TORONTO — Extreme cold has slowed the Ontario Food Terminal’s $8.7 million renovation project.

“You can’t pour concrete in  (17-degree) temperatures,” said general manager Bruce Nicholas.

The ambitious project, which began in October, should be completed by the end of September, Nicholas said.

By early February, metal framing had been installed along the loading docks facing wholesale showrooms, where customers walk and where smaller vans are loaded.

Once the glass panels and doors arrive, the horseshoe-shaped terminal will be more comfortable to walk around, especially in winter.

Nicholas said buyers will be able to leave produce on the dock while they load their trucks without risk of damaging the produce, and enclosing the area will help maintain the cold chain.

Buyers who park within the horseshoe will be protected from the elements when a central covered walkway is completed in the middle of the parking lot.

A covered bridge is being built to link the two ends of the terminal. Nicholas said the addition will allow office employees and visitors to access the entire second floor without having to walk through the busy market below.

The new area will include an elevator and a washroom, Nicholas said.

Keeping the market operating during the renovation has made the project more challenging, he said.

At the same time, the terminal is converting the refrigeration system in the cold storage area from ammonia to freon, Nicholas said.

He said a little ammonia escapes during the defrost cycle, creating a smell that worries some tenants, though it’s considered safe.

Toronto’s produce terminal is one of the few that use ammonia, Nicholas said.

The project should be completed by summer.