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Overthrowing the Guvernment: Toronto venue demolished

Peter Kenter
Overthrowing the Guvernment: Toronto venue demolished
The Guvernment/Kool Haus entertainment complex, an iconic destination for Toronto’s music and dance lovers is being demolished by ProGreen Demolition Inc. -

The demolition of the Guvernment/Kool Haus entertainment complex near Toronto’s waterfront unleashed 30 years of memories — including those of the employees of ProGreen Demolition Ltd., which submitted the successful bid on the project.

"Many of us attended performances there over the years," says Keri Wellhauser, marketing manager with ProGreen. "One of our operators even performed a guest shot as a DJ in one of the club rooms at the complex."

The 67,000-square-foot complex is being demolished on behalf of Daniels CM Corp., which is redeveloping the entire bock into condominiums.

The clubs started life as a series of former heavy industrial buildings at the foot of Lower Jarvis Street near the waterfront. A club named RPM was launched in 1985 and was soon joined by a second venue, The Warehouse.

Entrepreneur Charles Khabouth purchased the buildings in 1995, rebranding RPM as Guvernment, and The Warehouse as Kool Haus. The complex has featured a slate of top-tier acts over three decades, including the Rolling Stones, Oasis, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Duran Duran, INXS and Justin Bieber.

Although Khabouth submitted an offer to buy the buildings, he was outbid by the condominium developer.

The demolition project began in early February, but was subject to some initial delays because waste services to the buildings couldn’t be shut down due to the extreme cold weather.

"This project involves the demolition of two buildings including the slab, footings and foundations," says Wellhauser. "Neither building has a basement—they’re both slab-on-grade. An asbestos abatement program took place in The Guvernment prior to any demolition work and is now undergoing an interior strip out. We’re using bobcats and small excavators to remove material such as drywall, wood and finishes."

One operator noted that stripping the interior of the building was like peeling back history, as the paint job for the original Orange Room sub-venue emerged.

Demolition of the Kool Haus — a metal structure — is almost complete.

The contractor brought four major pieces of equipment to the project: a Liebherr 964 excavator with a shear; a 650 Hitachi excavator with shear; and a Liebherr 944 High Reach excavator and 324 CAT with grapple to assist with the high reach work at the tops of the 30-foot buildings.

While the site along Queens Quay East was once largely undeveloped, construction in recent years has seen the addition of the Corus Entertainment headquarters and the George Brown College Waterfront Campus, among other projects, which have ramped up both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

"The site is now a high-traffic downtown location," says Wellhauser. "We’re very conscious of street activity on the west side of the project along Jarvis across from a Loblaws shopping centre. Part of the concrete structure is tight to the sidewalk on the south and west sides, so we installed overhead protection for pedestrians. Neighbouring businesses are a safe distance away from the work, although we employ a dust suppression program when required."

Demolition was completed according to an Ontario Ministry of the Environment Waste Reduction Plan and Audit. ProGreen is separating, salvaging and recycling various items such as electrical equipment, wood and metals, with as much debris as possible diverted from traditional landfills.

Salvage included sound equipment and Guvernment’s famous raised wood floor, which was originally installed to provide superior acoustics and replaced yearly.

"Typically more than 90 per cent of the material on any project is recycled or reused," says Wellhauser.

"It’s likely that concrete and brick will be left on site for future use. Once both buildings are demolished above grade, we’ll go in and remove the footings and foundations from each facility."

The project is scheduled for completion by the end of April.

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