In my city’s downtown on a corner of the main street, there is a big vacant lot for sale, created when the local movie theatre burned down several years ago.
It is overgrown with weeds and saplings, collects fly-by garbage, and is surrounded by a rusting, collapsing metal fence. It is an eyesore — a sad, neglected corner in what is a small, but active and well-loved downtown core.
The word is that the owner of this property lives in Hong Kong.
A for-sale sign on the property says to contact a Vancouver firm called First Nations Enterprises Inc., but when I search for this firm, using the phone number shown on the sign, I get Criterion Entertainment Inc., so I don’t know what information is correct.
Our City council has tried to contact the owner directly, to no avail. They then contacted this Vancouver company, to pass on a request to the owner, asking if the City could clean up the property, and temporarily put in a small seating plaza and amenities until the property is sold.
Thus, this spot would be a place that puts smiles instead of sadness on peoples’ faces, and adds pride to our downtown. It would cost the owner nothing, and our town is full of volunteers who would donate their time and labour to the project.
Apparently the owner’s response was — no, definitely not.
I understand why land is purchased and then held in the hopes of future profit. I understand the value of return on an investment. I understand that a property owner may live out of the area where he or she owns land.
What I can’t understand is how this absentee owner can, without consideration, empathy, or consciousness, leave this property to rot, right in the middle of our downtown.
The owner’s response is frustrating, dismissive, and selfish. Just because land owners don’t live in the town or even the country where they purchased property, it doesn’t mean they should have no civic responsibility or consideration for their “neighbours.”
It may seem farfetched or silly to send this letter to whatever Hong Kong publications I can find on Google, but you just never know, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m wondering if, miraculously, this person will recognize himself or herself, and perhaps reconsider our City’s request to beautify this once-lovely corner.
Everyone who lives here would truly be grateful.
Editor’s note: L. McLean says she sent this letter to major newspapers in Hong Kong.