The Curse of Henry Street







Bob Greenwood, my barber, has been over the years a better pipeline to the word on the street than many.

And over the years, it seemed like every haircut I got came accompanied by the latest version of: “Did you hear The Moorings is about to go belly-up?”

For years I sought confirmation of this, or at least some comments by disgruntled condo buyers who were sick and tired of waiting for a shovel to go into the ground.

And every time, I was met with assurances by the developer of the day that the project, although delayed, would proceed.


Talk of that project's demise began as far back as the past decade, when Ottawa businessman Steve Tunks tried to revive Mike Veenstra's old project in August 2005.

All that talk was finally confirmed a week ago, on Friday the 13th, when current owner Alexander Iliassov emailed sales staff with the notice that the plug has been pulled on the project, for a minimum of five years, due to poor sales.

So it would be wrong the blame the Russian on this one. It seems that site has been cursed from the start, all the way back to the 1990s.

Maybe there's some sort of Stagnation Agent in that pond water. If so it will continue sloshing around in there for a few more years at least.

Or maybe the Curse of Henry Street has something to do with an indignant ghost hanging around next door at the Brockville Museum.

Either way, that curse may be a weird sort of blessing for the city's economy as a whole.

When a project goes down after years of people saying it was going down, the psychological impact is mitigated. It's not quite the same as a seemingly thriving factory suddenly shutting its doors.

So Mayor David Henderson is right, then. The sky is not falling. A weed-infested pond deciding to remain a weed-infested pond is hardly an image of the Apocalypse.

However, it is now past time for the city to abandon the idea of a waterfront renaissance.

A decade ago, the pro-development camp had visions of an progressive near-future in its eyes, with Tall Ships Landing, The Moorings and Downtown West lining a resurgent waterfront with high-end taxpaying condominiums filled with well-to-do supporters of our local businesses.

Then came the Upper Canada Condos project and Iliassov's utopian vision of twin towers going up on the former Eastern Independent Telecommunications (EIT) property.

Brockville seemed destined to become the Lifestyle Capital of Eastern Ontario. Or, in the eyes of detractors, a retirement town.

So far, all we have to show for all this is Tall Ships Landing, which is filling up, to be sure, but more slowly than anyone wished. There's some mildly encouraging news about Blockhouse Square, but really, a renaissance needs more than two projects.

Adjusting one's short-term economic vision is a normal part of running a city.

In Brockville, the latest adjustment will have to involve a much longer timeline for a waterfront revival – if that revival is to include these condo towers at all.