A collection of A-frame houses across from Hay River’s medical clinic, commonly known as Disneyland and more formally referred to as Porrit Place, are coming down.
“As units age, we decide what to do with them, and we’ve determined these are aged units and it’s more cost-effective to replace them,” said Larry Jones, manager of construction services with the NWT Housing Corporation.
According to Jones, the process began over three years ago. He said the property managers ceased to accept new tenants in the development and the housing corporation will use a phased approach to replace the houses on the property.
Although the demolition and removal had been put out to tender a couple of years ago, Jones said the contractor didn’t come through.
When it was put to tender again this spring, a Hay River contractor won and has since begun work on hauling away some of the public housing units.
“The process with Porrit Place is slightly different (from other housing corporation projects) because we’re only writing off between two and four houses a year,” said Jones, adding replacement units will most likely be built on the same site.
While there are some concerns surrounding the safety of the removal of the houses, Jones said proper procedures were followed to ensure workers’ and residents’ safety.
“There was asbestos and some other hazardous materials identified in the houses,” he told The Hub. “But they were safely removed before the contract for demolition or removal went to tender.”
Some Hay River residents, however, are concerned with the lack of notice given by the housing corporation before the contractor began to haul away the houses.
Peter Magill said he drives by Disneyland every day and never saw a public notice or any other communication prior to seeing a house being taken away on a flatbed truck a few weeks ago.
“I was away for a while,” he said. “And then one morning I was walking the dog by there and I saw a truck going down the highway with a house on it. I’m just asking questions because it seemed rather sudden.”
Magill said he didn’t think moving the houses was necessarily a bad thing, just that there should be more information available to the public about the process.
“You would think they might publicize it more,” he said. “We’re all aware of Disneyland’s reputation and, if they’re going to put up new houses, that would be a good thing.”
While Jones said the NWT Housing Corporation has demolished other units and not heard any comments about it, he agreed that the development’s reputation has been less-than-rosy in the recent past. He recalls a time, however, when it was a sought after place to live in terms of public housing in Hay River.
“I’ve lived in Hay River every so often,” he said, adding he knows many people who grew up in Disneyland and remember it fondly. “I know it has a recent reputation of problem tenants, but there are people in Hay River who grew up there and thought it was great.”
While the next steps for the development include community consultation and a more in-depth needs study, Jones is confident in saying multi-family dwellings would most likely be replacing the A-frames.
“We want to have a mix of smaller units and smaller family units,” he said, adding the general plan is for two-bedroom and three-bedroom condos. “When we have the opportunity to replace single-family units, we put in multi-family. It becomes more cost effective from an operational standpoint.”
— Sarah Ladik