Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Storm caused 'critical failure' at new police headquarters

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A file photo of the new police headquarters building. Last week's rainstorm inflicted serious damage on the building and forced tenants out of the adjacent Graham Avenue office tower for repairs.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A file photo of the new police headquarters building. Last week's rainstorm inflicted serious damage on the building and forced tenants out of the adjacent Graham Avenue office tower for repairs. Photo Store

The rainstorm that struck Winnipeg last week inflicted serious damage on the city's new police headquarters, forcing tenants out of the adjacent Graham Avenue office tower while repairs are underway.

On Aug. 21, an evening rainstorm hit downtown Winnipeg particularly hard and blew a manhole cover off a street adjacent to the new police headquarters, a $210-million project nearing the end of its construction phase.

Water entered the block-long structure and caused what the city is now describing as a "critical failure of electrical and mechanical systems" in both the police-headquarters and office-tower components of the building.

The night of the storm, the building was evacuated because elevators and emergency-exit lighting systems failed, city spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said.

Electrical and mechanical systems remain damaged and repairs are not expected to be completed until Wednesday. Some of the office-tower tenants, including Winnipeg's police cadets and a Canada Post office on the main floor, are not expected to have power until Thursday.

"The necessary equipment is being sourced and will need to be installed and commissioned before tenants are able to return to the office tower," Bailey said in a statement.

Canada Post customers have reported having to collect their mail in St. Boniface while the repairs are underway, while police cadets have been required to use vehicles and police stations.

The electrical vaults for the building are located in the basement of the police headquarters, which suffered from similar issues following a rainstorm in June, said Armik Babakhanians, president of Caspian Construction, the Winnipeg firm overseeing the renovation of the former Canada Post building.

On Thursday, Babakhanians described the damage to the structure as insignificant. The city, however, said it is still trying to determine how much it will cost to conduct repairs to the building. Crews were also observed working on an adjacent street this week.

The city confirmed Caspian Construction has applied for occupancy permits for the new police headquarters, where construction is expected to wrap up this year. Police expect to take months moving into the new building, which will house police functions currently spread out among several office buildings, including the Public Safety Building on Princess Street.

The police will occupy the six-floor former Canada Post warehouse, while additional tenants must be secured for the 10-storey office tower. The city hopes to sell that tower in order to recoup part of the $29.25-million cost of purchasing the building from Canada Post in 2009.

The city initially employed Shindico Realty to manage the tower, but council cancelled the contract in 2012 after the Canadian Taxpayers Federation complained property-management services for the building were not tendered properly. A subsequent audit of Winnipeg real estate transactions drew a similar conclusion, though Shindico officials disputed the finding.

The city began managing the tower itself in 2013 and retained the Winnipeg office of Montreal-based multinational firm SNC Lavalin to provide operations and maintenance services, Bailey said.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2014 B2

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