A 93-year-old home that has become a problem house in Winnipeg’s most prestigious neighborhood will be demolished, with special permission from the city.
A request to tear down the single-family structure, in-ground pool and detached garage at 1188 Wellington Cres. was approved Friday morning during a short meeting of the city center community committee.
Complaints of multiple break-ins, squatters, scattered used needles and an increase in thefts from neighboring properties spurred the proposal to raze the large, two-storey house. No one voiced any opposition to fast-tracking the demolition, which normally can’t happen under city bylaws unless a permit to rebuild has already been approved.
Artista Homes Ltd. owns the house and its 17,218-square-foot, triple-wide lot, having taken possession from the previous owner in the spring.
Artista Homes owner Tony Cotroneo told the committee his company has so far spent thousands of dollars to board and reboard the windows because of four separate invoices sent to it from city police, who have been called several times to respond to break-ins.
“So we feel like we are the victims of crime, and these criminals are costing us… However, one of the biggest concerns we have is the safety of the adjacent neighbours,” Cotroneo said, adding he’s heard from residents of the two other homes on the block, saying they feel they can’t safely take out the garbage at night or let their children play in their own yards.
Cotroneo told the city committee he’s asking to demolish the house as soon as possible, “so the neighbors can live in peace and not fear.”
The company had always intended to demolish the former Collard House and rebuild on the lot, he added.
Cotroneo noted he has had trouble getting crews to work on the property, even to cut the grass or drain the pool, after informing them there may be people using drugs living illegally inside the home. Winnipeg police offered to clear the premises so framers could feel safe while they reboarded up the house, he said.
“It’s beyond crazy. It makes me question where the city is heading when you’ve got to clear a house on Wellington Crescent so a framer can go board up a window. It’s just mind boggling.”
Following the committee’s approval of demolition, Cotroneo said he will begin the process for having the home torn down. Boarding up the building has been almost like an invitation for break-ins because it’s a clear sign no one’s living there, he said.
“Whether it’s a low-income area or whether it’s Wellington Crescent, no one deserves to live in fear.”
The committee unanimously approved the early demolition request, which was backed by the City of Winnipeg urban planning department.
Elsewhere, vacant and derelict buildings are posing problems throughout the city as havens for unsafe or illegal activity, most without fast-tracked demolition permits.
Other neighbors along Wellington Crescent contacted the Free Press (but declined to be interviewed) saying they have had to call police about other vacant homes within a few blocks of each other causing similar problems on one of the city’s wealthiest streets.
City center community committee member Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said he has been notified about issues at nearby vacant homes, including two others on Wellington Crescent.
The 1188 Wellington Cress. demolition proposal moved forward quickly because of the number of calls to police, complaints under the city’s vacant buildings bylaw, and support from the owner, Orlikow said.
“If people have concerns about properties, by all means, call our office and we’ll look into it fully and get back to them about what possible solutions there are.”