Meg Dunning lived in a suite above Wellburn’s Market for three years prior to November’s sewage flood that forced the 105-year-old grocery store to close and all the residents out of the building.
Now, the hallways in the apartment building are littered with unopened mail abandoned by former tenants. The doors have been taken off their hinges, there’s a chill that hangs in the air — which Dunning guesses is due to the hydro being cut off — and the windows have been boarded up.
Dunning says she feels like she and the other tenants weren’t treated like “human beings” after being given the run-around from Pacific Cove Developments and District Development Corporation, the two companies in charge of the building.
District Development Corporation has plans of turning the building into a mixed-use residential and commercial complex, which Dunning thinks help motivated their decision not to fix the sewage issue.
It started the week of Nov. 25, 2019. Dunning noticed there wasn’t any hot water in the building on Monday. The tenants were told the landlords were aware of the problem, to conserve water and that they were working on getting it fixed.
After a week of cold showers and uncertainty, the tenants were told they had to leave the building immediately the following Friday.
“The sewer basically disintegrated,” says Dunning. “It’s 100 years old and they never replaced it ever … the sewer didn’t burst — it turned to dust.”
Dunning explains how the neighbors she has lived next to for years and never spoke to, became friends quickly, organizing themselves into meetings and sharing information about who had heard what.
“I think I tried to count it up one time and there was like 200 emails between all of us in a three-week span,” she says.
After moving four times in December – into hotels and AirBnBs, paid for by Pacific Cove Developments — Dunning wishes she could have enjoyed the holidays but due to the stress could not.
At first, tenants were told the locks were going to be changed and they would be given two-hour intervals to return and pack their things. Dunning took the next day off work to sit in the building, protecting her belongings, and to tell the landlord it was illegal to change the locks.
|A notice, still tacked in the hallway, stating that due to tenant push back Pacific Cove would not restrict their access. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)|
“We had to work so hard to know what our rights were … someone else could have been really taken advantage of.”
Angered by the lack of planning and communication, tenants pushed back and a notice that still hangs in the hallway states “in response to tenant feedback, we will not be restricting tenant access to the building for the retrieval of personal items.”
“Most nights we just ended up sitting here protecting our stuff, because we didn’t want someone to come smash a window and take our stuff,” says Dunning, adding they couldn’t stay for very long because there was no working plumbing in the building.
Tenants still have not been given a clear answer as to what happened with the sewer, nor have they seen an engineering report.
According to Dunning, most of the residents left in December, but one tenant is still living in the building. Although she can’t disclose the amount they received in their final package, she’s “happy-ish” with the amount but wishes the two companies had treated the tenants better.
“For me, it was the lack of human decency that came out of this,” she says, adding that she would have appreciated a simple I’m sorry or even a face-to-face meeting.
“In my head, knowing how much they were going to profit off us leaving — it’s really a slap on the wrists for them and it’s not going to teach them a lesson in any way.”
Black Press Media has reached out to Pacific Cove Developments and District Group but did not receive a response.