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Developer says keeping people out of the former General Hospital site a challenge

Between 2017 and 2021, police have reported 113 calls for service at the former General Hospital
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Michael Purvis/SooToday

The current developer of the former hospital site says the property is too large to fence in and even if he did, the people who constantly break in would probably still find a way inside.

On Monday, Sault Ste. Marie Police Service were called to the former General Hospital site on Queen Street East following a report that three youth were lost inside the facility.

A police news release said the ‘youth had entered a building, became disoriented and could not find their way out of the building.’

All three face trespassing charges as a result.

Between 2017 and 2021, police have reported 113 calls for service at the former General Hospital and three people have been charged in that time period. Those totals do not include 2022 calls for service or the most recent arrests.

In the release, police said the building has been abandoned for some time and is unsafe for anyone to be there.

When asked by phone on Thursday about the latest charges laid against people breaking in to the site, developer Italo Ferrari responded, “What else is new?”

Ferrari is general manager of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc., which purchased the former hospital buildings in May, 2019 from Amit Sofer, president of TVM Group.

Ferrari plans to convert the vacant General Hospital site into a long-term care facility and retrofit 82 apartments in the five-storey Plummer renal unit.

An additional 65 townhouses are planned for the parking lot of the former hospital.

Ferrari said the delays for the development can be summed up in one word — logistics.

”We are applying for a seniors facility for the hospital, so we are dealing with the government. For the other ones we are going through the logistics through the city for townhouses,” said Ferrari. “We are working on the file, but it is very slow.”

The building at 10 Lucy Terrace is currently listed on a real estate web site for $1.

“We’re not selling for a dollar,” said Ferrari. “It’s on the market for people, if they want to buy it they can make an offer.”

Ferrari admits keeping people out of the vacant buildings has been a challenge.

“We have security we are paying seven days a week guarding the facility. Every time they break a window we go up and fix it,” said Ferrari. “It’s too big of a property to fence it and close it off and even if you do they will climb it or cut it.”

Freddie Pozzebon, chief building official for the city, said the property is private, and it is the owner's responsibility to keep the building secure from trespassers.

”The by-law enforcement officer does bi-weekly inspections on the former hospital site. Any unsecured openings that persons could access are re-secured by the city or the owner,” said Pozzebon. ”The owner of the building is contacted when issues arise pertaining to the property standards by-law - vacant building provisions. The city does issue orders against the owner when compliance is not met."

Ferrari said he owns properties in a number of cities, but the problem of break-ins at the vacant ones is worst in Sault Ste. Marie and Owen Sound.

“They go with tools to cut fences, they have sledge hammers. They went with a crow bar to take the boards off the walls,” said Ferrari. “I don’t know why they do it. Sault Ste. Marie and Owen Sound, when guys are breaking in they are going in with tools. It’s tough.”

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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