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Renewed life for Greenwood Towers

New owners plan to revamp now-derelict hotel

Apr 22, 2010 - 04:29 AM

By Karen Lloyd

PORT HOPE -- The squalor that was Greenwood Towers has found a new home in the dump.

Broken furniture, dead animals, bags of rotting clothes and more than 200 mouldy mattresses that have collected on the site for the last 10 years have already been removed from the property.

Over the past decade, the Peter Street motel was the only open door open for individuals in desperate situations. They came from broken homes, in search of temporary shelter, and in trying to build a new life, at least one person called her stay there, "a nightmare."

The majority of people who live at Greenwood Towers are "not bad apples," according to lobbyist Ruth Wilkinson who recently formed the Greenwood Coalition. She said that most of the 25 individuals who live there are simply misunderstood and she's excited to see excited to see the property under new ownership - a no nonsense father and son team, Bruno and Mihkel Harilaid, the younger of whom was at the property on April 20.

Together the tenants and landlord are working diligently to purge the past, reminders of neglect on all levels.

"The town and this community deserve to be in possession of such a great resource that is sitting on the edge," Mr. Harilaid said during a regular trip to the site. The former Trinity College School student celebrated his graduation at Greenwood Towers in 1985. His friends had their 16th birthday parties there.

"It was the nice place to be," he remembers. "Somewhere along the line, it lost its focus."

These days, the kids pulling up in nice cars aren't so innocent, said Mr. Harilaid, who has already cut down a lot of that traffic since he came on the scene in March. He also has zero tolerance for violence.

Soon they want the 'Greenwood Hotel' back to its former glory.

The main building was built in 1866 with two 15,000 square-foot banquet rooms and an industrial sized kitchen on the main floor. A large indoor pool - and former dump zone - sits to the west. While the original building is structurally sound, it bears the burden of cracked and broken windows and pealing plaster. The motel units, built in the mid-1970s, suffer leaky roofs, faulty wiring and bad memories.

"The violence that was here was unbelievable," said Claude Paquette, who has called one of more than 40 rooms in the motel complex his home for two years. "This is the end of the show."

Former motel resident Jenny-Dee Mancini recalls Greenwood Towers as a place to go "when you have lost respect for yourself."

She found herself in a motel unit four years ago at the age of 18. Ms. Mancini said she had no where else turn, but her six month stay was a nightmare.

"Greenwood Towers was a horrible place to be, full of regular drunks, suicides and fighting," she said.

She hopes the Harilaids can recapture its more attractive history, and shed the reputation of its recent past.

"It takes an idea," said Mr. Harilaid. "We think there's a really good chance that these people's lives will be improved."

Ms. Wilkinson, who has been meeting with the residents weekly for potluck dinners for the last four years, is trying to help the residents work through the transition as well as their own life issues.

She's hoping that they can continue to make their home at Greenwood.

"We're hoping that it will be indefinite," she said.

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