Winnipeg artists lose 'sanctuary' after building deemed unsafe
City says Ross Avenue building has serious fire and building code violations
Some Winnipeg artists have been forced out of their studio spaces after the city deemed the building to be unsafe.
Approximately 40 tenants, mainly artists, who rent space at 318 Ross Ave. were given 24 hours to get out.
The building's power was cut off on Monday, following a visit by Winnipeg police, city inspectors and the fire department.
Among those being told to leave is Gibril Bangura, who said the space was the best place to create art.
"It's a sanctuary. It means everything to the artist," he said.
Peter Beach, who had rented space in the building for the past three months, said he's disappointed he has to leave because it allowed him to create art at a fraction of the cost.
"It has a good way of recognizing that artists are doing a lot of trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents," he said.
As well, the city says people were living there without proper lighting and had no secondary way out of the building.
"The building has been converted from a single tenant occupancy to unapproved multi-tenant occupancy without the proper permits and approvals," spokesperson Michelle Finley stated in an email Monday.
"The building was never approved for use as a residential occupancy."
Winnipeg police told CBC News they've received a number of calls about that specific location over the past few years, and officers recently became aware of safety issues there.
The city said it had made multiple attempts to work with the building's owners to address the issues, but they were not successful.
Owners hope to reopen in 6 months
Doug Cook, one of the four owners of the building, told CBC News on Tuesday he was fully aware that there were people renting from and working in that space.
The city was also aware of what was going on in the building, he added.
Cook said the owners were in the process of obtaining a proper occupancy permit, and they thought the issues were being worked out.
"We're trying to keep the conversations straight as well as working with the tenants to make sure that their needs are being met. It's a lot to juggle," she said.
Tataryn estimated it will cost $300,000 to bring the building up to code.
As for Bangura, he's trying to figure out how to clear out his space within 24 hours.
"Now I'm trying to find another space. I don't know how long it will take me to locate a space," he said.
"Perhaps I might just go around town and find artists who want to share space. I don't know. I'm just knocking at every door right now and see what can happen."