Ye Olde Post Office (Source)
The Dominion Building has long been a visual touchstone of downtown Charlottetown. Standing in contrast to the historical brick and mortar strokes that paint the surrounding scenery, its smooth, flat surfaces and sharp corners mirror the Confederation Center’s own and speak to its bureaucratic origin. Whether it’s the old DVA building, the old Post Office, or just an eyesore to you, there’s no question that the Dominion Building occupies a special place in both Charlottetown’s heart and its real estate. Its prime location made an eventual transformation into an apartment block a no-brainer, an easy sell for any company willing to put in the time and money to renovate the interior and put some organization into place. However, since its acquisition by Page Realty Management and subsequent occupation by Cox & Palmer, the number of organizing issues and safety concerns within the building have risen to such a point where IRAC has had to step in and has now allowed tenants to quit their lease without penalty.
31/12/12 UPDATE: New photos added
The Dominion Building was transferred to the Canada Lands Company in 2007 after being declared surplus to Public Works Canada’s needs. Calls for expressions of interest were made the following year until eventually the building came to settle with Page Realty Management, under George Ramia, in 2011. Renovations began soon after, with the idea being to provide commercial or office space on the first floor and apartments on the second and up, for a total of 56 high-end residential units. By early 2012 leasing had begun to open up, Cox & Palmer struck a deal with Mr. Ramia and moved into the 6th floor penthouse, and by mid-March the building was “70% leased”.
However much of the major renovations throughout the building were still not completed by the time tenants began moving in on April 1st and the managerial structure within the building itself was described as “winging it”. Many tenants felt pressured to sign their lease by May, being told that the owners would not hold units for those who waited. After all the paperwork was said and done, as many as ten residents were not able to move into their units due to incomplete renovations. One tenant was hired to act as Superintendent, a position that was initially unpaid, but eventually had to fill the roles of security, and custodian as well. Much of the Superintendent’s time involved clearing hallways of construction debris to ensure accordance with fire regulations and shooing squatters from the building, as the security doors did not function properly, ontop of receiving concerns and complaints from tenants about the building’s state. By July, this Superintendent was informed that they would not longer be needed
Brian Hooley was set up as the replacement Superintendent. A local real estate contractor, District 11 Treasurer for the Liberal Party of PEI, and son of Cox & Palmer’s David Hooley, Brian was now taking on the tasks of both Property Manager and Superintendent without living in the building himself, and issues continued to pile up under his watch. Flooding on the 2nd and 3rd floor in September required further repairs and tenants noted that workers in the building had all been given master-keys. This resulted in workers entering apartments while tenants were home or away, one tenant claiming a worker came in to paint while they were sleeping, a safety concern that was left unaddressed. Other renovations did not speed up and remain incomplete, with certain tenants not seeing things like counter-tops in bathrooms and kitchens until early September and some still waiting for various other fixtures. Air does not circulate throughout the upper floors requiring tenants to purchase air conditioners, large spaces in flooring are still missing and in some areas the flooring has warped. Parking is a constant issue, as surrounding homes and businesses gradually began to use the rear parking lot over the years. In the early summer asbestos was discovered in the basement areas and has only recently begun to be removed, the delay preventing the underground parking area from being used and which is a process that could take several months still. An evacuation performed on Nov 11th after a fire alarm was pulled in the early morning saw tenants having to assist other senior tenants with exiting the building and local fire department officials made mention that the building’s new fire alarm and suppression system was not connected to their department as it should be.
Even John A. averts his gaze (Source)
A tenant association was pieced together and meetings have been held in recent months. An IRAC official, City Councillor Edward Rice, and David Hooley himself have all been noted to have appeared at meetings to suggest ideas and hear out tenants’ concerns. However concerns about Brian Hooley arose about his absence and it was noted that he was dealing with personal issues as his father stepped in to represent the ownership. Another tenant offered to act as an interim Superintendent, but it is a position which is quickly becoming permanent much to this tenant’s dismay. The tenant association collected various concerns about the building and its management and sent them to Page Realty in Halifax who rebuffed their letter, saying they would not deal with the association and to send all complaints to Brian Hooley.
With units that started at $900 for a single bedroom ($1200 as of post-time) and renovations still not finished after 8 months since the building was reopened, tenants are feeling slighted and literally left out in the cold, many of them jumping ship with few other places to go. Individuals interviewed have said IRAC has allowed tenants to break their lease and find housing elsewhere with no penalties due to the conditions in the building.
New security cameras have only been recently installed but progress from here may be slow going. Fitzgerald & Snow, the most recent general contractors to have worked on the building, have walked away from the job, just another in a long line of companies such as First On Site and various asbestos removal teams that have all cited frustrations with management and non-payment as reasons for their departure.
Questions surrounding the building and its management remain. How were the owners able to acquire an occupancy permit while the building was still under construction and had asbestos present? What was the nature of Cox & Palmer’s deal with Page Realty Management and why won’t either party replace Brian Hooley? What avenue do current tenants have to voice their complaints and see them dealt with that won’t end with them being kicked out into the street?
While the timeline and concerns may seem fleeting, the reality of the Dominion Building as it stands today is one that various individuals in the core of our city have to deal with and frustrate themselves over every day, the majority of whom are elderly citizens. It is one of the great shames of Charlottetown to see a building with such history fall to bumbling mismanagement and blatant disrespect for its tenants, both old and new.
[Note: All information presented here is only a small part of what we could corroborate between current and former tenants of the Dominion Building. IRAC has not been forthcoming on details and has directed Saako Vaal to make FOIPP requests which we are currently looking into. If you have any information, please don’t hesitate to send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org ]
UPDATE: The following are photos sent in by tenants
Twisted electric cord providing lighting to a corridor by the parking lot entrance.
Further jury-rigged lighting down another corridor.
Corridor floor. Uneven and broken, only since our posting have signs gone up advising caution as people walk.
Another tell-tale sign of the apartments’ luxury nature. Baseboard trim that has only recently been installed after five months.
The sign that greets tenants who take the elevator to the basement.
Other recent developments in the building include the freight elevator having to be shut down permanently. We’re told the elevator inspector has refused to renew its permit and is a set back that is causing considerable trouble for those looking to move out. Tenants with furniture to transport have been told to take the stairs.