More than one year after its tenants were evicted, the Crescent Apartments have finally come down. And I, for one, am glad. I used to live there. When my husband and I were evicted over a year ago, I was furious. At the time, Regina had a vacancy rate of 0.6 per cent – and the City was approving the demolition of a building housing 12 families (the vacancy rate is still below one per cent). Now that it’s down, I can stop feeling steam coming out of my ears every time I pass through that area, knowing that there are huge, beautiful two and three bedroom apartments sitting empty. I suppose others must be breathing a sigh of relief too. With the city’s housing summit only a few weeks away, an empty building full of spacious apartments sure would look bad.
Shortly after receiving our notices, my neighbours and I would often exchange rumours we’d heard about the landlord’s plans. Some were convinced it was coming down for parking – not a crazy theory given that’s exactly what is becoming of the landlord’s other property, the Black Building, at 1755 Hamilton St. That building housed 46 families. The parking lot theory was also not crazy because the General Hospital, just next door, is renowned across the city for being a tough place to find a parking spot. But these were people’s homes. And they were beautiful. Yeah, they’d seen better days, but the bones of the place were great. The Crescents was built in 1912, and was even on the heritage holding bylaw list (until it was taken off so the landlord could apply to demolish it). All of the apartments had at least some – if not all – of their original features; oak trim, mantle pieces, cornices, and glass lighting fixtures. Surely the landlords had something else in mind. I wondered if they might be thinking of turning the place over to refurbished, retrofitted luxury condos once they’d turfed everyone out. They might have made a killing off that. That’s what would happen in other cities, anyway. Of course, I should have known they didn’t have that kind of imagination. When I went by the other day and took these pictures, I could make out the old iron radiators, and at least one mantle piece left on the main floor, barely visible through the rubble. I guess no one was told that they could take these things out and sell them in other provinces where people actually value that kind of thing.
As you can probably tell, I’m still angry. I can’t complain for myself anymore, though. My husband and I landed very comfortably on our feet, and we now own a nice little house that I love. We even have a garden (at least we did the last time I checked, before all this snow arrived). But that’s not really the point. Some of our neighbours didn’t land as comfortably as we did, and either had to move to parts of the city they never wanted to be in, or to other apartments at twice the price and with half the space. And, because they live in a province without rent control, they never know how much the rent will rise. It’s a stressful situation that a lot of people in this province are forced to live with.
Goodbye, Crescent Apartments. I’m told you housed half the arts community in this town at some point or other. You were a great old building, and probably could have lasted another hundred years if you’d been treated right. The wreckage of your former walls now lays as a monument to apathy and neglect, like the ghosts of so many buildings in this city that have gone before you.