A woman inched closer to a demolition site on Granville Street last week, glued to the unfolding image on her iPad screen of an excavator ripping through the rubble of what was once an old church.
Marinus Verhagen sat in a nearby vehicle as one of his employees took care of business, outlining the considerations that go into tearing a building down when it’s in close proximity to others.
It wasn’t much of a concern on this occasion, though the company did put an excavator between the church and a neighbouring home to ensure debris wouldn’t land in the wrong direction.
He’s seen the end of several buildings over his 40-year career in demolition, but the Maritime Building teardown will be his largest project, in Pictou County at least.
“Working in the city of Halifax is tough,” Verhagen said, reflecting on his more difficult assignments over the years while pinpointing the lack of space and influx of drivers and pedestrians as concerns.
He took down the 11-storey Citadel Inn in 2012, his biggest task.
The Maritime Building won’t be a small feat for his company either.
He has already figured out how he’ll tackle the century-old building that has been a safety concern in the core of New Glasgow’s downtown for several years.
In August, Verhagen Demolition Ltd. will bring in a licensed company to assist in the removal of hazardous materials, asbestos and pigeon feces, a process expected to take two months.
“Once that’s completed, we’ll put scaffolding from the sidewalk up to the top and netting on the outside to protect the public from any bricks falling down.”
Another concern is the railroad tracks and communication cables behind the building.
“We’ll have someone there from (CBNS Railway) to guide the trains through.”
After ensuring safety, they’ll begin the actual demolition, starting from the removal of the roof.
Verhagen said they would be sending the debris down the elevator shaft with a mini-excavator waiting below to remove it.
Next, they take it down one floor at a time until it reaches four storeys, at which point they are able to use machinery to take down the rest.
He’s expecting the actual demolition process to take a month and will be using the labour of 10 employees, comparable to four for a regular job.
That includes truck drivers, excavator operators and labourers.
It’s not the company’s first time knocking down a building in a downtown area of Pictou County.
Verhagen was responsible for the demolition of the former Commercial Equipment building in 2011, a structure he identifies as having been in ‘bad shape.’
A crowd of more than 100 people gathered to watch the three-storey building on the corner of George and Provost streets come down.
He was also contracted for the takedown of the Dobson building in Stellarton before the discovery that it shared a wall with the Needs store.
Bill Martell was one of the former residents of the apartments in the Dobson building before he was kicked out in 2008, a move that still evokes bitterness for him because he had only a week to move with winter approaching.
Though he acknowledges that it was a ‘dump,’ the price was unbeatable at $400 a month.
He said it gets a lot of bad publicity, but it was livable.
The fire marshal didn’t agree, deeming it unsafe.
Martell pointed out narrow hallways and a lack of exits as some of its issues.
When he heard the town had decided to tear it down, he thought it was a shame.
“I’d be sad to see it go.”
The Maritime Building was investigated only two months later, prompting an eviction notice of two weeks in January 2009.
A barricade was put around the building in 2010 after a passerby noticed chunks of concrete fall from it.
The town began to discuss demolishing the building in 2013 after the previous owner declared bankruptcy and a tax sale garnered no bids.
The town will foot the bill of $1,031,000.
On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda