Tenants in historic ‘Wellburn’s’ building face uncertain future after sewage flood

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WatchTenants living in a heritage building in Victoria are possibly out of a home even earlier than expected, after a major sewage leak. They may even be without a permanent home for the holidays. Julian Kolsut reports.

The historic “Wellburn’s” building has been standing in Victoria for over a century. Tenants knew things were going to change soon but they have now had to leave even earlier than expected.

Development plans have been in the works for the heritage building, but a sewage pipe issue has resulted in all of the building’s fluid ending up in the basement.

“We’ve got a building constructed in 1911, that has had a collapsed sewer pipe underneath the existing Wellburn’s market building,” said construction manager Christopher Supeene.

“What we have in the basement is effectively a concrete box which right now as tenants have been using the facilities in the building has been filling up with effluent which is a serious health concern.”

All tenants have been provided the option to relocate to nearby hotels and will be able to come back at designated times. Management says it’s not an eviction but does no know if or when tenants will be allowed to come back.

“Well we’ve been knowing the building was going to be doing down for a while,” said Marita Manson as she held back tears.

“I’ve been living in this building for over 10 years so my rent is what I can afford to pay in the city.”

There are actually plans to develop the heritage building into a mixed residential and commercial complex. Wellburn’s and tenants were both given the notice to leave around May 2020, but later on, some tenants say they were told that date could also shift to September 2020.

The property manager says it really all depends on the development process, so right now the exact date to get out is up in the air.

There are a total of 11 units, but five have been vacated ahead of the development.

“Just being forced to relocate at all is incredibly challenging… but being asked to relocate over Christmas holidays with almost no notice, I don’t know,” said Manson.

Workers on-site and management say it is a difficult situation.

“This is a very very unfortunate situation that we do take very seriously,” said Supeene.

“We feel for these people. We have up to I understand 20 employees at the Wellburns Market currently out of work and six residential tenants. We want to do our very best for these folks and look after these folks to the best of our ability.”

The current owner purchased the historic property roughly two years ago. The property manager says the previous owner should have dealt with the pre-existing sewage pipe problem and says the city already knew about it.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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