Apathy is costing our communities
Vacant and derelict buildings tear holes in our communities. They harm our economy, reduce our safety and set us back in making our city a great place to live. And here in Ottawa, lax bylaws fail to offer many incentives to property owners to redevelop or restore their empty and boarded-up buildings.
Take, for example, 1123 Bank St. in Old Ottawa South. Fire ripped through West Coast Video in February 2009, leaving the shell of a building behind. Boarded up for more than a decade, this prime piece of real estate has been vacant ever since.
The 9,000-square-foot property is well-served by transit and set in a walkable, vibrant community. It should be a prime redevelopment site.
Had it been rebuilt after the fire, it could today be a well-loved part of the community and might have spurred other development of underbuilt, underused or vacant land nearby. At a rough guess, within the permitted 15-meter height limit, 27,000 square feet of apartments could likely have provided at least 40 homes, plus a handful of small businesses.
Consider also the former Our Lady’s School at the corner of Murray and Cumberland streets. Located in a heritage district, this site has been derelict for decades. Amid court battles in 2014, most of the building – as well as a neighboring structure – was demolished. Two of the walls were stabilized, taking over the sidewalk and creating an ongoing maintenance and safety problem for the community. Properly developed, this site could be part of the community, reflecting more than a century of the heritage of our city.
Both cases and numerous others show that our bylaws are too lax when it comes to derelict or abandoned properties.