Downtown businesses aren't sure demolishing a problem residential building is the answer, but they want urgent action to address the problems the apartments are associated with.
Earlier this week, city council started a process that could eventually see the Full Gospel Outreach Centre at 925 Central Ave. torn down because of hundreds of complaints about criminal activity and by-law infractions.
“I personally don’t see a problem with [Pastor Vern Temple] if he wants to keep running his ministry out of the ground floor,” Stacy Coburn said, the Chair of the P.A. Downtown Business Improvement District. “But I want to see all the apartments shut down and not occupied until they’re all up to code.”
Some of the apartments are boarded up and the Gospel Centre admits to having had issues with drug dealing and gangs.
Coburn runs Scentiments Floral Ltd. and has witnessed “horrible things” because of the issues associated with the building.
“[I’ve seen] a man urinating out of the window and people constantly fighting,” she said. “One night someone’s car got damaged because there was a fight and someone got thrown onto it and dented it.”
She figured the apartments are currently a “100 per cent hindrance” to downtown revitalization efforts.
Like Coburn, Fresh Air Experience owner Mike Horn is happy to see the city take action, but also wonders if demolition is the way to go.
He thought the building could be repurposed in the future, but currently the owner should be taking full responsibility for what is going on.
“Right now it seems like it’s a bit of a free for all,” Horn said. “The owner seems to have lost control of the people who are in there.”
Horn said tenants and the building need to be looked after, and the owner needs to be accountable for the actions of people present.
Many businesses like his have been in the downtown for decades, have a large client base and are valuable contributors to the local economy. He said they’re eager to work with everyone involved to create a positive outlook for the downtown.
“We need to hit the reset button and attract positive renters and people who aren’t going to steal, do drugs and be involved in violence,” he said.
Another local, Gord Vaadeland has an office and his partner owns Calypso Bay Clothing downtown. He said while the problems associated with some of the people who rent or frequent the apartments should not be swept under the carpet, he’s also pointing a finger at the media.
He thought paNOW did not reflect crime stories unless they’re in the downtown or West Flat, “so there’s always an impression that downtown is less safe than everywhere else.” He thinks this media coverage perpetuates these perceptions.
paNOW has run various reaction stories following city council’s vote earlier this week to start the process that could lead to the problem building’s demolition. A woman was attacked on Central Ave. the week before. The suspect and victim in that incident knew each other.
paNOW reports on crime in all parts of town and rural areas, but is largely reliant on police media releases and information provided by the public.
As for the problem building on Central Ave. Vaadeland also expressed concern the pastor who runs the Gospel Centre has lost focus.
“It’s a pain in the neck to the downtown, but I also think he’s not actually helping the people that he set out to help. The criminal aspect needs to be cleaned up, the drug addiction aspect needs help and the address itself can’t continue to function like it does.”
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