Unique structure presents design challenges

'Spaceship' condos break the construction mould

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It was an awkward lot with views only of a run-down rooming house and industrial sheds. But it was inexpensive.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/01/2018 (1700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was an awkward lot with views only of a run-down rooming house and industrial sheds. But it was inexpensive.

Still, creating a compelling residential complex in such unattractive surroundings was a challenge: who wants to look at a retaining wall for the Disraeli freeway or the backs of condos on Waterfront Drive?

Such was the inspiration for the complex Winnipeggers tend to call the spaceship, a two-storey collection of suites elevated 40 feet above the base of the Disraeli, said Jason Manaigre, real estate agent for The Property Exchange Group, which is marketing 62M, a 40-suite condo/apartment building in the north Waterfront Drive neighbourhood.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The two-storey condo development hovering over the Disraeli Freeway features 20 suites on each floor, with each suite offering 600 square feet of living space.

“It’s not a place for everyone,” he said. “It is very unique, which makes it a challenge to sell.”

“If someone is holding my hand and clinging to the wall as we walk to a suite, I know I’m not selling it to them.”

Green Seed Development bought the unusual lot and the rooming house next door, and then hired architect Sasa Radulovic of 5468796 Architecture Ltd. for the design work. Holz Constructors Ltd. took on the complicated task of building the structure.

A tour of 62M starts with the centre structure, a cast-concrete rectangle rising from the ground to the penthouse suite above the second of two circular floors. On each floor are 20 suites, each 600 square feet. The suites are arranged like a donut, with an exterior walkway connecting the suites to the elevator lobby on the inside of the donut on each level.

All are studios: some include a den but at the expense of kitchen space. Being in a round building, all suites are trapezoidal, about 10 feet wide at the front door and about 20 feet wide at the windows.

Sasa Radulovic, one of the architects on the project, said the building’s design evolved as the team solved one challenge after another. First, was the decision to elevate the structure.

“The building has no street frontage, which is very atypical,” Radulovic said. “You looked at it and said ‘Hey, this lot is relatively inexpensive, but of very little value.’ The right way is to get it up above the Disraeli, above the YouCube condos to get the views.”

‘It required a lot of open-mindedness and negotiations by the contractors to realize it wasn’t that complicated. The linchpin was that they were able to convince the subtrades that it was only a two-storey building, once you were on top’– Sasa Radulovic

The round shape came down to simple geometry, he said.

“It was the smallest envelope that would enclose the required amount of condo space,” he said.

Designing the construction process was nearly as much work as designing the structure.

“It required a lot of open-mindedness and negotiations by the contractors to realize it wasn’t that complicated,” he said. “The linchpin was that they were able to convince the subtrades that it was only a two-storey building, once you were on top.”

Radulovic said with the exception of the centre column, most of 62M was pre-fabricated, either in concrete or wood. Once the floors and walls between each unit were in place, the typical finishing work inside was done with conventional construction.

David Pensato, executive director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone, said 62M is a welcome addition to an area of the Exchange District currently underserved by retail businesses. He’s hoping the growing population density will soon attract more services.

“Together with the James Street pumping station and a few other projects in the works nearby, I think the gaps in the East Exchange are filling in nicely,” he said. “The Exchange District has really turned a corner in the past few years and projects such as 62M show that for all the great things that have happened, we’re just getting started.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The main interior layout of condo units in the 62M development is based on a studio style, with each unit featuring its own heating and air conditioning.

“The next decade in the Exchange District will be amazing to watch.”

Manaigre said each unit is self-contained, each having its own heating and air conditioning with no sharing of airflow between units. In units without dens, there’s room for a stacked washer-dryer unit. In suites with dens, the washer-dryer can be conventional, and located at one end of the den.

He said living in 62M forces a low-consumption lifestyle, as closet and storage space is limited. Residents are welcome to lock bicycles on the walkway on the inside of the structure. He said 40 feet up, and behind a secured entrance, the risk of loss is less.

Still to come is the exterior landscaping, including paving the circular parking area and adding crushed granite as a design piece.

He said a key feature for the first floor is a heated cavity below the finished floor. “Today (at 4C) isn’t the best example, but even at -30, the floor is warm.”

The building splits suites almost 50:50 between units for sale and units for rent. Investors seeking to buy a suite as income property are welcome, Manaigre said. To maximize the view, windows are all floor-to-ceiling and each suite gets two openable windows.

Since the units are all the same size, prices vary only by the view: units facing the YouCube development on Waterfront Drive are priced at $200,000 while units facing the Disraeli Freeway command $260,000. It’s about half occupied so far, with the suites facing downtown either all sold or rented. Condo fees for owners are $283.41 per month.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Occupants access their condo units from the inner part of the development’s circular design.

Rents are between $1,150 and $1,600, depending on views and furnishings. “Twelve hundred will get you a nice unfurnished with a nice view.”

While each suite is designed as a studio, the space provides for seating for eight in the living room-bedroom area, as well as room for a table for eight in the kitchen.

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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Updated on Monday, January 29, 2018 8:16 AM CST: Adds photos

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