Academy Lanes to Uptown Lofts Retrofit

Client: Concord Projects
Location: 394 Academy Road
Capacity: 45 kip [198 kN] ULS, f.
Refusal: End Bearing, Till
Key Hurdles: Access/Indoor

PROBLEM: VersaPile was engaged during the RFP stage to help Concord Projects, Crosier Kilgour & Partners and Wood PLC find a way to install piles to support the owners plans for massive renovations to 394 Academy Rd. Once an upscale theatre in the 1920's, it had been converted to bowling lanes in the 1960's. Now the design build team at Concord Projects had been tasked to turn it into modern mixed retail and condominiums. The building is protected with heritage status by the City of Winnipeg. Preliminary designs called for 150 kip [660 kN] per pile. Due to the space constraints and site sensitivity to vibration, driven piles were not considered feasible. Open caisson piles were not affordable due to surficial layers of rumble and sand in the overburden as well as extra costs to remove soil.

SOLUTION: Building a condominium from scratch requires a detailed approach. Designing and building a condominium to occupy a heritage building shell from an iconic 1920's theatre is especially challenging. Only the most subtle of changes were permitted be made to the exterior of this landmark building. Even large holes in the roof were off limits.

VersaPile worked with Wood PLC (Geotechnical) and SMP Services (Pile Engineer) to come up with a pile robust enough to handle the column strength requirements for the loads as well as penetrate the till and provide enough surface area to the soil to adequately distribute the load. Crosier Kilgour & Partners (CKP) offered structural engineering services for Concord Projects and used the feedback from Wood PLC and VersaPile to design 3 and 4 pile groups to allow 4-½" shaft helical piles with 16" Ø bearing blades to be installed to refusal on glacial till. For each pile torque and depth was documented.

The depth to firm till varied between 33' and 40' from grade in the portion of the building to be piled with the 4-½" Ø shaft piles. The main construction access point was a 9'x10' opening in the brick work between masonry columns. The 30-ton excavator, that VersaPile used to install 117 of the largest piles on-site, barely fit through.

Piling resembled a well-choreographed dance with a skid steer loading piles for the larger excavators all while staying clear of excavated pits. The overburden was rife with construction debris and unmarked building structures creating problems with placement accuracy that VersaPile and Concord worked through with CKP (EOR). The larger piles were installed to a torque of 20.4 kip-ft [27.6 kN-m] to confirm that the helical had installed into the dense till. The process was observed by a Wood representative who verified site observations against the torque logs.

The large excavators were too heavy to drive over the 1920's era concrete vestibule floor. Four piles required the crowd of these machines for the design loads, but there was no access. VersaPile drove the 30T excavator to the edge of the floor, reached over the main floor to install piles through 12" Ø holes pre-cut in the vestibule floor.

The piles planned under the original vestibule of the heritage theatre presented a different problem. Access was limited to an elevator shaft opening. VersaPile worked with the project engineers to match design loads to 24 kip [105 kN] to installation capacities limited by access dimensions. Mr. Boomtruck supplied a spider crane and operator, to lower a Kubota U-17 into the basement through the opening. VersaPile crews installed these piles to 7.4 kip-ft [11.4 kN-m].

CONCLUSION: VersaPile, with a team of project engineers, piled a new condominium inside iconic heritage-status building in Winnipeg, MB. Geotechnical engineers monitored each pile to verify capacity. Mission impossible was completed in 24 days with very few changes to the design. All piles were inspected and met capacity. Concord Projects was very happy with the work done by VersaPile.



  • 45,600 lb [202 kN]
  • 4-1/2" Ø shaft, 16" single helix
  • 40' depth to refusal
  • 20.4 kip-ft [27.6 kN-m] torque

Installed with:

  • CAT321 (30T Excavator)
  • SK170 (17T Excavator)
  • Digga 30ADS/ Pengo RT-20
  • Intelli-Torq digital logs


  • 23,700 lb (105 kN)
  • 3-1/2" Ø shaft, single 12" helix
  • 30' depth to refusal
  • 8.5 kip-ft (11.4 kN-m) torque

Installed with:

  • Kubota U-17 (1.7T Excavator)
  • Pengo RS-7 Drive
  • Torq-hub digital logs


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