Barely a dozen hours after city council voted to demolish a strip of 41 historic but deteriorated downtown buildings, the steel teeth of a huge excavating machine began tearing into the walls in a project that will take several months to complete.
About two dozen curious onlookers stood on a sun-splashed sidewalk across Colborne St. Tuesday, wondering if the demolition would actually begin. There had been talk that the questionable status of a $1.38 million federal grant to help pay for the project might temporarily put the brakes on.
But shortly before 11 a.m., a man on a scooter tugged at the brim of his pink ball cap and shouted to work crews, “Come on, you guys, get on with it.”
Whether by design or coincidence, a huge orange machine fired up and began tearing chunks of brick and wood from the aging structure at the west end of the historic strip. Rubble fell like rain as a lone worker sprayed water to keep waves of dust in check.
“It’s a piece of history being destroyed, but it’s about time,” said resident Eileen Morgan, 68, as the building that most recently housed a sign business crumbled to the parking area beside it.
“It’s a shame they let it deteriorate the way they did before they decided to do something,” she said. “I just hope they put up something good that will benefit everybody in the future.”
That’s the plan, as Councillor Mark Littell sees it. “Those buildings have been neglected for 30 years,” he said Tuesday, the day after council voted 8-3 on his motion to proceed with razing the buildings, some of which pre-date Confederation.