Fire-damaged building may finally be repurposed

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on June 14, 2014
Work is being done on this building on Broadway after a fire shut it down 10 years ago.
Star photo by Jamie Bennett

Ten years after a fire shut down the building , work is finally being done to put some life back into 17-21 Broadway.

The 18,000-square foot building housed a trio of nightclubs, including the Studio, and an adjoining restaurant when a fire broke out in the early morning hours of May 26, 2004.

No cause was ever determined by the police investigation, but the fire department at the time said flames were located in a walled cavity and it was suspected the fire had started in the southwest corner of the building’s basement level. Whatever the cause, the result of the fire was heavy smoke and water damage to the entire structure.

Other than a paint job a few years ago, not much has been happening with the damaged building.

The property is owned by a company named Daynes Enterprises Limited, which is listed as being owned by Kathleen Watton. Her husband Graham Watton is the company’s legal counsel. He said there has been work done on the inside and outside and more is to come soon.

Watton said the interior of the building has been completely stripped down to its concrete and studs with the hopes of finding new occupants for the space available.

There has been talk that the structural integrity of the building was compromised by the fire and the effort to extinguish the flames. Watton said work is being done to make the building usable again.

“The internal structure of the building is sound,” he said, though he added some of that work is still to be finished.

The owners will be soon be taking out newspaper advertisements seeking interest in a joint venture to operate the building and tenants who want to rent space on a long-term basis.

Watton said one option is for the building to be turned into a boutique hotel. That concept could include 15-20 suites, along with a restaurant, lounge, wellness/fitness centre, conference meeting room, beauty salon and several specialty shops.

Another vision for the property would be to transform it into a mini-mall, similar to the one further up the street on Broadway or in the Goodhouse Building on West Street. That idea would see a combination of retail space, a restaurant or lounge on the ground and basement levels, and office suites on the second storey.

The structure, which is approximately 61 years old, could also be converted into a commercial and residential condominium complex.

Watton said there has been some interest from potential clients to turn the place back into a nightclub, but that’s not something the owners want to see.

“We’d just as soon stay away from that,” he said. “There are enough of those on Broadway now.”

The owner is holding off on doing any internal renovations until tenants can be found. However, if that doesn’t happen soon, some inside structural work may begin.

“If we don’t get a tenant in the next couple of months, we may start renovating the first floor and do something with it,” said Watton.

While waiting to see what interest is in the community to develop the property, the owners will be giving the drab-looking exterior a face-lift by painting it and cleaning up the property.

The external beautification effort will hopefully extend to an old house located directly behind the former bar, although it has a different owner.