After living in McNab Park for more than 20 years, Sharon Bradley is preparing to leave the aging and deteriorating neighbourhood near Saskatoon’s airport.
Residents of the last dozen houses in the park received a letter Friday, which states the landlord has taken all the necessary steps and has plans to demolish the houses.
“It’s taken a home away from me, for sure. It’s created problems financially for me,” said Bradley, who pays $700 monthly rent for a three-bedroom home.
She moved to the area in 1997 because her kids attended McNab Park School. Bradley remembers a family-oriented neighbourhood filled with sports and other activities.
“It was nice. Everybody was friendly and there was no crime — that was the best part,” she said.
In more recent years, paint has peeled from the siding. Shingles have flown off roofs and windows have been left shattered. Calls from the Saskatoon Fire Department prompted the destruction of some unsafe buildings, according to the landowner.
Many liken McNab Park to a ghost town. The few who live there take offence to the disparaging nicknames people have for the area.
So far this year, crews have demolished a handful of abandoned homes and garages. On Tuesday afternoon, an excavator tore into the roof of another boarded-up two-story house.
The property management company, RE/MAX Guardian Commercial, has promised the last tenants $200 moving allowances and their full damage deposits.
They have until October to leave, but Bradley is concerned about finding an affordable home in that time.
“It’s not enough (time). Not in this COVID thing,” she said. “Where are you supposed to find a place to live in this COVID thing?”
Overhaul plans for McNab Park date back to at least 2008, when the first phase of redevelopment was proposed as a business park and numerous hotels.
Before that, the park housed hundreds and was home to the barracks for Royal Canadian Air Force members, along with their families.
Coun. Randy Donauer, who represents the area, told Global News it likely offers little comfort, but he hopes displaced tenants can take advantage of depressed rents during an economic slowdown.
“But long-term, our plans certainly, would be it makes more sense to have commercial here – probably commercial servicing the airport area.”
Donauer said he’s sympathetic to residents, but he’s also encouraged to see investors turning the neighbourhood around.
The original redevelopment vision for the area included restaurants, office space and hotels, but ownership changed hands about one year ago.
Alberta-based Strongwater Investments Ltd. acquired the land through foreclosure. Larry Moeller, the company’s president, said demolition is expected be finished within the next year.
Moeller said one possibility would be to put the land up for sale, but there’s no timeline in place for it to hit the open market – if at all. The land lacks the proper sewer and water infrastructure for it to be subdivided, he said.
The demolition will end any conflict surrounding rent.
“A number of residents weren’t paying rent during the COVID crisis because they knew they couldn’t get evicted,” he said.
Bradley, who said she never missed a rent payment, isn’t sure where she’ll go next. Ruling out renting in “the hood,” she said it may mean moving out of Saskatoon entirely.