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Pile-driving work resumes at former Blind Pig site

Expect eight storeys by May, says developer
TALL JOB — Crews use a crane to load a steel pile into a truck at the former Blind Pig Pub site on St. Albert Trail on Sept. 7, 2023. Crews were removing and replacing more than a hundred piles at the site, which will soon be home to an eight-storey net-zero building. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Downtown St. Albert can expect a lot of banging and shaking this month as work on the city’s biggest net-zero building kicks back into gear.

St. Albert residents may have seen crews use cranes to yank steel pillars out of the ground from the former Blind Pig Pub site at the corner of St. Albert Trail and St. Anne St. last week.

Niche Development Corp. demolished the former pub in July 2020 to make way for an eight-storey condo complex that, once built, will be the biggest net-zero energy building in St. Albert. But work on the site ground to a halt in August 2021, leaving many residents with questions on the project’s future.

The Gazette spoke with Niche Development president John Clarke last week for an update.

Crews had hammered some 125 steel piles into the ground as of Aug. 27, 2021, when the 126th struck a boulder, Clarke said. When they pulled it back up to realign it, crews saw the steel had cracks in it.

“When we welded it together, we ended up breaking the steel,” he explained — a phenomenon called cold cracking.

Further tests found similar cracks in many of the other piles, which suggested the steel did not have the correct chemical composition, Clarke said. That meant all the piles had to be replaced — a process that couldn’t begin until March 7, 2023, because of delayed approvals from the insurance company. Project engineers also determined pulling the piles would mean destroying the dentist’s office next to the site, prompting design changes.

“It has been tough, I won’t lie,” Clarke said of the 12-month delay in construction. “It has caused us some pain and suffering.”

Clarke said his team bought and demolished the next-door dentist office earlier this year and are now pulling the 126 piles out of the ground. The piles are up to 37 metres long and have to be cut up and hauled away as scrap. Residents should expect a lot of noise and vibration at the site as crews hammer in the replacement piles over the next 12 weeks.

Clarke said crews will start excavating the parkade once the piles are in place. Removing the dentist’s office means the parkade can be wider than originally planned, so it will now only go two stories down instead of three. City residents should expect to see about eight storeys of structure erected at the site by next May, with the building ready for habitation by early 2025.

St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron said she had no issues with recent delays to this project as they were due to circumstances beyond the developer’s control. She said the building should act as a nice visual entrance to the downtown area and bring more people to the region.

“The more people we have downtown, the better it is for business.”

Questions on the project (dubbed “Saint [A] Square”) should go to Niche Development at 780-306-4416.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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