Committee Ends Somerset House Fee Break

Photo: D. Jones

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

OTTAWA SUN, by Jon Willing

Mayor Jim Watson on Tuesday sent a message to the owner of the rundown Somerset House: "The free ride is over." 

He easily won support of council's finance and economic development committee to end a deal that waived encroachment fees for the construction site at Somerset and Bank streets.

TKS Holdings owns the building, which has sat as a decrepit shell since its partial collapse in October 2007.

The city has waived $43,333 in encroachment fees on the property to help expedite construction.

"The public are fed up and I'm fed up," Watson said.

Watson said he met recently with owner Tony Shahrasebi about the progress. 

According to the mayor, he was told a pharmacy pulled out as the main tenant, so financing the restoration has been difficult. 

Watson said there can't be any more excuses.

The city has asked for an engineer's report on the building to make sure it's structurally safe, he said.

Council has approved a restoration plan for the building, but as Watson points out, "there has been a lot of talk but no action."

The finance committee is also recommending council ask for more power from the province to protect heritage buildings.

Council will vote Wednesday.

Somerset ward candidate Jeff Morrison, who has taken an interest in the progress of the Somerset House redevelopment, addressed the committee, saying cancelling the fee deal "is not the ideal solution" but it's fair. Ideally, the owner would renovate the building, Morrison said.