Mystery ‘Dear Owner’ letter on run-down Fort Rouge landmark turning heads

A vacant building in Winnipeg’s South Osborne district is getting a little extra attention these days after someone put up a poetic poster.The Rubin Block standing at the corner of Morley Street and Osborne Avenue has been boarded up since 2014. Over the weekend, someone plastered an oversized letter to the building’s owners onto the boards covering the front windows.This appeared on an old building by my house. I love this neighbourhood. And in its heyday 100 years ago, I’m sure I would have loved this building. We can do better, #winnipeg #southosborne pic.twitter.com/pwM4IknYRq— babyeels (@therealbabyeels) October 1, 2018
The note begins “Dear owners of this building, I will design you a composite…”. It goes on to share details of the building’s storied history and says “this is not just a building. It clothes my community…” and is signed “S.O. Resident.”Area residents say the building has been neglected for too long and see the sign as a move in the right direction.Story continues below

MacKenzie Loewen said she has lived in the South Osborne neighbourhood for more than four years and has often wondered why the building has been left to deteriorate.“It is such a good corner … I’ve often envisioned it as a coffee shop or yoga studio,” she said.READ MORE: South Osborne experiencing business boom as empty storefronts snapped upShe said with new businesses popping up over the past few years, the area has a renewed energy and the Rubin Block stands as a reminder of more difficult times.The building has seen many dark days in its long history, including two major fires and a homicide in the last decade.Loewen said even tearing the building down would be better than leaving it the way it is.READ MORE: One person sent to hospital after South Osborne robberyMLA James Allum, who used to have his Fort Garry-Riverview constituency office in that very building, started a petition last year urging the owners to work with the City of Winnipeg to develop the location.Allum told Global News he doesn’t know who put up the sign, but said the action “reflects a profound community interest.”While appearing to be derelict, Allum said the structure is still sound and its 20 or so empty apartment units could offset Winnipeg’s affordable housing crunch.“We tried to build community pressure. The city has some tools they can use but seems to have an unwillingness to take charge,” Allum said, adding that he believes the building should be expropriated.He said if the building was put up for sale, he has no doubt it would be snapped up immediately.Allum said they collected some 1,400 signatures on the petition and forwarded it to Mayor Brian Bowman.RELATED: Cockroaches and doctor’s note not enough for woman to cancel apartment lease, landlord saysFort Rouge-Fort Garry councillor Jenny Gerbasi said she was not aware of the sign but said it speaks to a “definite sense of frustration from the community.”Gerbasi said there have been a number of efforts to work with the building’s owners to redevelop over the years.“Unfortunately, this particular owner has made little progress on the building. Unless taxes are in serious arrears, … all the city can do is try to ensure bylaws are being followed. … There are property rights that the owner has to keep his building.”Gerbasi said the building is not a designated heritage building. She said there has been talk of nominating it as a protected structure, but as far as she knows, that has not happened.Get daily local headlines and alerts