Demolition by neglect … or rendered undevelopable?

There’s been a lot of mainstream media coverage in the last week about demolition by neglect. Has the issue become a big pile on?

Demolition by neglect is when a property gets so run down it becomes necessary or desirable to demolish it rather than fix it. Heritage advocates feel this is how bad developers get around restoring / renovating older structures.

Others might feel this is how the city gets rid of buildings it doesn’t want, by frustrating renovation / restoration. See, for example, the former Lockmaster Tavern building at Bank Street at Somerset. Wasn’t that the architect complaining a while ago in the Citizen that the city was being unreasonably nit picky and demanding as a punishment for NOT demolishing a building the city wanted gone? Frustrate fixing it long enough and it will be ruined: demolition by another name.

Is that the only case of someone at odds with the city powers who feels the weight of a vindictive bureaucracy bearing down? Mention planning to sue the city, and the bureaucracy suddenly gets its underwear all in knot and purely coincidentally decides to apply the rules (impartially, of course) to all his other properties?

And then there’s the sudden photo op of the mayor and  councillors “enforcing the rules” that apparently weren’t important enough to enforce before. Superficially its a great standing up for the little guy story.

Might someone cynical say this looks suspiciously like bullying and political revenge?

Amidst the grandstanding, lets look at this building in lowertown. It’s falling apart. Someone should restore it.



To restore it / redevelop it costs money. Which is recovered by selling the units or renting them out. But who wants to buy or rent right here? Look at the neighbours:


The sidewalk looks like a prison exercise yard. Complete with prisoners. All that is missing are the orange jumpsuits. Which might save some of the inhabitants from being run over on this traffic sewer.

It seems blatantly unfair to me to complain about the owner not renovating when the immediate vicinity has been rendered one of the most undesirable blocks in the city because of the concentration (blessed by you know who) of “homeless shelters”. The street is blighted by the city directing tons of commuter traffic down it, there are no trees, no green side boulevards. It looks like hell.

It is more than one party here who is blighting this street.

Would you let your fourteen year old daughter … or son … walk by here every day going to the high school a few blocks west? I sure wouldn’t. By the same token, I wouldn’t buy or rent at this location, given that I had choices.

So, who would occupy the renovated building, if it were renovated? Those without a choice. So a social housing provider might develop the property. Provided they were given buckets of taxpayer money to do so. It’s hard to imagine a private developer taking the risk, or getting financing to do so, given the location.

To successfully redevelop this, and other neglected properties, will probably require a partnership among the city (to fix the planning and traffic blight, and humanize the streetscape) and the property owners (presuming they cannot develop the property under current conditions) and a financing source who is willing to advance money on a risky project provided the area can be improved by the first two parties.

That’s hard work, and not a very dramatic photo op.

Fix the conditions that make it a “can’t do” situation now. First the city should work with the property owner and community to identify problems, then the fixes,  to encourage redevelopment.

If the owner is a “won’t fix” guy (and I have seen some operating in my own neighbourhood)  then apply standards. Fairly, and per a policy.

But save the theatrics.




3 thoughts on “Demolition by neglect … or rendered undevelopable?

  1. the coporation that owns this building also has 5 other buildings on King Edward in the same state of disrepair. Slum landlord?

  2. Sorry Eric, but you are way out of line here. I live 3 blocks away and the reason that corner is blighted is that this and adjacent buildings owned by the same guy are boarded up. Just one block away, we have this new development: which has the same proximity to social services, same traffic volume. In between this development and the site, you have a family that is renovating the home at the corner (tried to buy it myself to do the same thing a few years ago, lucky them for getting it). One block east of the site, you have a developer looking to build a hotel, and of course two blocks south are the East Market and lots of other new development activity.

    I never thought I would see the day you defended such a slum landlord. And besides, he isn’t trying to tear it down and do nothing, he purports to want to develop the site, which would have the same location and the same traffic and streetscape issues.

  3. I agree that blame can be placed on both parties. This is definitely not the most desirable location in town as a result of its proximity to a six lane highway, several homeless shelters and the quick moving traffic that frequents a one-way Murray Street. The city obviously has a responsibility in allowing/creating these horrible conditions. These are the kinds of conditions that we should be seeking to stop. On the other hand, I agree with the first two comments, it seems that other properties owned by this landlord are in rough shape so it is hard to exonerate this person from any blame. It is sad that the school house building at Murray and Cumberland will be torn down. To me, both parties should take responsibility for this mess.

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