On the foggy thursday morning of September 12, there was a hint of demolition activity at the Evergreen building, where on July 31, 2013, the front section of that building burnt down. Since then, its remnants have been sitting like an sullen eyesore in the dead centre of the town of Sooke.
According to Peter Morris, the COO of Partners REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust — who is the mall’s landlord), there have been a lot of things happening in the background that remains unseen to the naked eye. They are indeed on track with both the demolition of the wreckage, and its rebuilding, and this will be apparent quite soon.
The initial delay came because it was treated as a crime scene. The building had to be investigated by the RCMP as well as the fire department. While the investigation is still ongoing, the RCMP have concluded their onsite investigation and turned the site over to Partners REIT on August 6. Partners REIT, in turn, handed things over to their insurance adjuster who was on site from August 10 to 12, along with their own fire forensic experts.
On August 12, a hazardous materials survey was conducted of the site, as required by the provincial government for any building built before 1980. The Evergreen plaza was built in 1978, and according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, “until the 1980s, asbestos was used in office buildings, public buildings and schools.”
It took until the end of August to review the submissions from five demolition contractors, and at the end, Don Mann Excavating was selected.
Addressing the issue of asbestos, Morris said in the findings of the environmental assessment company, “it was determined that there was the possibility of … traces of asbestos one would normally find in a building built in 1980. Where you would normally find those would be in the drywall tape and mud that was used back then. There may have been fibrous asbestos.”
In addressing possible health concerns, Morris emphasized that there were “traces” of asbestos, and that there would be no more than would be found in a house.
Other hazardous materials were found, including things like cleaning solvents and broken fluorescent lights said Morris.
Even so, they are taking precautions, and the demolition will take place in two parts. As per WorkSafeBC regulations, there are certain things that must be done in the demolition process.
The first part will be a hand-sort, where any “suspected” hazardous materials will be removed from the premises and taken to approved disposal sites.
“We’re being overly cautious. We’re not coming in there with a front-end loader and just digging it up,” said Morris.
“The primary thing that should be pointed out is that they are doing continuous air sampling around the perimeter of the building,” explained Morris. “And that’s to ensure that there is nothing being released into the atmosphere. … We’re showing nothing, there’s nothing. And that will continue on while they are doing all their removal up to the point in time that is is signed off as being a clean site.”
The second part is the overall demolition of the building’s remains.
The demolition permit was in-hand on Friday September 6, and the demolition work began on September 12. Morris anticipates the demolition will take three weeks.
The reconstruction will take a bit longer, up to 18 months, and involves building permits and looking for a range of contractors.
“We are seeking, actively seeking, as we did for the excavation, quotes and tenders from companies in Sooke, and we’re hopeful they will have nice sharp pencils,” said Morris. Their insurance company has a mandate to select the lowest priced contractor who is qualified to do the work, which means the contractor could be local or from elsewhere on the island.
Working together with the insurance company, Partners REIT visualizes another two-story business centre. The big planned improvement will be the installation of an elevator, giving easy access to businesses on the upper floor to those with mobility challenges.
While insurance will not cover the full cost of this upgrade, it will contribute towards current building codes, although Morris said it won’t be the full amount. Current requirements include the installation of an elevator.
Residents of Sooke will have an opportunity to provide their input in terms of vendors and building aesthetics. Partners REIT has a website at evergreensc.ca that will include soliciting input and will provide updates on the reconstruction process. The site will be launched by 9 a.m., Tuesday, September 24. Deb Moore, the property manager for Evergreen, will be the contact person receiving this input.
“The consumers know the site best because they go there and do their shopping every day,” said Moore. Based on the feedback on the website, Moore said they might also schedule a consultation meeting.
Morris is upbeat and positive about the future for the Evergreen plaza.
“We think the property is well situated to serve the community, and we believe the community will continue to grow,” concluded Morris.