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Tearing down an iconic Sudbury, Ontario tower

Peter Kenter
Tearing down an iconic Sudbury, Ontario tower
Two-man lifts were used during the recent demolition of a water tower in Sudbury, Ontario. This 500,000-gallon tower was built in 1948. The demolition contract was awarded to Priestly Demolition of Aurora. -

The City of Greater Sudbury, Ontario once hosted two iconic green water towers. The smaller one, located on Ash Street, has been demolished while the larger Pearl Street tower is slated for remediation and redevelopment. The demolition contract was awarded to Priestly Demolition of Aurora.

Construction of the 500,000-gallon Ash Street tank was completed in 1948 by Horton Steel Works Ltd. of Fort Erie. Its eight metal legs stood on eight large concrete footings and the tower rose approximately 33.5 metres above ground level. It had been decommissioned about 10 years ago.

“We had built the Ellis reservoir as part of our water distribution network and we decommissioned the Ash and Pearl Street towers at the same time,” says Ed Vildis, co-ordinator of building facilities with Greater Sudbury.

“There was a certain amount of rust and corrosion on the outside of the Ash Street tower and it had become an eyesore,” adds Vildis.

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“The original paint job involved lead paint and the cost of removing the paint in an environmentally responsible manner and re-painting it was estimated at a million dollar price tag.”

The city issued a request for proposals weighted heavily toward methodology and past performance, considering the proximity of homes and businesses to the vicinity of the tower.

The small Ash Street tower property was flanked by a medical office to the north, a two-storey apartment on the west, a laneway and residential area to the east and homes to the south, with the closest structure about 10 metres away. The contract was awarded to Priestly Demolition of Aurora.

Under the contract, the city agreed to pay the demolition company $191,000 to demolish the tower, with Priestly granted the rights to sell approximately 100 tonnes of scrap metal.

“We had the property all fenced off, although the tower is located on a high point of land and was visible from most parts of the city,” says Vildis.

The demolition company brought a crane and two-man lifts to the site in early November 2011 and took the tower apart using torches, beginning at the top of the tank.

“It was dismantled in just the reverse of the way it was built,” says Vildis.

“They removed the top panels first and dropped them into the interior of the bowl, then lifted those sections out with the crane.”

“One of the things that surprised me is that I thought they would wait for fair weather because there’s lots of precipitation in northern Ontario during the fall,” he says.

“They prefer wet weather because they have to worry less about any sparks that might fall beneath the water tower. They still had a water truck with a pressure hose on site to deal with any sparks that might be carried by the wind.”

The demolition was completed in three weeks, and future uses of the site are now under consideration.

The larger million-gallon Pearl Street tower was also built by Horton, with construction completed in 1956. The tower is currently owned by local entrepreneur Jeff Perrault.

He’s employing the space to sell banner advertising, which he’s using to generate funds to redevelop the tower along the lines of a similar, but smaller, project in Lethbridge.

“The tower is in great shape,” says Perrault.

“We plan to build three floors inside for a total of 18,000 square feet of floor space. We’re working with a structural engineer on a plan to install more than 100 windows in the structure and to construct two elevators and two staircases.”

The property is currently approved for residential dwelling units, commercial office space, banquet facilities and a restaurant.

“It sits on a two-acre parcel of land in prime downtown Sudbury,” adds Perrault.

“We’ll have plenty of parking at the base of the tower.”

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