Imagine waking up early to the sounds of hammering or seeing men in white hats driving their bulldozers. These are just some of the things that the surrounding neighbourhoods of Victoria Park Ave. and Rowena Dr. have been experiencing.
For four years, developer Magnum Opus Group has been working on renovating an old housing unit full of graffiti and broken windows.
“When we took everything over, all the roofs had to be replaced; they were leaking, and they were rotten,” Magnum chairman Jeffrey Feldberg said. “There wasn’t any insulation, so on a hot summer day and in the cold winter months it was not a great place to be living in.”
The houses did not have hot water running, insulations on the walls or laundry units, only one washroom and there were safety hazards throughout the units, Feldberg said. The public common hallway of the maisonette houses was also a big problem, taking up potential room space and compromising the security of the complex.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get once you start going behind the dry walls,” Feldberg said. “But we made a commitment to the community that we would clean up the site right away when we took possession.”
Alex Prasoulis, a real estate agent located at Delwood Dr., just off of Victoria Park Ave., questioned the need for the renovation.
“They should demolish all of it and build new because those are an eyesore,” Prasoulis said. “The location is good, but those townhouses … they look like subsidized housing-type development.”
Feldberg said Magnum has to work with city planners carefully to get the proper units. The planning that goes into the project takes time, including the evacuation of the previous tenants.
Some neighbours are becoming impatient.
Ken Williams, whose house faces the site, said the redevelopment hasn’t affected him directly, but the noise has.
“Sometimes, at late evenings, (there) is noise,” Williams said. “Or early mornings, about five or six in the morning.”
Fran Christou, whose backyard faces the construction, wasn’t bothered by the site, but also commented on the noise factor.
“It’s them working. I’m not a complainer, it’s them working,” Christou said. “If it’s work, it’s work, what are you going to do?”
Since the construction on the townhouses has been going on for four years, Williams expressed his concerns on the slow process, much like other residents.
“I think that they had the intention of knocking it down,” Williams said. “But now it’s more feasible to do the repairs inside; but it’s very, very slow.”
Feldberg admits there have been complaints from the neighbourhood during construction, but says the company has responded to them.
Letters were distributed to houses in the neighbourhood to explain the lengthy process.
“I understand where those concerns are,” Feldberg said. “From our standpoint though, it’s easy to just get things done quickly, and put a band-aid on things, but you’ll have continual problems.”
Prasoulis said in some cases it is better to demolish a site and start from scratch instead of working on old units, which were originally built in the 1970s.
“You are not saving that much more money because it’s expensive to retrofit existing units like that, so sometimes it’s worth it to demolish it and build new,” Prasoulis said.
But Feldberg reiterated how important it is for safety needs to come first. If you’re going to work on a project, he says, to do it properly the first time even if it requires more time.
With the new renovations in this development, more privacy and security features will be added, including a surrounding fence.
“Even though we are going to well exceed our budget and take much more time to do, let’s do it properly the first time,” Feldberg said. “So we don’t have to come back the second time to fix it, and not just have a 70-percent vacancy rate.”
One of Feldberg’s goal is to bring families back to this community.
“I think Scarborough is one of the best neighbourhoods. It’s a hidden gem within the city,” he said. “We are going to have a site that’s a destination for families and (where individuals) can raise their families.”