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Building the Way to a Better Economy

Rendering of Calgary Cancer Centre, PCL's largest lump sum design-build project to date. Photo credit: PCL.

Edmonton’s construction industry is building a lot more than a new skyline. In the wake of an oil- and gas-driven recession, and as Edmonton works to revitalize its downtown core, the construction industry is pulling more weight than ever. Here’s a look at some of the companies that are making a big impact on the city.

Fillmore Construction was started by Brent Fillmore in 1991, explains Chris Fillmore, president. It is now an incorporated general contractor that is owned by the Fillmore Family Trust. “Edmonton is a growing, prosperous city, and its residents expect attractive and well-designed facilities that can offer the best service and opportunity to its residents,” Chris explains of why the construction industry is such an important part of Edmonton today. “These projects are creating new jobs and innovative designs to make our city more attractive to its residents and new businesses.”

Fillmore Construction is no exception. The company currently has multiple projects on the go, including the U-Store-It Erin Ridge project, a $13 million, five story, architecturally finished self-storage building in north St. Albert; the Sherwood Park Toyota project, an $8M expansion and renovation to the existing dealership facility; and the St. Albert Centre, a $16M strip-out and remodel of the entire Target space that will also provide new entrances around much of the mall.

The company has no plans of slowing down. “Fillmore Construction continues to grow in a very organic way. We also operate a sister equipment rental company named Legacy Equipment. Legacy rents equipment to sub-contractors, general contractors, and others throughout northern Alberta.” Chris adds

PCL Construction is quick to agree that the construction industry makes a big impact on Edmonton’s economy.

“PCL is one of a number of large companies that are important to Edmonton, not only for the number of Edmontonians we employ, but also for the impact the work we do has on the local economy,” Dave Filipchuk, president and CEO, PCL Construction, explains. “Also, I know that any of those companies, ours included, feel proud, both as business owners and residents, when we’re able to help put Edmonton on the map internationally as global players.”

“PCL Construction is 112 years old and is the largest contractor in Canada, and the eight largest in the United States, notes Dave. “Our annual billings for work completed exceed $8 billion, and in 2017, we secured $10 billion in new contracts for the first time in our company’s history.

“Currently, PCL is excited to have just broken ground on the new Calgary Cancer Centre, a $1.1 billion-dollar hospital that is the largest lump sum, design-build project in PCL’s history. Also, ongoing work for our valued client, Suncor, on the Fort Hills project in Northern Alberta, continues along with the Northwest Redwater partnership on the upgrader northeast of Edmonton. Both represent massive, landmark projects in this province, and they are nearing completion.”

PCL is also taking its Edmonton connections south to New Jersey. “We are currently building ‘The American Dream,’ an impressive $1.8 billion-dollar mall and entertainment complex for our long-standing client, Triple Five Corporation, for whom we built all phases of West Edmonton Mall.”

Of course, PCL has played a crucial part in Edmonton’s downtown revitalization. “Rogers Place was constructed by PCL on an aggressive 30-month schedule, and it has proven to be an ‘engine’ that has spurred the economic growth and a revitalization of downtown Edmonton. It opened ahead of schedule, and in my view, it stands out among all other entertainment venues in North America.

“PCL is also very proud to have the opportunity to build the vast majority of ICE District, right here in our hometown. We are currently constructing the Stantec and JW Marriott Hotel towers that will become the two tallest buildings in our city. The Stantec Tower, when complete, will be the tallest building west of Toronto. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the ICE District joint venture as our client on this landmark development in downtown Edmonton, and also alongside Stantec, a global engineering giant that is also based right here in our city. We are thrilled to be completing the interior fit-out for Stantec’s relocation into their namesake tower in ICE District, as well.”

“The complicated engineering and construction solutions required to build towers on a scale like this have never before been attempted in Edmonton,” Dave notes; but no challenge is too tall for PCL. “PCL is continuously embracing new and novel technologies that can help us continue to lead the way in the industry. Virtual construction, drones, safety analytics, and modular building, to name just a few, continue to advance at a rapid pace, and staying on top of advancements such as these are essential in order for us to remain competitive—and to provide exemplary service to our clients.”

AJ Slivinski, owner and president at both Step Ahead Properties Ltd. (SAP) and Mayfield Management Group Ltd. (MMG), is also working hard to put Edmonton on map—but he’s taking a new approach to get there.

In 2004, AJ founded SAP, a company that buys, rehabs, and rents apartment buildings across Canada. After buying and becoming the president of MMG in 2016, SAP became responsible for developing the first non-subsidized shipping container luxury rental apartment building in Canada, and the complex is strategically located in Edmonton.

“The Westgate Suites shipping container project is now completed and has residents moved in—they now have bragging rights to be the first residents to live in a multi-family residential shipping container infill that was designed to blend into the surrounds from the exterior while, inside its stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, and open concept design create a luxury interior—and a ‘breath of fresh air’ for residents who know they made a green choice,” AJ smiles.

The three-story building contains 20 luxury rental suites in a variety of one- and two-bedroom options, all ranging in size from 584 square feet up to 870 square feet.

“I’m proud to say that the finished product doesn’t look like a shipping container—that was never the intent,” says AJ. “I wanted the economic (reduced financing fees) and environmental benefits of the construction, along with as little disruption to the surrounding residents as possible. The reduced construction time, as compared to a traditional stick build, while maintaining a ‘blended look’ with the existing sister buildings on the same property was the long-term vision.”

AJ explains, “Shipping containers have been piling up along the west coast shores by the thousands from China because it’s cheaper to make new ones rather than ship them back. The consensus was, you could get considerably lower cost, faster erection time and be part of a green solution. Using a modular building approach offers numerous benefits over conventional construction because there is a faster schedule. Off-site construction will mean less disruption to the existing tenants and surrounding neighbours; the steel engineered structural design is fire resistant, which is far safer and more durable (as compared to wood frame); and lastly, the modular construction gives a far better sound insulation between the suites, making them much quieter for the residents—and it is basically put together like Lego!

“These types of projects are very important to our city. Many would consider them ‘outside the box’; however, with the proper research, partnership, and location, we have proven that it can be successful – more than that, it moves the needle for the respective industry.”

AJ concludes, “The Westgate Suites shipping container project put Edmonton on the map internationally as an innovator in the residential property management and the construction industry. That should be motivation for others who have ideas and plans for something unique to consider moving forward. We never started out looking at the project as getting worldwide attention and accolades; however, we are proud to say that it did!”

The Westgate Suites shipping container project was recognized internationally when SAP was named a finalist for the 2017 REME (Real Estate Management Excellence) Awards in the category of Corporate Innovation by IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management). (For more info on the Westgate Suites shipping container project, visit www.WestgateSuites.ca.)