City may close off sidewalk in front of Paul Martin building

Continued problems with the crumbling Paul Martin building may lead the city to close off a section of the sidewalk to the public.

Downtown businesses also concerned about the situation

A lawyer in downtown Windsor expresses his concerns about the Paul Martin building. 1:02

Continued problems with the crumbling Paul Martin building may lead the city to close a section, or sections, of the sidewalk to the public.

Helga Reidel, Windsor's chief administrative officer, said she became concerned after the entrances on Ouellette Avenue and Pitt Street were locked by a federal safety officer on Tuesday.  

The reason stated on those doorways was "danger of falling stone."

"This has reached a point where not only are they putting scaffolding on the public right of way but now creating even greater safety concerns and potentially forcing us to close off the right of way — the sidewalk," said Reidel, referring to the sidewalk on the Ouellette side of the building. She didn't rule out closing off the Pitt St side, as well.

Scaffolding has been in place along that sidewalk for almost five years. It's there to prevent parts of the crumbling facade from falling on people as they walk by.

Businesses in the downtown area are also calling for action.

Larry Horwitz, the chairman of the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association, said some of his members are calling on the city to ramp up pressure on the federal government.

"They would like senior bureaucrats, the mayor, council ... in a bus to Ottawa right now, pleading with the federal government: Please come and save our building. Please come and save our downtown," Horwitz said. 

Kendal McKinney's law office is across the street from the Paul Martin building. He said he's not scared for his safety while walking nearby. But he does want something to be done.

"You know I'm just outraged this building is being allowed to fall apart through just sheer neglect and malign, malign neglect at that," said McKinney.

He does believe the situation is politically motivated.

"If this building was named the John G. Diefenbaker building and not the Paul Martin building, it would look like the Taj Mahal right now," he said, bringing up the name of a former Tory Prime Minister.

Reidel expects a decision sooner than later.

"The decision on whether or not we have to close those sidewalks and put barriers around those sidewalks to prevent access is being looked at today and into tomorrow. And we'll react to that as soon as we have information from our federal counterparts about why they closed those entrances," she said on Wednesday.


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