Somerset House Concerns

The concern over Somerset House is hitting the news again (for a snarky refresher…). The city is tired of the building just sitting there, blocking public space and uglying up a major downtown intersection. For most of the past decade, they’ve been letting things slide, not charging the owner the fines he would otherwise incur by leaving that shell to rot at Bank and Somerset.

Thankfully, this has changed. I have no idea if this means that anything will happen, or that the owner will just become more obstinate.

The issue has spilled over in the the Somerset Ward race. Jeff Morrison has been a champion of recuperating Somerset House (as well as other buildings) for quite some time now. Good on him.

Unfortunately, another candidate has taken a different tack. Thomas McVeigh (living up to my concerns) has taken the owner’s side:

Somerset Candidate stands up for local businessman

Once again, the City of Ottawa has chosen to bully rather than help a local businessman and attempt to rewrite history.

The city is about to revoke a deal to waive the encroachment fees for Somerset House, thus risking the owner reviving a countersuit for 5 million dollars. This makes for great electoral optics, but this is not how we build trust with developers who want to save our heritage structures.

The attempts to rewrite history are painting an Iranian immigrant who has built several successful businesses in this city, and who has a good track record for doing heritage renovations the right way as  the kind of property owner who has been negligent and is letting buildings go through demolition by neglect.

McVeigh is correct that the city shares in the blame, here. More cooperation would have been prudent, but, in the end, the city’s biggest mistake was letting this go on for as long as it did. I’m with Morrison; it’s about time the city forced the owner’s hand.

 

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5 thoughts on “Somerset House Concerns

  1. A quick comment re: your Blog: Somerset House Concerns on October 10, 2014.

    Somerset House has been an embarrassment for far too long. It has been a difficult challenge without a doubt. While the issue was before the courts, no amount of names on any sort of petition would have made a difference. Nothing could be done until the case was settled.

    However, the court case has been settled and action must be taken now to redeveloped the site and bring pride back to that prominent corner of our community. One would be very hard pressed to find a single person who does not want this issue to be addressed and remedied as soon as possible. I agree that concrete timelines must be set and adhered to.

    That said, abandoned buildings have plagued our community in Somerset for far too long and our current by-laws simply do not have enough bite to deal with the issue. This is something I have been talking about for the last few of years (see http://denisschryburt.ca/2014/01/shells-of-their-former-selves/) and is part of my platform (see http://denisschryburt.ca/platform/).

    Somerset House is of course an easy political target to take on and will certainly bring those who do some applause and support. But what about 234 O’Connor Street which has been abandoned for over a decade after a fire. There’s the old Koffman Signs building at 146 Nepean Street and the house next door. There is an empty lot on the corner of Bank and Florence Streets since 2005 with an overgrowth of weeds and littered with trash from passersby and a four story walk-up on Lisgar Street that has been boarded up for quite some time. We have abandoned buildings at 50 Bell Street North and 110 Arthur Street as well as a large empty lot on Cambridge Street near Somerset that is starting to look like a forest. Not my idea of good greenspace. Unfortunately, there are plenty more across the ward and the city that are simply not getting the same attention but also need to be dealt with quickly. Enough is enough, time for the City to put its foot down once and for all.

    That is what I plan to do as city Councillor starting with a good review of the bylaws currently in place and putting forward clear amendments that will prevent this from happening again.

    Thank you

    Denis Schryburt
    Candidate, Somerset Ward 14
    http://www.denisottawa.ca
    613-216-2162

    Note: I have photos of all the properties mentioned above.

    • Hi Denis,

      Thanks for commenting. I think you’re absolutely right that Somerset is merely the high profile example of a larger problem (and one not unique to Somerset Ward, Rideau-Vanier suffers this too, greatly). I am very happy to hear that there are candidates out there who want to address this. I know that the city and Watson have started to put an emphasis on addressing the issue of derelict buildings, but I don’t yet see enough happening. Having more advocates on council would certainly help.

      Good luck on the campaign.

  2. Pingback: Somerset House on Bank Street « Denis Schryburt for Somerset Denis Schryburt for Somerset

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