By David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Repairs to a troubled condo building on Bank Street near Lansdowne Park should finally be done this fall, and scaffolding that's blocked the sidewalk outside for well over a year taken away, says a member of the building's condo board.
The scaffolding is the last indignity for the chic EcoCité building, which broke new ground for green architecture in Ottawa before its builder went bust and lost control of the project in 2009. The 26-unit building uses geothermal heating and boasted only recycled or sustainable materials.
At least one of which was poorly chosen, according to resident and board member Graeme Cunningham: The faux concrete panels on the face of the building's upper floors.
"One, they're not appropriate for this climate, so they're warping, but they're also poorly fixed. There's a lot of places where they aren't clipped properly or they weren't sealed properly," he said. Corners popped up and an inspector worried they were dangerous.
"The scaffolding's there basically to protect the condo corporation against the liability of the cladding on the side potentially falling off on bystanders, or pedestrians or cyclists or even cars," Cunningham said. It's a nuisance for pedestrians — especially now that the sidewalk on the other side of Bank Street is completely closed for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park — as well as for residents coming out of the building's garage, and it blocks the view of the Kaleidoscope children's bookstore on the ground floor. All in all, the scaffolding ruins a stretch of Bank that the city government just rebuilt to make it more attractive and better for pedestrians.
The builder's bankruptcy complicated everything enormously, said Cunningham, who works for green-energy company Bullfrog Power. A long argument between the receiver who took control of the unsold units (more than half of them, still) and the provincial home-warranty agency Tarion has kept any work from being done. "The receiver has been reluctant to act on any outstanding needs for the building until Tarion rules on anything they are willing to cover," he said.
Coun. David Chernushenko, who represents the area, said the long wait for action has had him thinking about ways the city could put pressure on everyone involved. "Given how long this has gone on, and the public safety issues of long-term scaffolding, I was prepared to look for ways to apply more pressure by raising the issue of the poor sight lines, and the narrow passage actually prompting some people to use the street on occasion," he said.
But now Tarion has agreed to cover the faulty panels, the work is being tendered, and it should be finished late this fall. With that settled, Cunningham hopes the building will be less intimidating to potential new neighbours, who might be frightened off by the enduring vacancies, the bankrupt builder and the fact owners of brand-new condo units had to put in extra money just to keep new homes they'd already bought.
"The experience in the building is fine. Everything operates perfectly well. It's comfortable. The neighbourhood's great," he said. "By the time Lansdowne opens next summer, everything should be spruced up the way it was always supposed to be."
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