How a construction crew demolished Regent Park’s last original apartment tower
Regent Park is in the process of being transformed from a social housing project into a mixed-income neighbourhood where condo-dwellers and low-income renters can live near one another, shop in the same grocery stores and hang out at the same parks and fancy athletic facilities. The final realization of that dream is still a few years off, though. For the time being, the 69-acre site, currently under heavy redevelopment by Toronto Community Housing and Daniels Corporation, is a construction zone. This March marked a milestone: 14 Blevins, a Toronto Community Housing apartment tower that happened to be the last original 1958 Regent Park high-rise still standing, was completely demolished to make way for what’s next. Here’s how ProGreen Demolition wrecked the building without dropping any bricks on the elementary school next door.
The first step, of course, was to relocate the residents. Six months before the start of demolition, Toronto Community Housing gave the occupants of 14 Blevins and nearby 605 Whiteside the chance to pick new TCH apartments. If multiple people chose the same unit, a lottery determined who got first refusal.
After cutting the utlitilies, ProGreen workers moved through the building, ripping out the interior fixtures: “Carpets, ceilings, floor tiles, any of the finishes to get back down to the base of the building,” says ProGreen president Paolo Provenzano. A hazmat team went through looking for any dangerous materials lurking within the walls, like asbestos. Everything they found was bagged up and taken away for safe disposal.
Once ProGreen got the green light from the inspection team, demolition began in earnest. At the company’s disposal was the largest high-reach arm in Canada (above in white). The specially modified Liebherr 984 can reach heights of up to 171 feet—more than 40 feet higher than the roof of 14 Blevins. At its fearsome tip is a massive shear capable of crunching clean through concrete and metal rebar. “It’s a phenomenal, phenomenal tool,” Provenzano says.
Unlike the other Regent Park towers, 14 Blevins was located less than 8 feet from a school, meaning Provenzano and his team had to take special care to limit falling debris. A mesh screen was suspended from a crane to propel wayward chunks back into the demolition site. “When anything falls off the screen it bounces back out and right down to the floor, like a slingshot,” Provenzano says. The crew worked on the building in sections, from top to bottom.
What’s left at the end of demolition is a massive pile of smashed concrete and rebar. The remnants of 14 Blevins were passed over multiple times with an electromagnet that separated the recyclable metal from the waste material. The clean concrete chunks were broken down, loaded into a truck, and taken to a disposal site.
By the time ProGreen is finished, even the basement of 14 Blevins will have been demolished and filled in. “We clean up all the debris. We’ll leave a hole that’s basically the way they dug it out prior to construction,” Provenzano says.