For years one lone house on Spence Street hindered the University of Winnipeg’s expansion plans. However, last week a demolition crew tore down the 366 Spence St. house, allowing the U of W to proceed with its intended athletic and parking facility on the grounds.
Health inspectors had evaluated the home a few weeks earlier, condemning it and declaring the home a health risk to anyone who entered.
“(The resident) was a good neighbour and shared his opinions of what was going on around campus,” said Dan Hurley, senior executive officer and advisor to the president of the U of W. “But when his health took a turn for the worse, some of our security personnel noticed he wasn’t around and called paramedics. And he needed the help.”
Upon expecting the house it became apparent that the man was a hoarder, some rooms filled to the ceiling with possessions, local media reported.
The university had been in talks with the resident about acquiring the home, as it was the last piece of land on the block that the U of W didn’t own.
“For a long time he had indicated he was happy to live where he was,” Hurley said. “We had conversations over several years about what he wanted to do with the property in the future, but our sense was that he wanted to see a plan for the space before moving.”
The Winnipeg Humane Society has stepped in, providing traps to catch the numerous cats seen frequenting the area.
“It’s difficult to estimate how many cats were there,” said Bill McDonald, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society. “The cats were accessing the house through a hole in the foundation. The first four cats we trapped were feral and sick and had to be euthanized once we received them.”
The university’s plans to develop a sports complex and parking space on the land will allow for the development of programming, according to Hurley.
“We’ll have to move the existing units on that block to develop expanded athletic facilities for the university,” he said. “We want to have a space where we can offer more sports like wrestling and soccer at the intercollegiate and intramural level.”
A main concern for students is safe and monitored parking on campus, which Hurley says will be provided in the sports facility.
“There should be student consultation on what happens to the space and how it can best be used to fill students’ needs,” said Jason Syvixay, president of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.
Construction is scheduled to begin shortly on the parking lot, but the plans for the sports complex have a long way to go.
“We still need to find funding and consult the community because we’d like to see it be used as a community centre as well,” said Hurley.
Mayor Sam Katz recently announced his commitment to help fund the project if he is re-elected this fall, a promise Judy Wasylycia-Leis said she’d honor if elected.
Published in Volume 65, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 21, 2010)