One day in February I noticed a few vehicles parked next door, with people going in and out of the building. I wondered what was going to happen with the property ? My main concern was whether the building was going to be demolished. This would leave my backyard completely exposed to busy Hamilton Rd. I called the City, and there was no demolition permit issued as of that date. I did discover that if they tore down the building that they were under no obligation to put up a fence, that this would be my responsibility, which seemed unfair. I also wondered about my privacy – like if a multi-unit apartment building was built there, overlooking my yard.
A few weeks later some worker types appeared. Piles of debris began near the garage door. Of course I was watching for any interesting or useful salvage materials. I peeked in the windows when no one was there. The building was getting stripped. The workers weren’t there every day, but appeared sporadically which confused me. There might be intense work for three days then no work for a week or more ?
They left the doors open to the washrooms, when they were working. The 1950’s era station had separate men’s and women’s restrooms with doors outside. They had the same baby blue 4 x 4 ceramic tiles, exactly like the ones in the Nightmare Apartment ! These got smashed out in the first couple of days, the sinks and toilets needlessly broken and tossed on the refuse pile. This left the building with no bathrooms, so the worker dudes just pissed out the back door, as though no one could see them. I could clearly see them, through my backroom, kitchen, bedroom and dining room windows. Ugh. I kept my curtains closed. Several weeks later a porta john and a dumpster was brought to the site. I couldn’t believe it took that long.
I spoke to the worker dudes a couple of times, and they let me take a vintage transom lifter I had my eye on. Whatever was going on seemed fairly thorough, so I hoped for the best. My worst nightmare was a sketchy booze-can operation, or an otherwise troublesome neighbour. As it was a commercial lot on a busy street, I expected it would be some kind of business. I didn’t really care what it would be – as long as I wouldn’t be affected by what they were doing. I wasn’t enthusiastic about something like a Tim Horton’s drive-thru – although they did seem to make an effort to be decent neighbours, with high fencing for next door residences, plantings, and concealed dumpsters. I started looking more critically at drive thru fast food places, and how they were designed. They didn’t look terrible and were functional at least ?
Big noises started to happen in late March or so. I had done a little reading about former gas stations, and the negative effects of leaking underground gas storage tanks. I worried about this. They tore up the pavement for the entire lot, and dug out the storage tank that was there. I walked by several times to get a look, to see if there were obvious signs of corrosion. The tank looked newer than I expected, like it was fiberglass not metal, and seemed to be intact ? At some point construction fencing was put up around the site, but no dust cloth.
I felt too exposed, as there was only a 4′ chainlink fence dividing the properties. I hung up black mesh privacy screen, but discovered it was more like semi-sheer pantyhose. The hardware store sold long and narrow canvas drop cloths, like for a hallway. I bought several of those, installed grommets myself and hung those up. They were much better. They seemed to be made from cotton and maybe rayon fibers, so I knew that they would start to disintegrate in the sun, grow mold and otherwise deteriorate. They were still better than nothing.
The big noises woke me up almost every day, early. A different crew dug a giant pit, where I assumed a new underground gas storage tank would be located. Some garbage blew into my yard from next door, with a label addressed to something like “New Esso Station”. I wasn’t thrilled about living next to a potentially busiER gas station, but assumed as this was owned by a multinational corporation that it would follow safety standards, and corporate design principles, right ?
Whoever owned the property never spoke with me, and the only information local residents had been given was a notice of application for a minor variance for a canopy built over the existing gas pump location. There was a meeting time and location, if anyone had concerns or objections. As far as I know, no one from the street attended.
I got a strange vibe from the crew installing the gas tank. They were friendly to me and said hello when I passed by, but I just felt like there was a subtext going on. They were professional contractor types, with special safety gear and a certain type of hardhat. I didn’t know anything about gas station construction. I wondered if there had been some bullshit story regarding my house – like it was going to get demolished, or the gas station owned it or who knows what ? What did I know ?