City examining bylaws after emergency evacuation of St. James apartment complex

Winnipeg’s mayor says the city is looking at whether legislation should be changed after residents were evacuated from a St. James apartment complex due to unsafe conditions.

The city ordered an evacuation two weeks ago of Birchwood Terrace over concerns it could collapse.

About 250 residents were displaced from the Portage Avenue building.

Mayor Scott Gillingham says there are ongoing discussions between the city and province about the site.

“This is an opportunity for us to take a look at what we do and how we do the work at the City of Winnipeg and our policies and procedures in concert with the Province of Manitoba, to see if anything needs to be amended or to change them,” he told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

“I’m very open to those discussions with the province, and our staff is having those.”

Mayor Scott Gillingham is pictured at a May 22, 2024 news conference at Winnipeg City Hall. (CTV News Winnipeg)

Currently, the onus falls on owners to inspect and maintain their properties. Some have questioned whether government should enact stricter laws to ensure property owners abide.

Gillingham pointed out that the structural issues at Birchwood Terrace were initially identified by the property owner carrying out an inspection.

“Don’t underestimate the requirement of a building owner in our bylaws to maintain their property in such a way that it meets code compliance, that it meets safety regulations, that it meets fire code compliance, as well,” he said.

“It’s not just a passing suggestion.”

Property owner Ladco previously told CTV News Winnipeg it had gone above and beyond to maintain the building over the decades. It said the deterioration was not visible, as it was covered by plaster and cement.

The company noted the problems were only found after a column appeared to be damaged.

– With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele

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