Many residents in the units above Wellburns Market are unsure if they will be able to return home after sewage flooded the building’s basement. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

‘Nightmare’ Wellburns sewage flood ousts tenants indefinitely

Residents evacuated after sewage flooded basement of century-old building

Residents of the historic corner building at Cook Street and Pandora Avenue remain in housing purgatory after the basement of the building – home also to Wellburns Market and the Cook Street Barbershop – flooded with sewage.

Nine-year resident Marita Manson says the hot water stopped working Nov. 24 and the taps went dry the day after. Tenants were given gym passes so they could shower, and on Nov. 29 received notices in the mail that the ‘problem’ could not be fixed and the building was to be closed indefinitely. Residents were given the option of staying at a nearby Sandman Hotel.

READ ALSO: Wellburns forced to close due to sewage flooding basement

“We would have two days to remove what we needed before they were going to change the locks,” Manson says. She says the building managers, Pacific Cove Property Management Ltd., didn’t do that – but tenants haven’t been allowed to stay in their units since. Some are already looking for new places to live while others, including Manson are waiting to see if they can return.

“It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare,” she says. “Everything has been horrible, and there’s a level of uncertainty. We’ve heard vague statements like the building is ‘unlikely’ to be habitable again.”

Wellburns Market closed Nov. 29 when sewage was discovered in the basement. Sewage trucks worked to pump out the fluid, but the sewage refilled the space in the days following – at some points as high as two feet. At least 20 employees of the grocery store were sent home with no indication of whether or not they would be returning. The Cook Street Barbershop has reopened to customers, and will continue to operate at that location until its lease ends, according to the shop owner.

It’s unclear at this time what caused the sewage leakage.

The century-old building – which currently has seven rented residential units – is slated for demolition in 2020 to make room for a mixed-use residential and commercial complex with 103 rental apartments above and retail and commercial space on the ground floor.

Tenants were aware they would be looking for new places to live, but Manson says many now feel the sewage issue isn’t being fixed as a result.

“Now to be pressured to have to [relocate] immediately because they don’t want to fix or can’t fix this problem…We’ve been really trying to do what we can to make a case for them to fix the problem so we can keep living there.”

READ ALSO: Century-old grocery business set to close for new development

Part of that pressure comes from tenants’ impending fear of the expensive market they’ll now be navigating. Manson knows she won’t find anything as spacious or as character-filled as her current suite – at least not for the same price.

“We’re not going to go out and find a new place and rush a permanent move when we haven’t looked at all,” she says. “We were not prepared to do it this early.”

Pacific Cove Property Management did not return requests for comment by the time of publication.



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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