Weekend Update

A few news items in the Star about the demolition today.

Rubble blocks business, owner claims

By Dalson Chen
Windsor Star

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The operator of a business on the same property as the recently demolished Seagrave Building says the massive piles of rubble and debris are costing him thousands of dollars in lost work – and he intends to talk to a lawyer about it.

“I am losing a ton of money here,” said a frustrated Manny Pereira, who runs Lakeside Industrial Supply. “I’m losing three thousand dollars a day here. Who’s going to pay for it?”

Pereira’s company rents, sells and services equipment such as forklifts. It operates out of a leased garage-style building at 933 Walker Rd.

But Pereira said he hasn’t been able to access his business since Tuesday, when workers began tearing down the Seagrave Building – a former fire engine factory that dates back to the 1900’s.

The demolition operation left Pereira’s business surrounded by mountains of crumbled bricks, twisted metal, broken glass, dirt and dust.

“Monday morning, the first thing I’m going to do as a business owner is seek legal advice,” Pereira said.

According to Pereira, no one gave him any prior notice of the demolition. He said he travelled to Calgary on business earlier in the week, and returned to discover the operation already in full swing.

Pereira said he was unable to approach the building on Wednesday and Thursday. Once the dust had settled on Friday, he crossed the site to get to his business, only to be confronted by a man in an orange vest who told him the area was sealed off.

Pereira said he then contacted the construction company, Jones Construction, who informed him the man was with the Ontario government. “They said, ‘Listen, it’s out of our hands. We got booted out ourselves. The ministry has shut the whole place down.'”

Pereira said it’s not clear to him which ministry the construction company meant, and he’s received no information about what’s going to happen next with the site.

Local history buffs have decried the demolition, saying that the Seagrave Building was a part of the city’s heritage. Meanwhile, the property owner has described the building as an eyesore that attracted vandalism.

But Pereira said his only concern at this point is that he be allowed to do business – or receive compensation for being prevented from doing so. “If they want to fight over this for the next 30 years, I don’t care,” he said.
© Windsor 2008

Good to see the minisrty has intervened in this unsafe hazardous situation. Maybe these scumbag will realize that even though they legally were issued an illegal permit, there’s still repercussions to rushing into the job….


Also Gord Henderson chimes in today:

Trashing the past

Gord Henderson
Windsor Star

Saturday, April 12, 2008

If it’s gold, treat it like trash. If it’s trash, treat it like gold. That appears to be the guiding principle of Windsor mandarins who let bonafide heritage buildings be demolished overnight while irredeemable eyesores linger for years.

The tragedy of the Seagrave Building on Walker Road, knocked down this week because someone in the building department “dropped the ball” in issuing a demolition permit, is that it hadn’t become the kind of building Windsor seems most adept at preserving, like an abandoned, charred motorcycle gang clubhouse with fuzzy ownership, taxes owing and neighbours howling for action.

An inquiry is underway and evidence is being collected to determine who screwed up in handing out a permit to demolish the former fire engine factory which was on a heritage inventory list and should have been red-flagged, given that it was headed for designation as one of Windsor’s historical treasures.

This calls for more than an inquiry. It calls for a reign of terror to root out the guilty. A powerful message must be sent, with one or more guillotined heads bouncing down the city hall steps, that this kind of behaviour, accidental or otherwise, won’t be tolerated.

How do you fix it when a hundred or more years of Windsor history is reduced to a pile of shattered bricks in hours? You can’t. An important piece of our past is gone forever and that’s why “oops, klutzy me, sorry about that” won’t cut it.

What is it about Windsor and its heritage? This city remains in a league by itself when it comes to expunging the past. We knocked down the historic, funky Norwich Block and slapped up an underutilized parking garage and downsized glass office tower. We let the Flatiron building, an architectural treasure, become a distillery parking lot. We celebrated the implosion of St. Mary’s Academy. We welcomed demolition of the priceless Carnegie library. The list of atrocities goes on and on.


“It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and it’s disheartening,” said Ward 3 Coun. Fulvio Valentinis of the Seagrave demolition. He said it’s especially painful because the two-storey building had significant potential for loft development and other uses.

The irony, he agreed, is that it takes years of red tape and legal battles to get buildings of no value removed from neighbourhoods, thanks to restrictive building codes, and yet a historical gem can be hauled down before the signature dries on a permit. It took years of complaining before a burned-out and boarded-up house on Tuscarora Street was torn down. And it’s just one of many offences to the eye. Valentinis said he and ward-mate Al Halberstadt field continual beefs from neighbours about two abandoned houses on Chatham Street East.

Ward 2 councillors Ron Jones and Caroline Postma have experienced similar frustration with abandoned homes. Jones said a former biker clubhouse on Wilkinson Lane, rat-infested, fire-damaged and seized by the feds, remains “tied up in legalities” and has defied repeated efforts to have it demolished.

Mayor Eddie Francis told me this week that he’s asked the city’s legal department to craft a bylaw that would let the city declare war on eyesores. “Don’t tell me I can’t do it. Tell me how I can do it. We need to have something that can’t be challenged in court,” said Francis of the city’s current legal impotence.

He envies mayors of U.S. cities, especially Atlanta, Ga., and Toledo, Ohio, who have powerful legal tools at their disposal and maintain “Dirty Dozen” lists of abandoned buildings. Structures on that hall of shame list receive intense inter-departmental pressure until they’re torn down or rehabilitated. In Toledo landlords have been set to jail for defying demolition orders.

Francis conceded a “Dirty Dozen” file in Windsor would probably run afoul of our privacy laws. But he wants to map out where the worst offenders are located and develop a game plan to go after them.

Meanwhile, he hopes to use moral persuasion to convince owners of high-profile abandoned retail outlets, including the former Shell station at Dougall and West Grand, the closed Tim Hortons at Giles and Ouellette and the empty 7-11 at Tecumseh and Central, to fix up their properties.

“I’m sure they’ll be co-operative when we call them. I know they’ll help us,” said Francis. I hope that optimism is justified because padlocked buildings on key street corners, cordoned off by huge concrete blocks, deliver a hugely negative statement about this city.

Speaking of blocks, off with the blockheads of those who let a piece of Windsor’s proud heritage become a heap of rubble.
© The Windsor Star 2008

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