed the spandrel panel height to be increased, which removed the need for perimeter railings. Stairwells were also designed inboard of the structure to reduce the number of pieces.
Everything considered, this garage will have many generations of service life. Strescon's has built numerous total precast parking garages throughout the Maritimes and Eastern U.S. over the years, and even with the Atlantic freeze-thaw cycling that occurs, they are still standing tall. A number of them now have over 30 years of continuous service, with many years of life left. Why would anyone choose any other material?
Owner: Rank Inc.
General Contractor: Eisener Contracting
Precast Supplier: Strescon Limited