With the long-running legal wrangling over the future of Winnipeg’s Kapyong barracks a low hum in the background, the sounds of demolition work will ring out this summer at the former military base.
The call for bids goes out next month, with the goal to have the initial contract awarded by the end of July and have work begin in August or September, said Maj. Dez Desjardins, the officer in charge of property operations covering the demolition project.
The 30-plus structures on the 160-acre piece of land have sat mostly unused since 2004, when the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was relocated to CFB Shilo, near Brandon.
All have been targeted for demolition, starting with the former base’s most northernly structure: the Lipsett Hall recreation centre.
"It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure," Desjardins said.
"We are doing the final views on the specifications now," he said, noting there are some things they still need to confirm with the city before the planned contract posting date of July 4. "The forecasted schedule was to start demolition this summer, and it is our intention to do that."
The call for bids comes after the feds made a public announcement to area residents in the spring that "we’d be moving forward with demolition of the Kapyong barracks in preparation for transfer of the land sometime in the future," Desjardins said.
Federal funding of $5.5 million has been allocated this fiscal year to start the project.
"We’re looking at the buildings that pose the most risk or security threats first... The gymnasium — there’s no compound fence around it, there’s still a pool in there that’s full of rainwater and runoff water, snow melt — that’s the first targeted building," Desjardins said.
"Most (structures) that have a basement will be full of water, either from the roof leaking... and/or runoff from the winter. In the case of the gymnasium, it’s important on the life-safety side, especially with no perimeter fencing, that that building come down as soon as possible to prevent somebody from breaking in and, heaven forbid, falling in the pool."
The rec centre will be followed by the razing of six maintenance/warehouse structures bordered by Taylor Avenue to the north and Kenaston Boulevard to the east (two of which are the largest on the old base), and the buildings immediately north of Taylor not surrounded by security fencing.
(There will have to be remediation on the maintenance facility site, as the soil contains contaminants from a no-longer-used firefighting foam that had been sprayed during equipment testing over the decades, Desjardins said.)
Should that proceed smoothly, the next phase targets the five logistics buildings on the east side of Kenaston to the north and south of Taylor.
The heart of Kapyong, including its large barracks, mess hall, officers’ quarters and drill hall, will form the third phase of demolition, which will likely not begin until 2018.
"(However), if we receive extra funding, we may move into (the remainder of) buildings this year," Desjardins said.
The final phase will be comprised of the removal of asphalt roads and city service connections (water, sewer, electrical) from the site — to be tackled once the buildings are gone.
All structures will be taken down to grade, all basements will be removed and backfilled, Desjardins said. Any support pilings will be cut six feet down and buried.
"There’s a lot of buildings that will be taken down to the concrete slab... and the slab will remain," he said.
"We’ll take as many as we can down this year, and with whatever funding we get next year, we will carry on."
Once the fiscal year ends March 31, a second contract will be up for grabs to continue the work that remains, with a third contract to rip out the streets and service pipes and wiring forthcoming.
"This is 100 per cent set aside," Desjardins said, adding indigenous companies are being solicited to bid via Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. "It will be an indigenous (-run) company that will be awarded the contract."
INAC will also post a contract for future grass-cutting and snow removal (as necessary).
"If you drive by there you might question whether we are cutting the grass or not, but we are maintaining the maximum height (of grass) with respect to fire protection," Desjardins said. "We’re not doing beautification... but we are keeping the wild grass down."
The barbed wire-topped security fencing will stay up around the site until the removal of city services is complete.
The removal of buildings that have for so long been part of the daily commuter’s landscape will likely come as no surprise to area residents, Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge) said Wednesday. However, "it is a step in the right direction."
"Everybody knows it’s not going back to being utilized (by) the Department of National Defence," he said. "It’s going to move forward and be developed at some point in the future. In order to do that, the site does need to be cleared up.
"Most people will see it as progress and setting the stage, hopefully, for future development on those lands."
Desjardins could not comment on the upcoming work’s impact on the cost of site upkeep, reported in 2016 to be as much as $1.5 million annually. But he did touch on the oft-asked question of why the large barracks are not being transferred and renovated for city use, perhaps as low-income housing.
"That could possibly have been done very early after the battalion moved out; however, they have been sitting with no heat, no services for over a decade now," he said. "There’s vermin, mould issues.
"Obviously, the roofs for a lot of those buildings needed replacement several years ago, so now it’s a hazardous materials concern, as well as asbestos content. Not all of the buildings have asbestos, but not all of the buildings have been tested as well."
One of the buildings slated to fall — the base’s drill hall — will live on, however, as part of the historical record.
Built in 1955, Korea Hall has been designated a historic building. Prior to its razing, a military team will photograph and document the interior of the structure due to "its historical associations and its architectural and environmental values," Desjardins said.