Controversy surrounds redevelopment of Somerset House
Published Tuesday, October 12, 2010 3:17PM EDT
This is the scene from Somerset Street West three years ago. The century-old Somerset House had partially collapsed while undergoing renovations. No one was hurt at the time.
While the smoke has cleared, little else has changed. Time has stood still on this corner for owner Tony Kue Shahrasebi.
Shahrasebi had plans to turn the old rooming house into a three-storey commercial building. The collapse of a column put an indefinite hold on that.
Building seen as a hazard
The city declared the building a hazard and shut part of Bank and Somerset streets down for two months, and demolished part of the building. That's where the story gets complicated.
"In order to open up the street, they tear down my building -- and then they found out there's nothing wrong with my building," says Shahrasebi.
The city slapped Shahrasebi with the cost of policing the blocked roads. He, in turn, is suing the city for wrecking his building.
'The BIA wants something done'
The case is now in mediation -- in the meantime, there's been no movement on rebuilding, a frustrating development for high-end restaurants down the road.
"Everyone who is part of the BIA wants something done, and to move it ahead," says Meg McManus of Benitz Bistro.
Adds Carol Bell of Friday's Roast Beef House, "The longer it sits there, the more people wonder if it's ever going to come to fruition."
The head of the Somerset BIA -- and the architect for the building -- said he believes politics are at play.
"I think there isn't a political will at the highest level to see this site returned to the community," says Derek Crain, who is also an architect.
The city refused comment on the case since it's before the courts. But the confusion continues. The city says it's waiting for the owner of the property to get back to them on some permit details, but Shahrasebi says the ball is in the city's court.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Joanne Schnurr