The property manager of a St. James town high-rise that left 1500 residents displaced after a six-alarm fire in August, is citing issues with energy distribution as reasons for pushing back the return date for tenants until early 2019.
Doug Sartell, property manager of 650 Parliament St., said in a news conference that upon further investigation in the north tower, crews found the electrical equipment in the 50-year-old building to be inadequate. He said it would need extended restoration work in order for it to be deemed safe for tenants to return home.
“We currently do not have a definitive position from all of the electrical authorities as to the remediation of that north tower. But it’s something that we anticipate shortly,” he said.
Emergency crews responded to a call around 12:51 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the high-rise building, just south of Bloor Street East. The fire was originally deemed a two-alarm blaze but was steadily upgraded throughout the afternoon. Fire officials said the blaze originated in the basement of the building and smoke quickly made its way up several floors.
In September, property management noted on their website that residents of the north tower would be allowed to move back into their homes as early as Thanksgiving, while the south tower, which sustained the most damage due to the fire, would have to wait 15 weeks longer.
“The more work that they do and the more inspection that they do, they’ve identified something with respect to the energy distribution in the north tower that is cause for concern — and nobody wants to revisit this incident,” Sartell said. “It would be unforgivable to bring all these families back and have something similar occur.”
After the fire, displaced residents were first placed in hotels paid for by the Red Cross and then in other accommodations like AirBnB rentals, or with family and friends.
Sartell said about 130 residents were staying at Regent Park Community Centre. But as of Wednesday night, the city sent out a note that stated the community centre would return to its regular recreation programs by Monday.
James Thomas, response office manager for Wellesley Parliament Square, told reporters that all families staying at the centre have been processed and relocated to hotel accommodations for the time being.
“Our objective is that they have the opportunity to stay somewhere, where they don’t have to pick up and leave,” Thomas said. “What we want to do is make sure if we could provide them with something that’s longer term until they can move back, that’s what we’re going to be providing them.”
For now, the owners of the building are paying for hotel accommodations and are continuously working with residents to coordinate relocation issues as the buildings are being restored.