Feat of engineering integrates SkyTrain with Gilmore Place development (PHOTOS)

Nov 25 2021, 11:50 pm

Tens of thousands of people riding SkyTrain Millennium Line pass through Gilmore Station daily, but they might be unaware that, at the moment, the trains are essentially passing over a canyon.

Construction on the first phase of Onni Group’s Gilmore Place mixed-use complex has necessitated one of Metro Vancouver’s largest and deepest building excavations ever — the digging of a 3.5-acre pit about 100 ft deep. The resulting underground levels will be used for seven levels of parking.

To achieve this, extraordinary engineering considerations had to be made to structurally secure the deep foundations of SkyTrain’s elevated guideway and Gilmore Station, which cut through the site diagonally.

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

It goes without saying that the developer and their contractors collaborated closely with TransLink on the strategy of protecting the structural integrity of the SkyTrain infrastructure while an active excavation is occurring.

“The methodology was developed in consultation with our geotechnical engineer, structural engineer, and our subcontractor’s engineer,” Duncan Wlodarczak, the chief of staff for Onni Group, told Daily Hive Urbanized.

This engineering team included GeoPacific Consultants, Kor Structural, and Klohn Crippen Berger.

“The tops of the piers were braced back to a large anchor, after which secants were installed down to bedrock around the existing caissons. A temporary shoring wall was installed which the secants were braced back to while excavation continued,” he said.

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

gilmore place onni group skytrain

Gilmore Place construction progress, as of October 26, 2021. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

TransLink spokesperson Tina Lovegreen said this project is being reviewed and overseen by the public transit authority’s Adjacent and Integrated Developments (AID) program, which establishes the framework for private building developments immediately adjacent to public transit infrastructure.

Additionally, as construction necessitated the footprint of Gilmore Station’s emergency staircases on the northern end of the platform, the developer also constructed temporary replacement emergency staircases using a scaffolding system.

“Given the proximity and scale of Onni’s masterplan, the review process has been complex but followed the same framework as other similar projects,” Lovegreen told Daily Hive Urbanized.

“As part of the AID program the design and approach to construction is reviewed by TransLink and its consultants to ensure risks are mitigated. As each development is unique, the review process is specific to both the existing infrastructure and the proposed project.”

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Both the developer and TransLink are also negotiating the post-construction state of the SkyTrain infrastructure. Upon completion, the areas surrounding the station and underneath the guideway will be turned into pedestrian-oriented public spaces. The precise designs are in the process of being finalized.

The new buildings will have substantial retail and restaurant uses on their ground levels to further activate this public realm spine.

As one of the developer’s public benefit contributions, there will also be direct improvements to Gilmore Station. Onni Group will construct new permanent canopies for the platform level of the station, replacing the temporary wooden panel canopies first installed when the station was built 20 years ago. The 8,200 sq ft roof that exists today was built in just four days.

Gilmore Station’s simple design, relative to the designs of all of the other original Millennium Line stations, was intentional to allow for adjacent developments to provide some flexibility for the integration of a transit-oriented development.

skytrain gilmore station next train screen

SkyTrain Gilmore Station. (TransLink)

gilmore place towers

Artistic rendering of Gilmore Place integrated with SkyTrain Gilmore Station. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

From the major excavation currently being conducted for Gilmore Place, three towers will rise.

Towers One and Two recently emerged from their underground parkade levels and foundations, with the first few floor plates now poking out above ground level. Both towers will be primarily residential, with retail, restaurant, and amenities located within the lower levels.

Of particular interest, Tower Two at the northwest corner of the site — facing the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Gilmore Avenue — is expected to reach a height of 708 ft with 64 storeys, establishing it as Metro Vancouver’s new tallest building. It represents the first of a new wave of suburban tall towers outside of Vancouver to exceed the height of the 659 ft Living Shangri-La tower in downtown Vancouver. Construction on Tower Two, containing about 640 homes above commercial spaces, is anticipated to reach full completion by 2025.

gilmore place towers

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

Gilmore Place Onni Group

Artistic rendering of the first phase of Gilmore Place. (Onni Group)

gilmore place master plan

Original master plan of Gilmore Place. This concept is outdated, and is set to be updated in 2022. (Onni Group)

Previously approved plans for the four-phase redevelopment across the 12-acre site call for 10 towers with thousands of homes, about 450,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant spaces, and about one million sq ft of office space. This includes a 37-storey in the core of the site with about 700,000 sq ft of office and retail space as part of the second phase, located on the east side of the SkyTrain guideway. IBI Group is the architectural design firm of the project.

Wlodarczak notes Onni Group is in the process of working with the City of Burnaby to update the site’s master plan. Details on the updated master plan for review and public consultation are expected in early 2022.

A major redevelopment approved in July 2021 by Surrey City Council near SkyTrain Gateway Station could potentially be built in a similar way. Thind Properties’ city block-sized site at 13437 105 Avenue is bisected by the SkyTrain guideway running diagonally. Lovegreen says the review process for Thind Towers may be comparable given the site’s characters are similar to Gilmore Place. The developer is looking to build three residential towers above five underground parking levels.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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