As the old joke goes, there are really three seasons in Canada: winter, more winter and construction.
The signs of spring – and construction season – are already showing around the city, including a full construction slate from the City of St. Albert.
From Natalia Park in the west to Veness Road in the east, from Henderson Park in the south to Erin Ridge Drive Park in the north, construction of some kind will impact nearly every corner of the city.
Work has already kicked off on some projects, like the renovation to the 50+ Club building, work along the St. Anne Street realignment, Lacombe Lake bank stabilization work, the second phase of Founder’s Walk and others.
Other projects include everything from an amenities building for Riel Park to water line work in Oakmont, are waiting to kick off.
“We do have a fairly robust construction season,” said Aleks Cieply, the capital projects manager for the City of St. Albert.
Cieply said there are 65 construction projects planned this year. About 24 of those are maintenance projects carried over from the previous year.
Some projects are the kind St. Albertans see every year, like the annual asphalt overlay program, sidewalk programs or bus pad rehabilitations. Often road projects of these type, along with other road programs, can be seen on the books every year for different parts of the city.
But not every project is one of the usual summer construction suspects.
The Gazette got a tour of the St. Anne Street construction site, as well as a sneak peak at the new seniors association building.
Even in something as simple as a city sidewalk, there is innovation.
Along the new alignment of St. Anne Street, which will divert traffic behind the legion and the Grandin Medical Clinic, is a sidewalk which is mean to be a promenade.
In addition to the usual concrete, there are portions that appear to be deeply stained wood planks.
But, it turns out, your eyes would deceive you. Those wood planks are actually stamped concrete, part of the area’s boardwalk theme, which will extend to the light standards and even the park furniture that will be featured in Millennium Park.
Below the humble sidewalks, currently four metres across but with plans to eventually extend to six metres, are another innovation.
“It’s called Silva cells,” said Micah Seon-King, a project co-ordinator with the city.
Those cells are like a big tank that will serve a dual purpose. Water, like rain, will be collected in the cells, from the sidewalks. Catch basins along the street will also be directed into the cells.
That helps keep the water out of the storm system. The water, in turn, will collect and will water the trees that will be planted along the boulevard. This is a benefit to the trees and can help them grow faster.
A mild winter helped construction on the project start about a month early, Cieply said.
Construction could be finished in late August or early September meaning cars could be navigating the new roundabout this fall.
The promenade is expected to be part of the area used by the St. Albert Farmers’ Market in 2017, and is generally hoped to be a gathering place – one reason to make the sidewalk six metres across.
Another one of the city’s banner building projects has an excellent view of the action on St. Anne Street – the newly renovated seniors building, formerly known as the 50+ Club, newly christened Red Willow Place.
The building has been undergoing extensive renovations, with a bigger, more versatile space the result. For instance, the large multipurpose room will have sliding dividers installed so it can be reconfigured into smaller spaces.
Generally there should be there lots more light in the spaces – for instance, the billiards room now features windows.
The club design has been more or less totally overhauled.
“This building was pretty much stripped to the studs,” Cieply said. There’s new electrical installed, new ventilation, and even a nice deck space for the older citizens of the city to enjoy nature.
A feature of the outside will be the front entrance, with its extra tall ceilings and lots of windows, will feature a rock faĂ§ade. Inside the light and airy entrance, are exposed wood beams and wall space that’s expected to house some public art.
The building should be open sometime in the fall.
The work to reconstruct the bank at Lacombe Lake also features an interesting innovation.
“It’s going to be a concrete planked deck,” Seon-King said. It’s possibly the first use of concrete planks in Canada, she said, and definitely the first in the region.
The planks will look like wood planks, and are being used because of a lengthy warranty period, they should be lower maintenance and the use of concrete can help deter vandalism.
The deck will actually jut out over the lake a bit, creating a lookout spot. Seon-King said thanks to the bank work, which has been going on for a couple of seasons, there are already birds coming back to the lake.
Interested in seeing all of this year’s projects, or what is going on near your home or business? The city has published an interactive version of the 2016 construction map online, which includes the ability to find out more details on each project.
For instance, you can click to learn about the amenities building going up in Riel Park, adjacent to the artificial turf. The building will have four change rooms, some official rooms, storage and a multi-purpose room.
Or there’s information about work at the heritage sites, or the renovations to Juneau House. Juneau House, a historical house, should be finished by early summer.
Of course, construction season isn’t anything without traffic disruptions. A number of transportation projects will be underway this spring, summer and fall. Donahue Close, Glenview Crescent and Lawrence Crescent will be undergoing reconstruction.
Asphalt overlay will be occurring all over the city, as will sidewalk panel replacements and installations. Road crack sealing, bus pad rehabilitation, pedestrian amber light installation and school zone warning flashers will all be occurring, though the locations haven’t been identified on the map.
Attempts will be made to minimize disruptions and emphasize safety.
“It’s inevitable for road projects there will be disturbances,” Cieply said. Where work is occurring along arterial roads like St. Albert Trail, they will try and stage that work at night to minimize impact on peak hours, Cieply said.
The total cost for the 2016 capital projects program is $46 million, but that does not include projects carried over from previous years. It also does not account for projects that haven’t been approved yet, such as Project 9, a large sewer line.