Residents displaced by fire at a St. James Town highrise last month won’t be returning home until 2019, according to the building’s property manager.
Crews working at 650 Parliament St. recently discovered an electrical issue in the building’s north tower that forced the delay, said Doug Sartell, property manager for Wellesley Parliament Square, the building owners’ agent, at a Friday news conference.
More than 1,500 residents of the highrise building — which is made up of two towers connected by an elevator lobby — have been displaced since last month, when a six-alarm fire broke out in the building’s southern tower. There were no serious injuries.
Late last month, Sartell said residents would be able to return around Thanksgiving at the earliest.
It would be “unforgivable” if residents returned and something dangerous happened again, Sartell said Friday about the decision to delay their return.
Repair work has been “non-stop” since the Aug. 21 fire, he said.
The majority of residents — who were put up in hotels by the city and Red Cross shortly after the fire — have since found their own accommodations.
Until this week, as many as 200 residents had been housed in emergency shelter at the nearby Regent Park Community Centre, which was closed to the public.
On Friday, Sartell said about 130 residents who were still housed at the community centre had been moved to hotels as options for their accommodation are being explored.
Residents at the community centre were informed of the move earlier this week. A spokesperson for Wellesley Parliament Square said the company had secured rooms at Kimpton Saint George Hotel, Doubletree and Holiday Inn.
The company has been searching for accommodation since the fire happened, spokesperson Rhoda Eisenstadt said, adding that building management had a difficult time securing spaces because of events like TIFF and “the city’s low vacancy rate.”
The ongoing responsibility for housing the families displaced by the fire rests with the building’s owner and its property manager, the city said earlier this week.
Toronto fire officials completed the evidence-collection portion of their investigation into the fire earlier this month. Officials have not yet released a cause.
The secondary phase of the investigation involves a thorough review of witness statements, listening to all the radio transmissions, conducting forensic testing on parts of the electrical system, and reviewing previous records of inspection history.
Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo