Toronto Star Runs Stephen Weir Trump Tower Story: Posting of the Orginal Version of the Story

On Saturday, May 31st, the Toronto Star ran a story I wrote about the new Trump Tower Hotel and Condo project in Toronto.
The story, with an illustration by ED SCHNURR can be see at: / Below is the original version which was edited by the Star for accuracy and length.

Donald Trump’s new vision of luxury
Small, Tall and Tight. Really really tight.

By Stephen Weir
May 22, 2008

Shoe-horning a luxury hotel and condo tower into the already hyper-crowded financial district of downtown Toronto is forcing Donald Trump's real estate company to think small while building tall. The 924 ft (282 metres) Trump International Hotel and Tower is finally underway and as the hole is being dug in a miniscule plot of land at the southeast corner of Adelaide and Bay Streets, a team of architects and builders are importing both people and different construction techniques to build a $400 million tower where a tiny five and dime store used to stand.

Two Canadian companies, Zeidler Partnership Architects and Lewis Builds, have been hired by the Trump Organization to construct Canada’s tallest condominium tower and one of Toronto’s first 5-star hotels. Their lofty plans must be executed without bringing traffic in the financial district to a standstill, and without hindering other nearby construction projects. The project site - the old Bay Street Woolworth department store - is almost completely surrounded by tall buildings including the oversized Bay Adelaide Centre (three buildings: 43, 49 and 51 storeys) currently under construction right across the street.

The image of billionaire real estate magnate and TV personality Donald Trump has always been HUGE. His buildings like his own persona, is larger than life. But here in Toronto, the design of his first Canadian property is a study in accommodation.

" Well, for starters,” said architect Tarek El-Khatib, Senior Partner with Zeidler “there was concern from the city about the building's parking garage (and how it will affect Adelaide St traffic). We handled that issue by having an upside down plan -- the garage is up not down. People will be entering off Adelaide and loading and unloading on the second floor of the building."

"We really flipped our way of thinking," said David Eng, Zeidler’s Trump project manager. “ In most big building the structure extends deep into the ground to anchor the building and to provide parking. " At the Trump the garage goes up seven stories from the ground level.

Owners of low riders need not apply for parking privileges; the gradient of the garage ramp will be very steep. " The ramp has been designed to accept a Crown Vic (Ford Motors luxury Crown Victoria automobile) 97% of all cars will be able to make it in," explained El-Khatib. The big concern isn't tall SUVs (like, say, a Land Rover with roof rack) but ultra low slung cars such as the Ferrari, or, the Beverly Hills’ style 20-person stretch luxury Hummer Limousine.

But, be it a Bentley or a Volkswagen, no matter what condo owners and hotel guests drive into the Trump Tower's porte-cochere they won't be permitted to park their own cars. Residents buy parking privileges, not individual spots. Trump valet staff will park all cars in stacked, two-to-a-level, auto storage units (bunk beds for cars).

Hotel and condo traffic enter the hotel, east bound along Adelaide. The ramped porte-cochere takes vehicles up to the second floor concierge station where drivers surrender their vehicles. Condo owners, not wanting to wait for their car to be brought out of storage have round-the-clock use of two “residents only” chauffeured S-class Mercedes.

It may be a steep ramp but it will be the prettiest garage entrance in the city. The city of Toronto requires that the Trump project spend $2 million on two pieces of public art. Since there won’t be any open space (the site is 15,520 sq feet with 98% of it covered by the building), one of the art installations will be a ramp wall mural that can be seen by passing pedestrians.

The Trump building will descend only two storeys below grade, and much of that space will be used by delivery trucks and service vehicles. With its entrance off Bay, northbound trucks will enter the building and drive onto a large turntable built into the floor. The service vehicles will be mechanically turned around so that they can back into the loading docks. This round-house approach is a necessity, there won't be enough room inside the Trump hotel for even a small sized garbage truck to turn itself around.

From dawn until dusk Bay Street is one of the busiest streets in Canada. It will be difficult for trucks to enter and exit the building during the rush hours. To get everything from furniture deliveries to newspapers into the complex’s receiving area, shipping firms will be required to plan ahead. Deliveries will be staged to take place before or after rush hour.

