Council Approves Demolition of Drill Hall

Posted On Thursday August 15, 2019

On August 6, 2019, City Council approved Administration’s recommendation to demolish the Drill Hall portion of the Community Centre and the indoor gun range in 2020.

As part of the 2019 Operating Budget, Council allocated funds to do a roof assessment of various community facilities, including the Drill Hall section of the Community Centre. (The 2019 Operating and Capital Budgets did not consider any major repairs to the Drill Hall. The 2019-2028 Capital Plan did identify the replacement of the roof for this building in 2024, at an estimated cost of $200,000.) To date, the City has spent approximately $350,000 toward this work, with the assessment of the Drill Hall building representing the majority of these costs. Most of the Drill Hall expenses were spent on assessing the building and developing rehabilitation options, including developing engineered drawings and developing preliminary cost estimates for the repair work.

The City has been using Wood Research and Development (WRD) for assessment and engineering work on the Drill Hall. WRD is one of the few engineering firms within Canada that has experience with assessing and rehabilitating older wood structures. While the City could seek a second opinion from a different structural engineer, it is unlikely that their opinion will differ significantly from the WRD assessment.

With all of the information that has been provided, the City developed three scenarios and cost estimates:

  • Option A – Complete rehabilitation of the Drill Hall
    • Allows the City to continue to provide space for a number of local/government agencies and local user groups with the least possible interruption or disturbance to their operations.
    • Estimated cost of $2.2 - $3.2 million, including a 30% contingency.
    • Will ideally extend the useful life of the building for another 30 years.
    • Work could be completed by the end of 2019 with some disturbance to existing tenants (namely noise and dust) and no significant interruption of the Field House activities.
  • Option B – Temporary repairs to the Drill Hall
    • Involves repairing the structure to the extent necessary to ensure that it will be safe for the next one to three years to allow the City more time to plan other alternatives.
    • As the City recently added this option to the list of alternatives, Administration does not have a firm estimate for this work. However, Administration did correspond with WRD to obtain an opinion of likely costs for this work, as WRD has undertaken similar temporary repairs on other projects.
    • With input from WRD, Administration believes that the cost for this option would be approximately $0.75 – $1 million, including a 30% contingency. It is likely that if the City proceeded with this option, there would be some savings on a complete repair in the future (Option A). However, it is unlikely that the savings would correspond to the full amount spent.
    • Administration does not anticipate that this option would present any significant short-term impacts on current tenants of the Drill Hall. Administration estimates that the City could similarly complete this work by the end of 2019. There would be no significant impact on the Field House user groups.
  • Option C – Demolition of Drill Hall
    • This option would require the termination of all leases with the existing Drill Hall tenants.
    • The current tenants would be required to be out of the Drill Hall by November or December 2019 (depending on the terms of their respective leases). The building would remain closed over the winter months with limited occupancy by City staff for maintenance purposes and for ongoing monitoring of the condition of the structure.
    • The estimated total cost of this option is approximately $0.9 – $1.5 million, which includes a 20% contingency. A lower contingency is appropriate for a demolition than for a renovation. Also, the age of the most recent renovations to this building (being in the late 1990s) means that there should be minimal risk of dealing with hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead paint.
    • This estimate does not include any consideration for existing tenants for leaseholder improvements they may have constructed, either through the current or prior lease agreements. This estimate also does not include allowances for assisting displaced Drill Hall tenants with relocating out of the Drill Hall and into a new space, or for renovation costs in their new spaces. According to the existing lease agreements, the City has no contractual obligation to provide funding for costs that the tenants may incur as a result of the early termination of these leases.

Based on its review of the WRD assessment reports, Council decided to proceed with Option C (Demolition). The rationale for the recommendation is primarily based upon:

  • With any renovation of the Drill Hall, which is effectively an older structure built within a newer structure, there is risk for hidden renovation costs that could exceed the 30% contingencies currently allowed for by Administration;
  • The Drill Hall building is deemed to be sub-optimal to attract future tenants, given its current layout and configuration;
  • The City is currently competing with other private landlords;
  • Demolition of the Drill Hall provides the City with the future opportunity to expand the Community Centre to incorporate additional City or non-City services. Many current City facilities are requiring increasing levels of maintenance, due to the timing of their construction. These facilities include the library, the Mirror Lake Centre and the police station, among others;
  • Demolition does have a significant short-term impact on a number of user groups.

At the request of City Council, Administration has been in discussions with the existing Drill Hall tenants to update them regarding the condition of the building. Administration has also attempted to find alternative locations for each tenant to the extent possible, maximizing the use of City-owned facilities first, and then investigating options within the private sector. This has been somewhat of a challenge, as each tenant has specific space and usage needs that may be difficult to accommodate.  While many of the discussions with existing tenants still in a negotiation stage, Administration believes that appropriate private sector or public sector lease options will be available for the tenants. Until negotiated leases are in place for each tenant, Administration is unable to comment on the impact that moving out of the Drill Hall will have on the individual tenants, both in terms of moving and renovation costs, as well as with ongoing costs such as lease payments, utilities and/or janitorial fees.

Considering that discussions are ongoing with some of the Drill Hall tenants, Administration is not prepared to make a formal recommendation regarding funding options for the Drill Hall demolition, or any recommendation regarding potential financial assistance to the displaced tenants. The City has no contractual obligation to provide funding for costs that the tenants may incur due to the early termination of these leases, although Council may wish to consider some form of financial and/or in-kind assistance. Administration will continue to work on compiling this information, and will present options at an upcoming Regular Council meeting.