Century-old funeral home won’t do business in core-area ’war zone,’ owner tells councillors
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The head of a company that has called the area around Health Sciences Centre home for more than 100 years says the emergence of massive piles of rubble in the surrounding neighbourhood is forcing the business to reluctantly consider moving elsewhere.
“The roads and sidewalks are falling apart, garbage is strewn all over the area and graffiti is a blight on many of the buildings. But, recently, we have a new problem, burned-out hulks (of buildings) and piles of rubble that make it look like you’re entering a war zone in order to get to my business,” Kevin Sweryd, president of Bardal Funeral Home, told council’s community services committee on Friday.
“The condition of that neighbourhood… makes it very difficult.”
Sweryd said the business is committed to revitalizing the area and he picks up garbage and needles and promptly removes any graffiti on or near the building at 843 Sherbrook St.
He urged the city to do all it can to tackle an increase in rubble, noting the company will consider moving if the situation doesn’t improve.
“I do not have to remain here. I choose to remain here because I believe in the importance of tradition and community. However, if nothing changes, Bardal Funeral Home will be another business that moves out of the core and into another part of the city,” he said.
The company’s website notes the funeral home moved into its current site in the early 1900s.
Sweryd told the Free Press he’d prefer not to move but is considering it as “an avenue of last resort.”
“If they’re not going to be clearing away buildings when they fall down or they’re half-burned out, it gets to be difficult. There’s a perception issue, where people say ‘We don’t want to come downtown because it doesn’t look safe,’” he said.
Images Sweryd shared with city councillors show a massive pile of fenced-in rubble near his building, which appears to include garbage and construction materials.
The comments came as the committee considered a motion to have the city clean up the debris left behind by demolitions, which neighbours complain have created unsightly and potentially dangerous lots. Some say the fencing doesn’t keep folks from risking their safety by entering the sites to try to salvage items.
Coun. Cindy Gilroy’s motion proposes having city crews clean up lots left covered in debris following demolitions, then charging the owners for the work on their property tax bills.
“As you all are aware… we’re having issues around these demolished buildings and the work just not being completed. In my own ward, it has been over a year that there has been, on Sherbrook Street (694), debris that is just sitting there … People that do want to sell their homes, can’t,” Gilroy told the community services committee.
On Thursday, she clarified that while her motion mentions properties that have not been cleaned up within six months, she feels the city should begin taking action three months after demolition debris is not removed.
“We need to put the effort in and there needs to be reinvestment. That will cost the city some money,” she said.
Sweryd urged the committee to approve Gilroy’s motion.
Instead of immediately implementing the changes, as the motion suggested, council’s community services committee opted to order a report on the potential strategy, though council will have the final vote on the matter.
“Everybody liked the idea, it’s just a matter of what pieces have to be put together, timelines (and) costs. It involves taxation…. We have to figure out how to do it,” said Coun. John Orlikow, the committee’s chairman.
Orlikow said he agrees the rubble warrants attention but stressed the city must also first determine how to fund the cleanups, which would have an up-front cost even if tax bills can be altered.
The report is expected back in about 90 days.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.