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Calgary’s $400-million UXBorough project overcomes geotechnical hurdles

Grant Cameron
Calgary’s $400-million UXBorough project overcomes geotechnical hurdles
COURTESY OF WESTERN SECURITIES LTD. — The first phase of a massive, $400-million mixed-use development at the site of the former Stadium Shopping Centre on Uxbridge Drive Northwest in Calgary is underway. The project will feature a parking garage, eight-storey medical office building and 14-storey apartment building along the west side of the property.

Excavation work is underway on the first phase of a massive, $400-million mixed-use development at the site of the former Stadium Shopping Centre along a busy stretch of Uxbridge Drive Northwest in Calgary.

Piling rigs and other heavy equipment are onsite and have begun digging out soil for installation of a parking garage, eight-storey medical office building and 14-storey apartment building along the west side of the property.

“A good chunk of excavation has started and they are going to be doing that for quite a while,” says Mike Brescia, chief operating officer at Western Securities Limited which is developing the 6.5-acre site.

The parking garage will go down three levels in some places. Once it is excavated, footings will be installed for the 146,000-square-foot medical office building and 200,000-square-foot residential rental building. The apartment building will have 203 units with 14,000 square feet of retail area on the main floor.

Work on the second phase of the project, which will include a 189-room hotel, grocery store with residential units above it, and a large-scale office building, will begin before the initial phase is completed.

 

Piling rigs and other heavy equipment are onsite at the UXBorough development and have begun digging out soil for installation of several buildings.
COURTESY OF WESTERN SECURITIES LTD. — Piling rigs and other heavy equipment are onsite at the UXBorough development and have begun digging out soil for installation of several buildings.

 

UXBorough is the name of the new development. PCL is doing the work. The developer hopes the medical office building will receive a LEED v4 silver rating. The whole site is registered under LEED for Neighbourhood Development so it will have a lot of sustainable features.

Demolition of the existing structures was completed at the end of last year and construction work began this past July.

The developer anticipates the first phase will be completed at the end of 2023, with occupancy in early 2024. 

Geotechnical issues have caused some headaches for the developer. The soil is silty which means it has very little load-bearing capacity and requires that secant retaining walls be put in place.

“It’s terrible soil, some of the worst soil we’ve ever worked with from a geotechnical perspective,” says Brescia. “We actually have a whole process where we are jamming what we call rock pile in the ground in order to put our foundation on top of the soil consolidation process.”

Secant walls are formed by installing intersecting reinforced concrete piles. Primary piles are installed and secondary piles are constructed in between. Secant walls are usually installed as retaining structures and support systems for deep foundations prior to excavation.

 

Work on the second phase of Calgary’s UXBorough project, which will include a 189-room hotel, grocery store with residential units above it, and a large-scale office building, will begin before the initial phase is completed.
COURTESY OF WESTERN SECURITIES LTD. — Work on the second phase of Calgary’s UXBorough project, which will include a 189-room hotel, grocery store with residential units above it, and a large-scale office building, will begin before the initial phase is completed.

 

“On the very top bit, we have some lagging and then secant walls with tie-backs,” says Brescia. “It’s a huge part of the work.”

He anticipates it will be fall of next year before construction begins above-grade.

The parking garage itself covers a large footprint, mostly down the west side of the site, and will have 460 spaces for vehicles.

There have been other challenges to the build, one of course being COVID-19 and making sure construction workers are safe.

“From a materials standpoint, they’re having to juggle that front as well as cost escalations and things like that,” Brescia says of the contractor.

Getting materials for the project in the timeframe that’s required has posed a challenge due to problems in the supply chain.

“It’s certainly a huge challenge today,” says Brescia.

Planning for the project has been in the works for years. The most recent project came to light in 2011. There were issues to work through at the beginning of the project and it took a long time to get shovels in the ground.

“There was a ton of city infrastructure work we had to do to get this project to work,” says Brescia. “It’s been a very challenging project but we’re really excited to be moving it now.”

The property was first developed as a retail centre by Western Securities in the early 1960s. There was nothing in the area back then. Over the years, however, the area has been built up and is a major activity centre.

Foothills Medical Centre, the largest hospital in Alberta, is nearby and across the street is the $1.4-billion Calgary Cancer Centre which is still in the construction stage and expected to open in 2024. The University of Calgary is a five-minute walk away.

“It’s just an incredibly busy area and so the site was right for development and we’re just proceeding to do that,” says Brescia.

Calgary-based Western Securities has been in business nearly 90 years and operates in Canada and the United States. The company was started by the late John O’Connor and remains family-owned under co-presidents Ryan and Sean O’Connor, fourth generations of the family.

Western has built a number of projects in the Calgary area and elsewhere but the UXBorough is the largest in the history of the company.

Brescia said it’s difficult to get projects off the ground in Calgary but Western was committed to making it happen.

“This has a huge amount of job creation associated with it. It’s a ton of investment. We’re keeping over 25 consultants on the job, hundreds of trades and hundreds of workers daily. It’s a huge investment and really showing our commitment.”

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