The City of Saint John is taking steps to demolish a north end building badly damaged by fire, just in case the company that owns the property doesn't tear the dangerous apartment complex down.
The 12-unit apartment building at 134 Taylor Ave. was under construction when it caught fire on March 16.
The two-storey project of Viva Development was well underway at the time, as crews had just installed drywall inside the building.
Ben Purinton, who oversees the city's dangerous and vacant buildings program, told city council Monday night that the owners had been notified of the need to demolish the building but had not complied by the deadline because of delays with its insurance company.
"In recent discussions, the owners stated that they do intend to begin work starting May 3 and have a contractor lined up to do so," Purinton said.
But he said the company has yet to apply for a demolition permit and the city wanted to move ahead with getting approval from council to take down the building itself, so crews could move quickly if the work isn't done.
Purinton said the building has been broken into several times, and many windows have been broken.
A staff report also said part of the second-floor oof and second-floor wall has collapsed, making the building structurally unsafe.s
It's estimated the cost to the city to do the demolition would be around $70,000, and the property owner would be billed if the city takes on the job.
Deputy Mayor John MacKenzie said he hopes it wouldn't come to that, because the city would have to demolish everything, including the foundation.
"I hope that he does it, to just tear down what needs to be torn down and then resume construction and finish that … It saddens me. I mean, I'm totally 100 per cent behind, you know, doing something [there]," McKenzie said.
"That absolutely saddens me because I was involved with the idea of putting four buildings in there, you know, and having mixed market and affordable [units], which, you know, is the expectation."
Coun. Paula Radwan agreed the city shouldn't have to take steps to tear down the building itself.
"When you look at a developer, a multimillion-dollar company like Viva Development, if there's any issues with insurance, then I would hope that they would step up to the plate and pay for it out of their own pocket to demolish this instead of using staff time now," she said.
City manager John Collin said the city wants the company to get to work on the property on Tuesday.
"Our competitive bidding process could take upwards of two weeks to complete," Collin told council. 'So we will allow them to take action as that process is ongoing."
If the city does end up tearing down the building and cannot recoup costs from the company, the city can apply to the province for reimbursement under the Local Governance Act.
At the time of the fire, Moncton-based developer Viva declined an interview with CBC. In an email, Nick Pinto said the fire was "disheartening for the owners and the workers involved."
The project was supposed to include several buildings and was planned for market-level rentals with the possibility of affordable housing units as well.