Owners ordered to fix or demolish Kitchener buildings gutted by fire

KITCHENER – More than two years after a fire destroyed one building and damaged two others on King Street East, the city’s top building officially ordered the owners to repair or demolish the properties by Aug. 19.

The buildings at 24 and 26 King St. E. are unsafe and people could be hurt inside or walking past the weakened facades. It is feared bricks could fall off one building onto the sidewalk and the other does not have enough structural support. The owners of the buildings complied with an order to erect fencing to keep people out of harm’s way.

Mike Seiling, the city’s director of building controls, said inspectors scrutinized the buildings on July 24 and two days later issued the orders.

“The inspection was to determine if the buildings were unsafe,” Seiling said. “And clearly 26 King is unsafe, and as a result of doing the inspection we found signs in 24 King that 24 is also unsafe.”

The owners have until Aug. 19 to comply with the orders. Seiling is now preparing to take contractors through the buildings on Aug. 20 and ask for bids on demolishing the properties. The costs of demolition will be added to the property taxes if the owners do not complete the work by Aug. 19.

“The city is preparing to move forward with the demolition of one or both buildings should the orders not be fulfilled,” Seiling said. “When we demolish we will grass it over, if it comes to that, that’s what we are going to do.”

A fire started inside The Stag Shop that was located at 30 King St. E. on March 28, 2011. That building was destroyed. All that remains is the basement, and some foundation rubble.

The boutique Inception at 26 King St. E. was already closed by the time of the fire, but the building was damaged and has never been reoccupied. The children’s clothing store Little Rascals was at 24 King St. East.

The repair or demolish orders apply to the two buildings at 24 and 26 King St. E. The fire damaged both buildings.

“I can tell you we have three separate property owners at 24, 26 and 30 and there are some unfinished insurance issues regarding the properties,” Seiling said, “and that’s delayed the redevelopment.”

Seiling said he has been in weekly contact with the owners for months, and at one time was expecting them to apply for building permits to renovate and restore the properties.

That never happened though.

“The city is preparing to move forward with the demolition of one or both buildings should the orders not be fulfilled,” Seiling said.

The buildings are in the ward represented by Coun. Daniel Glenn-Graham, who is pleased to see the orders.

Glenn-Graham said he, the other downtown councillor, and the Kitchener Downtown Business Improvement Area have all pushed for something to be done with the site.

“It presents a poor image,” Glenn-Graham said.

Empty and derelict buildings have no place in a downtown where the local and regional governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars, Glenn-Graham said.

“The energy we have and the positive momentum are really creating the incentive to start reimagining what these spaces can be,” Glenn-Graham said.

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