Nfld. & Labrador

Former Grace Hospital nurses' residence 'behemoth of an eyesore'

The abandoned St. John's building, and the land around it, is a health and safety hazard, says chiropractor Randy Follett.

Abandoned building site a health and safety hazard, says chiropractor

Graffiti and broken windows can be seen in this photo of the abandoned nurses' residence on the former site of the Grace Hospital in St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

A nearby business owner says the abandoned nurses' residence for the former Grace Hospital in St. John's, a "disaster of a building," is not only terrible to look at it — it's a health and safety danger for the neighbourhood.

"If you go near the foot of the property there, which has public access, there's broken glass on the ground, graffiti of all nature on the side of the building," Randy Follett, owner of Lakeview Chiropractic on LeMarchant Road, told the St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.

A fallen fence is seen beside the abandoned nurses' residence. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Follett's business is located near the former Grace Hospital site, which has remained unused since the hospital building was torn down 11 years ago, about seven years after the site was decommissioned.

The nurses' residence remains standing on the property, with boarded up windows and doors, broken windows, glass on the ground, and old blinds and curtains that flap in the wind.

"It's hard to believe that whoever owns that building is allowing it to continue to stand there in the state it's in," Follett said.

Chiropractor Randy Follett, who owns a business along Lemarchant Road, said the abandoned nurses' residence is an eyesore and a safety concern. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The owner of the building, and the property it sits on, is the provincial Department of Transportation and Works, which says there are no current plans for its use.

The area's city councillor, Hope Jameson, said although the city is working with the province to have the site cleaned up and secured, she is also unaware of any plans for the site and has asked for further clarification on timelines.

Broken glass, smoke coming out of windows

In a statement to the St. John's Morning Show, the department said that regular safety checks of the site are conducted, and identified problems are addressed in a timely manner.

Debris, including broken glass, is seen on the site of the former Grace Hospital. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The department has put up fencing on the site, sealed entry points on the first and second floors, secured building sites to prevent fallen debris, cleaned up garbage, and removed visible profane graffiti, the statement read.

Follett said efforts to keep people off the site don't seem to be working.

"Unfortunately, we've had to call the police during business hours even for smoke coming out through the windows, for kids down there being kids and throwing rocks and breaking up more windows," said Follett.

He fears a fire would burn for some time before being noticed.

The department said the site has proper lighting, and snow clearing is provided for emergency response purposes.

Graffiti and boarded-up windows are seen at the abandoned nurses' residence in St. John's west end. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Follett said the site around the abandoned residence is dangerous as well.

'There's signs on the building that say hazardous materials, beware of broken glass," he said. "If you walk through the area you can see things that shouldn't be accessible to the public."

Building should be torn down: Follett

The government said last year it didn't tear down the nurses' residence in 2007, when the Grace Hospital was demolished, because alternative uses for the building were still being explored. 

But in the more than a decade since the hospital building came down, no plans have been announced.

Debris, including a pair of jeans, is seen outside the abandoned nurses' residence in St. John's. (Paula Gale/CBC)

In the meantime, Follett said he and other business owners regularly hear from clients who mention the state of the building. 

"We have to deal with this dilapidated eyesore, it's a behemoth of an eyesore in our backyards there," he said.

"I think if this building was in King William Estates or it was on Waterford Bridge Road, it would have been torn down — like it should be — years ago."

A sign, seen above graffiti at the former Grace Hospital site, warns about hazardous materials. (Paula Gale/CBC)

He and other business owners have contacted the area's MHA and city councillor, Follett said, but have received no specific information about what is planned for the property.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show