Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slow Progress

Minto built these stacked townhouses (a two or three-storey unit above a two storey unit, each with sidewalk-level private entrances) a few years ago. Earlier this summer, there was a fire in one of the units.

The whole row of houses was evacuated, and remains empty to this day. Some units are boarded up at the rear. Others sit with six month's accumulation of grime and dust on the windows and porches.

The units are wood-frame construction. There is not a sprinkler system. In addition to townhouse-looking stacked units, a number of low-rise apartment buildings in the city are also wood-framed (hint: usually three or four floors).

The long period when these units are closed makes me wonder what happened to the occupants. Are they all in temporary apartment-hotels? That will be expensive; did they have insurance to cover this? And just how many personal possessions did residents get to take out? I would be unhappy to be kept out of my home for six months or a year. It would make a huge disruption in my life. Will the wedding pictures and kid's birthday pictures be unkeepable when exposed to smoke damaged housing for half a year? Will moving back reinstate the sense of being "home", or will people be alienated from their former lives?

The for sale sign on an adjacent row of houses makes me wonder what happens to residents of the damaged units who have to "move on" to other jobs or other cities or find its time to move to a different house. How do you unload an uninhabitable house? Indeed, will owners in adjacent undamaged units be able to sell, or is their property value depressed by the presence of fire-damaged units? Some buyers probably won't notice the closed units; others would be scared off by the signs of fire damage.


  1. I've wondered that myself. There is never any work being done in the area and they don't have any security guards there anymore. I do know that two of the tenants did not have insurance - one was a friend of a friend, the other was reported in the paper.

    And speaking of selling, one of the units in that row was for sale. The listing was still on MLS recently, though the it was changed to state the fact there was a fire.

  2. There was a young family living in one of those units. Through the grapevine, I heard they were insured and living in a hotel, but that was months ago. The repairs were supposed to be completed within six months, but no work is being done. Very odd.

  3. Where did you hear this?

  4. Nic: Is your query directed at Eric or Rodionx? My blog posting is all based on on-site observations. Like Rodionx and Nanookie, I wonder what happened to the residents, and who is paying for whose accomodation.

    Personally, I would like to see sprinkler systems in all wood-frame multi-unit buildings like stacked townhouses and low rise apartments.

  5. I guess that comment was directed more towards rodionx. Because I'm trying to find out what happened to the residents.

    Some of the tennants moved into Minto's Carlisle suites across the street. The desk clerk wouldn't tell me how many or for how long. I know that a lot of the neighbours only noticed signs of construction yesterday.

  6. There's a crane in the back parking lot today, hoisting drywall and 2x4s upwards. Looks like progress is being made, albeit slowly

  7. Hey Nic. The thing about the grapevine is that you're never quite sure where you heard it. People raising small children downtown are always running into each other, and we talk while our kids play. I checked with my wife, and she remembered hearing that that family had decided not to move back, but were looking to buy a townhouse in the core area. I don't know how you sell a burned hulk, but I guess you can try. Neither of us actually knows them, but perhaps that's their MLS listing?