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Radio silence: Former CHUM studios demolished

Peter Kenter
Radio silence: Former CHUM studios demolished

The offices of Toronto radio legend 1050 CHUM-AM are historic — in more ways than one.

Recently demolished, the mid-town building at 1331 Yonge St. was the station’s home for 50 years until 2009 and played host to musical visitors as diverse as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Frank Zappa, Supertramp, the Bay City Rollers and the Osmonds.

Phil Stone, one of the disc jockeys on CHUM, previously described the day it switched to a rock’n’roll format on May 27, 1957.

"I was in the meeting room when they brought in a tape from a U.S. Top 40 rock’n’roll station, explaining that this new format was going to revolutionize CHUM," said Stone.

"There was dead silence. One of the ad salesmen started crying. Another staff member who had just put a down payment on a new home went to the bathroom and threw up."

The change in format turned out to be a winner for CHUM, which quickly became the top-rated station in Toronto. CHUM’s operations, and its iconic neon sign, are now located at its downtown Toronto headquarters on Richmond Street.

"We still listen to CHUM-FM here at the office," says Sean Teperman, chief executive officer at Teperman, the company that carried out the demolition.

"But with the sign removed and the radio personalities relocated, there wasn’t much to be said about the building — there wasn’t any heritage value to the structure itself."

The property is owned by Aspen Ridge Homes. The developer purchased the property in 2008 for $21.5 million and relocated some of its offices to the building. The new 11-storey condo, dubbed The Jack, is being designed by Quadrangle Architects and will feature 153 units.

Teperman says his company has found a comfortable niche working with developers, who like to hire their own demolition contractors directly. Developers now constitute more than two-thirds of the company’s work.

"On this project there was no salvage left inside," he says.

"You could still see that some of the rooms were cork insulated with triple drywall for broadcast studios. The CHUM building was actually built in three stages, so one section was built of wood, another concrete and another steel frame."

A courtyard and parking lot behind the slab-on-grade building provided a staging yard for the demolition project, which began with removal of asbestos and vermiculite insulation.

Covered walkways were erected over the adjacent sidewalks on Yonge Street and Jackes Avenue. These were built in co-operation with the developer, who extended permits beyond the typical 30-day period so that they could be repurposed for construction of the new condominium. "We brought in two hydraulic excavators — a 45-tonne and a 30-tonne — and used concrete pulverizers and metal shears to take down the two-storey structure, moving through the building from the courtyard on the east to the west and then razing it from north to south," Teperman says. "The recycling rate was very high for this project, more than 95 per cent, with concrete processed for further use and steel cut up for further processing and shipped off site."

Two equipment operators and two spotters worked at the building for about a month and a half until recent completion.

"The contract didn’t include soil grading," says Teperman. "With more stringent regulations for grading and compaction, we’re typically seeing that portion of demolition contracts put into the shoring or excavating contract."

While placing a logo on the project hoarding is designed to promote the company’s work, Teperman says it also attracts calls from concerned citizens.

"They phone up the office and ask us why we’re knocking down one of their favourite buildings," he says. "We have to explain that we’re only the demolition contractor."

However, Teperman played nice with CHUM aficionados.

"We salvaged and cleaned 500 bricks from the building on behalf of the owner," he says. "These will be distributed to former employees and fans, including CHUM veteran Roger Ashby."

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