The vacant, boarded up building at the corner of Seventh Street and Rosser Avenue has been issued a building permit, and downtown advocates hope it will spark some movement on the project.
Renovations began at 701 Rosser Ave. in early 2012 which included removing the second storey of the building. But the project has since stalled and has been completely boarded up for quite some time.
"From our standpoint it’s positive that they’re moving on the project and hopefully it has a finite completion," said Shaun Cameron, chair of Renaissance Brandon. "Hopefully they’re able to expedite the process and get their project completed."
The City of Brandon had given the property owners a deadline of April 30 to provide detailed drawings of their plans or else face orders through a building safety and vacant/derelict building bylaw.
Greg Merke, the city’s building safety manager, said it was important to implement the deadline to get the project on to the next step.
Last week Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) and Coun. Jeff Fawcett both expressed their concern over the stagnant property.
"It doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere, and yet what we got back (from the city manager) was ... that it’s following protocol," Fawcett said last week. "It seems kind of unacceptable."
Brandon Chamber of Commerce vice-president Todd Birkhan called the property an "eyesore."
Roberts said he’s pleased to see the permit has been issued, and is interested to see how the project unfolds.
"I’m sure that it’s good news for any of the neighbours downtown," Roberts said. "It still continues to be something that Brandon Area Planning will have to look at, maybe those type of policies moving forward to ensure that there’s really hard and fast measurable time frames on permits."
He said it is important that the city stays on top of vacant properties, or projects that are slow-going and offer assistance when possible.
Roberts said he wishes the property owners "good luck with the building season this year" and hopes it leads to something promising on the downtown corner.
The commercial building renovation permit, now posted on the exterior of the building, lasts for one year.
"Renovation could be a number of things, it could be an interior renovation that is quite small ... or it could be a complete renovation," Merke said. "With (701 Rosser) it’s quite obvious what it is, it’s complete renovation for sure."
The city doesn’t have control over the construction schedule, so it is unknown when work will begin.
"I would assume it would be fairly soon, but I don’t know, they don’t provide us with that information," Merke said.
The Brandon Sun acquired a copy of the property’s land title, and found the name of the owner is Huangpu Assiniboine Holdings Ltd. No other properties could be found listed under that company’s name in the province. The Sun’s efforts to find a name or contact number for Huangpu Assiniboine Holdings Ltd. were unsuccessful.
The Sun has repeatedly attempted to contact the owner through Renaissance Brandon, but were told the owner declined an interview.
The project has been approved for a redevelopment grant, through Renaissance Brandon but no money is given to application proponents until the project is completed.
"I know with regards to our financial contribution to it, it doesn’t come until they have an occupancy permit ... so it’s kind of a safeguard from our standpoint that there is a need to complete the project to be able to access those funds," Cameron said.
Original plans for the property were to open a new restaurant, with a rooftop patio. Cameron said Renaissance Brandon is under the impression that the plans are still to open up a Vietnamese cuisine restaurant.
"Last we had heard it was kind of a Vietnamese fusion restaurant. I assume that’s still the plan, I haven’t heard otherwise."
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