Walkerville building on verge of collapse close to being restored

City of Windsor officials say a building on the verge of collapse in Walkerville should be fully repaired and liveable by the spring.

City's chief building official says state of building was "troubling"

Kara Nantais says the fenced off apartment at the corner of Lincoln Road and Ontario Street is an "eyesore." (Lisa Xing/CBC)

An apartment building in Walkerville, once on the verge of collapse, could be fully repaired and liveable by spring, according to city officials.

The four-unit two-storey building located on the southeast corner of Lincoln Road and Ontario Street was shut down last summer because building inspectors deemed it unsafe for the residents inside.

The move was a rare one for inspectors, who issue "do not occupy" orders once every five years or so, explained John Revell, Windsor's chief building official.

"We don't usually issue these 'no occupancy' notices. Usually owners are more responsive," he told CBC News. "This was a little troubling to us." 

But that order began the slow revival of 1615 Ontario St., which residents in the area had been complaining about for years.

Tenants complain

Last year, the city received complaints from the tenants. It then sent an inspector who deemed the building was a "structural failure." 

One of the walls had begun to bow out by several feet. A strong wind or storm could have "accelerated" the collapse, according to the city.

1615 Ontario St. was vacated in July 2015 because it was on the verge of collapse. The building has since changed owners and is being repaired. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

"It had degraded over time from water," said Revell. "Water was entering the top of the wall along the parapet. It was causing the mortar mix and the bricks to degrade. It was leading to the collapse of that wall."

Revell said the owner had an engineer look at it, but took no further action. 

"There was no action. The wall appeared to be getting worse. We were worried about the collapse of the building and the safety of the tenants inside," said Revell.     

"I live right across the street from the building," Misty Wuerch told CBC News. "I slowly noticed the bricks falling off the corner of the building." 

Three tenants had to move out and find housing. 

New ownership 

Since then, the building was sold to a new owner, who started repair work. CBC could not reach the owner for comment. 

For the last half year, the building has been fenced off on both sides, including the sidewalk around it. Signs advise pedestrians the sidewalk is closed, and they should cross the street.

"That demolition (on the east wall) had to be done brick by brick. It was literally a hammer and chisel," said Steve Garinger, owner of Riverside Restoration, the contractor hired to repair the building. "It's not an easy job." 

But, some residents in the area wonder when the work will finish. 

"It's kind of unfortunate to look at this everyday," said Kara Nantais, who frequently walks by the building. "It's been awhile. Definitely an eyesore."

'Short-term pain'

There are still concerns that the work won't get done, but Revell hopes people can be patient just a little longer. 

"It's a bit of a short-term pain we're all bearing." he said. "At the end of the day, it's nice to see an existing building being repaired."

Garinger stresses that the new owner of the property is also eager to get the work done and to fully restore the site.

"I know it's an inconvenience to people living there, but it's a public safety thing that we know it's necessary," he said. "I've done a lot of jobs with the city. I will tell you this (new) owner is doing everything he can to work with the city." 

Nantais also cited safety as a concern, even while construction continues.

"I just saw someone get off the bus down there with a cart. They had to carry the cart on the road," she said. "Someone did honk at them so it can be quite dangerous. I hope it gets done quickly."

Garinger told CBC News the construction could be finished by the end of the month, "if we get one more warm spell."