South Osborne neighbours pack meeting on boarded-up Rubin Block

More than 100 people packed a room at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre hoping for word on the future of the Rubin Block, which has been boarded up since a fire in 2014. However, the city says there isn't much it can do to force the owner to redevelop it.

They came hoping for word on redevelopment of the property only to hear there is little the city can do

More than 100 people gathered Tuesday night to hear about the future of the Rubin Block on Osborne Street and Morley Avenue. (CBC)

They packed a room in the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre hoping for information on the redevelopment of a derelict building that has been empty for years at Osborne Street and Morley Avenue.

However, the more than 100 people in attendance heard was there is little the city can do to push the building's owner to do something with it.

The Rubin Block has been a troubled building for more than a decade.
The Ruben Building has been boarded up since a 2014 fire. (CBC)

In 2006 it had to be evacuated because of a fire in the basement.

In 2011 the body of a 33-year-old man who had been stabbed to death was found inside.

In 2014 a fire ripped through the building, which was partially occupied. It has been boarded up ever since.

Recently MLA James Allum (Fort Garry-Riverview) started a petition asking the owner of the building to co-operate with the city and redevelop the century-old block.

Stan Dueck, manager of development and inspections with the city's planning, property and development department, was on hand at Tuesday's meeting to answer questions.

Dueck outlined in detail the city of Winnipeg's vacant building bylaw, which requires owners to take out a yearly permit starting at $2,290 and increasing to $7,400 after four years.

The owner is in compliance with the bylaw because the building is securely boarded up, Dueck said, so there is little the city can do to force the owner to redevelop it.

Legal or not, the explanation left several at the meeting shaking their heads in dismay.

"It seems there's more protection for the actual property owner in a case like this than there is for, say, a community group who's trying to revitalize an apartment block," said Andy Barbour, who has lived in the neighbourhood for decades.
Andy Barbour says the meeting was informative but it is disappointing the building's owner seems to have more rights than community groups wanting to redevelop the Rubin Block. (CBC)

Karl Kopczewski said the meeting was informative, but doesn't give him much hope anything will be done with the building in the near future.

"Unfortunately there's a long process to get anything addressed, and it sounds like there's really no teeth in any of the bylaws," Kopczewski said.

He said it's a shame the building is not being used.

"It's a beautiful building, it should be a heritage building. It's in a prime space that could offer both apartment living space upstairs and commercial space downstairs," Kopczewski said.
Karl Kopczewski would beg the owner of the Rubin Block to do something productive with the building, not just leave it boarded up. (CBC)

The building's owner, Composite Holdings, was invited to the meeting, but sent no representatives.

Kopczewski wishes he could speak with the owner.

"I'd be begging with them to try and actually do something with this building — to progress forward, not just let it sit there and decay and rot, but to actually do something with it. Make it a statement of what you can do with your influence in the community," Kopczewski said.