Tenants of the Imperial Building at 251 Bank St, the home of Bruce House and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO), have created a tenants’ committee to address the building’s leaky roof, vermin problems and bad management.
Khaled Salam, acting executive director of ACO, says the facility’s persistent problems are impeding the ACO’s work.
“There were times when the elevators were not working, which becomes a huge issue for us,” Salam says. “Our organization serves people with disabilities. If the elevators are not working, there’s no way participants can access us on the seventh floor.”
Salam is also frustrated by the leaky roof, which allows water into the ACO’s therapy room and means the ACO can’t use the room if it rains.
Jay Koornstra, executive director of Bruce House, a supportive housing and compassionate care organization for people living with HIV and AIDS, agrees and says mice are also an issue in the building, which was built in the mid-1950s. But Koornstra says the owners and property managers are trying to solve the problems.
“They are attempting to fix things. Their priorities may not be the same as ours. There is still a lot of shortcomings here, but to a certain degree they are actually trying,” he says. “They will come into the office and say we need to fix this now, without any warning. There have been a few disruptions, but we’re just so happy that they are fixing things.”
The current owners bought the building from Arif Enterprises in 2010 and took over as property managers in May.
Co-owner Dino Bertolissi says that he inherited many of the building’s problems from its former owners and that he is actively working to fix outstanding issues.
“It’s 60 years old, plus. You can go to the Château Laurier and there’s problems with that. We’ve done a tremendous amount already,” he says. “It takes time. Nothing can be done overnight. It’s an enormous project.”
Improvements recently made to the building include converting the boilers to gas and replacing light fixtures to reduce carbon emissions, Bertolissi says.
Staff from Under One Roof spearheaded the creation of the tenants’ committee. To date, the committee has met with Bertolissi once.
Under One Roof hopes to own two floors in the building by the end of 2012 and to purchase the entire building by 2014. Executive director John Urquhart did not respond to several requests for comment.
Looking ahead, Salam says that although the owners are trying, serious issues with the building remain unresolved.
“Realistically, I’m not sure they are going to be resolved in a timely fashion,” he says.
Koornstra says Bruce House is dedicated to occupying 251 Bank St for as long as possible.
“We ourselves spent a considerable amount of money on upgrades to improve our own office space,” he says. “I just don’t know if they are [well] equipped [as] property managers.”
The building also houses Octopus Books, Ottawa Life Magazine and National Capital News. Xtra Ottawa and PTS previously occupied offices in the building.