Former ghetto property to stay empty

More than a year since owner talked to District of Maple Ridge

Ghalib Rawji appears to have abandoned plans to rebuild on site of Northumberland Court.

Ghalib Rawji appears to have abandoned plans to rebuild on site of Northumberland Court.

The empty lot that used to house notorious Northumberland Court will stay empty for while, after the owner apparently lost interest in the lot.

A report to Maple Ridge council Monday says owner Ghalib Rawji hasn’t responded to e-mails or phone calls and it’s been more than a year since he talked with staff.

So staff are suggesting that the rezoning application for 29 townhomes and 24 condos, be shelved.

Rawji’s rezoning application for the property on Fraser Street, a block south of Lougheed Highway, got first reading more than two years ago on condition that he apply for development permit. But that hasn’t happened, so staff say the application should be closed.

Another application for rezoning or development could be filed later, but the process would have to start from scratch.

Port Haney resident Tyler Ducharme isn’t surprised.

“We’ve heard for well over a year that it wasn’t going forward. The legacy of Northumberland is still being felt in the neighbourhood.”

But as long as the lot is kept clear, it shouldn’t be any worse than any other lot, he added.

Mayor Ernie Daykin said it’s disappointing.

And while the lot is empty with a fence around it, “it’s a heck of a lot better than what we had before it was torn down.”

The property could attract another investor, he added.

Rawji’s purchase of the property a few years ago from the strata property owners, mainly Jack Athwal, solved a major problem for council.

For years, the deteriorating five-building complex had occupied staff, police and politicians’ time because of building safety concerns and crime.

But after a district demolition order, the old buildings fell to a front-end loader in October last year with Mayor Ernie Daykin taking a turn at the controls.

The machinery moved in after a protracted process that finally saw council issue the order in July after the buildings had been entered and wiring tampered with.

All that remains now is a level gravel lot surrounded by security fencing.

Staff told council they’re recommending that application be closed. Council was to read the report at its committee meeting Monday.

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