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'So scared there's going to be a tragedy': Vacant building in OEV raises concern among residents


Homeowners living near the former McCormick/Beta Brands building are again raising the alarm over a structure that has been vacant for nearly two decades.

"There's always really bad things that go on in that place,” said Albany Street resident Sarah Burt. “We hear people fighting in there at night. Last night, there's police showing up there. All hours of the night."

On Sunday afternoon, fire and police responded after a 9-1-1 call reported a fire in the building.

District Chief Gary Mosburger was one of the firefighters who attended the scene.

"Crews arrived to find a small fire and smoke throughout the building,” Mosburger told CTV News London. “As well, [it was] reported as multiple children inside the building that were unaccounted for at the time."

Crews were able to put the fire out and people on the upper floors of the building were pulled out.

According to Mosburger, "We did utilize one of our new aerial trucks to assist in that rescue and we were able to locate two individuals who are now with police."

Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson said she feels for residents living near the building.

"They are so frustrated. They don't want to look at it anymore. They are so scared there's going to be a tragedy,” she said.

Sarah Burt added that the fear extends into the surrounding neighbourhood.

"Children don't even want to play outside in their front yards,” she explained. “They want to go in the backyard because they're seeing scary people on the street."

The London Fire Department attended a reported structure fire at the former McCormick’s building at 1156 Dundas St. on May 5, 2024. (Reta Ismail/CTV News London) There was optimism during an October 2022 City of London planning meeting that a breakthrough was coming. That meeting, attended by builder Sierra Construction Group, was held just prior to the last municipal election, but since that meeting there have been no signs of movement.

CTV News London reached out to the Woodstock-based Sierra Construction Group to get a status update on the re-development of these lands but was told no one was available for comment.

However, Burt said neighbours continue to hold out hope.

"I just know that it was supposed to happen this year but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen this year,” she said.

Stevenson added she's been told the matter is before the Ontario Land Tribunal, and that limits what she can say about the matter.

"As the ward councillor it's on me to try and figure out how to create effective action,” she said. “I have been trying for the last year or so, but it's not working. So something needs to change."

She added that there have been encouraging developments less than a half block away at 100 Kellogg Ln. She pointed to the Factory, an indoor play area, the new Children’s Museum and the Hard Rock Hotel, which is nearing completion.

“If we are committed to development in that area, we need the housing,” she said. “We need a beautiful entry for the tourists that are going to be flocking to 100 Kellogg Lane and the Hard Rock Hotel. So, surely, there’s the political will to get something done.”

One day after the fire, neighbours said they had again spotted others going into the building despite a security detail on the scene. 

The former McCormick/Beta Brands building located at 1156 Dundas St. in London, Ont. continues to be broken into. Residents say development of the building is long overdue. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)


A statement from the city

Bruce Page, manager, planning (subdivisions) with the City of London issued a statement to CTV News London late Monday in regards to the current state of the building. 

"In 2021, McCormick Villages Inc., submitted an application for a plan of subdivision on the former McCormick Factory site, comprising five hectares.

On October 12, 2022, Municipal Council approved the proposed development, which is comprised of four development blocks, identified for street townhouses on the north portion of the development, a residential long term care facility; a five-storey seniors apartment building; and the adaptive re-use of the former McCormick’s Factory as a mid-rise mixed-use building.

The applicant subsequently appealed council’s decision relating to the maximum permitted height for the five-storey apartment building, the publicly accessible multi-use pathway block, and for the re-alignment of Ashland Avenue.

The Ontario Land Tribunal will consider the appeal in June for a final decision on the application." Top Stories

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