Estimated return date for displaced 650 Parliament residents extended yet again

The wait by residents of a St. James Town highrise who are hoping to return home after they were displaced by a major fire last summer is being extended yet again.

Return likely won't occur until fall 2019 at earliest, property management company says

The property management company now estimates residents will be able to return in November. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

The wait by residents of a St. James Town highrise who are hoping to return home after they were displaced by a major fire last summer is being extended yet again.

In an update posted on its website on Thursday, the property management company said given the unprecedented damage sustained by the building and the massive repair effort required, it cannot confidently or accurately provide an expected re-occupancy date.

"Re-occupancies won't likely occur until fall 2019 at earliest," the company said.

More than 1,500 people were forced to leave their units in the highrise at 650 Parliament Street on Aug. 21, 2018, when an electrical fire tore through the building.

The fire started in the basement of the building and sent thick plumes of smoke pouring out of multiple apartments, causing substantial structural damage and knocking out the electrical system.

Residents were initially told to expect to move back into their units in early 2019. Then, in February, Wellesley Parliament Square — the company that owns the highrise — said they may be able to return in June.

In March, the estimated return date was pushed forward to August.

Court to decide on issue with tenants' belongings

Meanwhile, the company says it had hoped to do the necessary repair work with tenants' contents in place, but this has proven impossible.

"We simply cannot complete the building repairs efficiently with tenant content in place, and getting the work done and getting you back in as quickly as possible is our priority," the property management company said in a notice on its website.

"So, we are now considering the best way to remove and return your contents, and will turn to the courts — and work with tenant lawyers — for guidance."

A hearing before a judge to decide the content issue is now scheduled for mid-June.

Dozens of Toronto firefighters were called to deal with a fire at the Parliament Street highrise on August 21, 2018. The fire destroyed the building's electrical, mechanical, plumbing and life safety systems. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

The property management company says it anticipates repairs could cost upward of $46 million by the time the restoration is complete, and they say they continue to assist displaced residents with temporary accommodation.

"While our primary goal is to return tenants to 650 Parliament as soon as possible, we have been working hard to ensure that all 650 Parliament residents receive comparable local apartment accommodation in the interim."

The company says it managed to house the majority of residents in local apartments, adding that a handful of displaced residents are continuing to reside in hotel accommodations, in Airbnbs, or with family and friends.