Time to backfill
Mayor says downtown eyesore has to go

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 05/99) - If the city had to choose, the main downtown intersection is the last place in town they would want a giant hole.

But the hole is there, behind plywood boarding that runs along the sidewalk at Franklin and 50th Street. And it's been there for seven years, ever since the Miners' Mess, the building that stood on it was torn down.

In a Jan. 26 letter to Mayor Dave Lovell, resident Craig Yeo referred to the hole as an "eyesore" and the concrete wall behind it as a "runny scab." Yeo said he is hopeful the pit will be turned into a park, and soon.

"I know the urban designers at our city hall can't let this repulsive sight endure forever," he wrote.

"I couldn't agree with him more," said Lovell. "Seven years is far too long and it's time it was cleaned up. I don't think it's any big secret that they are putting on a push to get a convention centre built there, but if it doesn't go through then this is the summer it's got to get cleaned up."

The mayor added that the site is just one area the city needs to address along that stretch of Franklin Ave. and that the entire downtown core could use some sprucing up.

Coun. Peggy Near agreed that the time for a cleanup has come, but that the main tool it had to force a cleanup, the unsightly properties bylaw, should only be used as a last resort.

"I hope council is prepared to try to resolve things by talking with the owner rather than by trying to force it to change."

The owner of the property was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Lovell said the Miners' Mess was torn down with the intention of building a convention centre on the site.

But financing for the project fell apart in the wake of a general crash in the commercial real estate market.

Lovell, who said he has talked with councillors informally about the property, said one plan he has considered is having the city buy a portion of the lot and turn it into a small park.

"I think everyone's pretty much on side about it, that if it doesn't get cleaned up soon we have to do something about it," said the mayor.