Two years after renovations began at 701 Rosser Ave., what’s left of the building is completely boarded up and questions are being raised about the downtown "eyesore."
Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) recently made an inquiry to the city manager, looking for an update on the status of the property, formerly a restaurant named Chicken Corner.
"I’ve had lots of comments on it, that’s sort of why I’ve been trying to push for things behind the scenes," Roberts said.
City manager Scott Hildebrand responded that the owner of the property had applied for a building permit for interior and exterior renovations for restaurant use, and the permit would be issued upon receipt of the engineer’s drawings by the planning and building safety department. Hildebrand confirmed that the owner was issued a demolition permit for work completed to date.
"The proper permits are in place," Roberts said. "It’s just one of those projects that is moving very slowly."
Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) is also concerned about the lack of movement on the project.
"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," he said. "It seems kind of unacceptable."
Back in February 2012, the Brandon Sun published a business column which explained how the property at Seventh Street and Rosser Avenue was under new ownership and under major renovations.
At that time one of the unnamed owners said that it was going to be a new restaurant slated to be opened that summer.
"There was a lot of promise as far as the potential of the property," Roberts said. "I know they wanted at one point to do a rooftop patio or something … it could’ve been really neat. I just hope that they find the time to get it done."
Roberts said he would like to see a bylaw put in place that includes completion deadlines for certain projects.
"I would like to be able to see that there’s fair and measurable guidelines as far as a completion date of a project," he said.
The Brandon Sun went to the property several times over the past week to see if we could find the owner or anyone that could answer questions on the project. No one was there at any time, and no construction appeared to be going on.
The building which was once two storeys, is now one storey. The structure is boarded up with plywood, with some discarded construction material at the back of the property. The windows are boarded up, however there appears to be holes across the top of the east wall.
According to the city’s Building Safety and Property Standards bylaw, every exterior wall "shall be free of holes, breaks, loose or rotting boards or timbers, and any other conditions which might admit rodents, rain or dampness to the interior."
Also in the bylaw, if a building is in an unsafe or unsightly condition, the city can serve a written notice to the owner requiring it be boarded-up, secured or demolished and put in safe condition or remedy any unsightly conditions.
No permit could be found posted on the building.
"There should be a permit or something posted on the property so that neighbours know exactly what’s going on," Roberts said, adding neighbouring business owners and other residents driving by have made comments and complaints regarding the property.
Calls to the city’s senior building inspector to discuss the building safety bylaw and necessary permits went unreturned.
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.
Another piece of information on the land title was a line showing the City of Brandon entered a tax sale notice to the property owner on April 15.
A search for the property on the City of Brandon’s GIS map shows property taxes are down significantly. In 2012, just under $2,600 was owed, while in 2013 that dropped down to about $1,800. The property’s 2014 assessment value is listed at $54,200.
At the Sun’s request, Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation, contacted the owner who declined an interview.
"At this time they are still working to move this project forward, but nothing new to report," said Braden Pilling, downtown development specialist with Renaissance Brandon via email. "As a result, they have declined to be interviewed by media."
The project has been approved for a redevelopment grant, Pilling said, but no money is given to application proponents until the project is completed.
"We certainly would like to see the project completed as soon as possible, but we also understand the re-development challenges these types of projects sometimes encounter," Pilling wrote. "Renaissance Brandon has been monitoring the project and we expect a progress update within the next few weeks.Shortly thereafter the board will determine if the current application approval will continue orwhether we will ask the applicant to re-apply at a later date and remove the project from our list of current commitments."
Brandon Chamber of Commerce vice-president Todd Birkhan said any vacant storefronts are not good for the downtown, especially one that’s been boarded up for quite some time.
"The chamber would prefer to see a business contributing to the economy and to downtown rather than having an esthetic eyesore in downtown," Birkhan said.