"“It is a business district and the area is empty after 6 pm," explained Tarek El-Khatib. "Trucks coming in and out late at night will not disturb the city."

The basement is a building's foundation - it is the anchor for everything that is built on top of it. With only a shallow basement, the soaring Trump Tower will have to take measures to make sure the building is firmly rooted to the ground.

" The 9ft thick foundation will float on bed rock," explained Ing. "There will be a concrete frame poured around the perimeter and we will use steel 'tie-downs' to secure the foundation and we will pierce the sides (with horizontal tie-downs) to make sure the perimeter is equally anchored."

" We are still removing remnants of the old Woolworth's store from the site, " said Seattle's tall/small building expert Mark Garland. The professional engineer and other technical experts have been brought in by Lewis Builds from its US affiliate to oversee the construction of the glass and granite tower.

" We will be pouring a huge concrete pad once the site has been cleared," continued Garland. " There will be 100 tie-downs –18ft long high strength steel rods-- punched through the concrete into the bedrock below."

Since the Trump building will occupy almost every inch of land on the site, there is little space for heavy equipment and no room for Lewis Builds’ construction shack. A plan to put a trailer on-top of the fabled National Club, directly south of the site fell through. Over 50 designers, engineers and construction experts are now housed in a Lombard Street office, several blocks to the east.

Tight quarters also means that only one tall crane will be erected on site. To make sure there isn’t a case of dueling cranes overtop of the city’s skyline, the placement of the equipment becomes a safety issue.

“Certainly crane placement is one of our concerns,” said Garland. Pointing at a set of drawings he shows how the arc of a crane currently on the Adelaide site swings within a breath of the edge of the Trump Tower hole. When his crane is erected, the long horizontal boom could easily move into the Adelaide project’s airspace.

On most big building projects in Toronto the high towered cranes are used to lift wooden forms (used to construct interior concrete walls) from one floor to the next as the building project rises upwards. This is done by swinging the forms out away from the building and then lifting them up to the next floor where they are unloaded and used to create walls for the next floor.

Being so close to busy streets, pedestrians and the Adelaide project worksite, has caused Lewis Builds to bring in a building system much favoured in crowded Asian cities, which greatly reduces the need for the cranes to swing material out over Bay and Adelaide Streets.

The forms will be lifted from floor to floor by way of a rail climbing system that is attached to the outside of the building. The tall and wide wooden forms are transported on a vertical set of tracks from one floor to the next without ever being swung out over the street.

“ People won’t see these automatic climbing system,” said Garland. “We will be tenting the building as we go, and the rails will be inside the tent (a three-story covering that stops dust and building waste from blowing out onto the street).”

“ We won’t fill in the garage walls until way into the project,” he continued. “We need it open so that we can stage our materials there. We will do the same at the building’s Sky Lobby on the 33rd floor.”

After the luxury multi-million dollar penthouses have been built (floors 54 to 60) a large sealed tank of water will be fixed on-top of the roof to act as a counter balance against high winds that will batter the tall thin building.

“The curtain wall windows and natural stone are custom built but will be installed rather quickly,” said Garland. “ People will think the building process is going slowly, but, when we start closing in the building, things will move fast!”

The height of the floor and the size of the windows are what the Trump Corporation believes will transform small into carriage trade. Each of the 118 luxury residences and 261 hotel guest rooms and suites will have floor to ceiling windows. The hotel suites have 9 and 10ft ceilings, while the condominium residences will have 11- to 13-ft. ceilings—surpassing the 10-ft. ceilings that are considered premium height. The Grand Skyplex Penthouse Residences at the top boast ceilings up to 28 ft. in height.

There will be no more than six suites per floor—with the majority of suites featuring direct, secure elevator access—offering spectacular views of Lake Ontario and the city below. As “The Donald” said when he came to Toronto last year for the official sod turning ceremony “People really want to own what I do, cause I am known for getting the best location and taking those best locations and building the best buildings.”

“You’ve got the highest ceiling height,” continued Trump, in talking big about his new Toronto small/tall tower. “You’ve got the biggest windows. The best views … you are going to have something that has never been done in Canada before and rarely anywhere else in the world.”


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