The St. James Town high-rise that was the site of a massive six-alarm fire in August 2018 will soon be cleared for re-occupancy and residents will be allowed to move back in one floor at a time starting in March.

The fire at 650 Parliament Street on Aug. 21, 2018 caused significant damage to the building’s electrical system, displacing an estimated 1,500 tenants.

Those residents were initially told that they would be able to move back into their units in early 2019; however the timeline was later pushed back.

On Friday morning the property management company responsible for the building announced that there will be a “staged re-occupancy process” for residents, beginning on March 2 “assuming all necessary third-party approvals are secured as anticipated.”

The re-occupancy process is expected to unfold over the course of 11 weeks, starting with the top two floors and then progressing downwards.

The property management company says that tenants moving back in will be able to reserve one of four daily, three-hour move-in windows by contacting them within seven days of their designated return week. Those windows will be made available on a first come-first served basis.

The property management company also confirmed that tenants will not face any rent increases upon their return and they will only be charged rent as of the first day of the month following their return.

“We hope this news, and of course news of the building’s anticipated re-opening will be welcomed by our residents,” spokesperson Danny Roth said in a press release. ““We’re very excited that the end of this challenging period is now in sight.”

‘A long and emotional process’

Building officials have previously estimated that $50-60 million would be spent on reconstruction costs at 650 Parliament, though no final numbers have been provided.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, the city councillor for the ward where the building is located said that it has been a “long and emotional process” for residents who have now had to “contend with over a year of uncertainty and growing frustration.”

“My office will continue to work with residents and the landlord to ensure that the return process is smooth and communicated effectively with everyone who has been impacted,” Ward 13 Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam said. “I know residents will be eager to return home. I want to ensure that residents have all the necessary support from the landlord and property manager they need.”

Wong-Tam said that she expects that tenant moving expenses will be borne by the landlord given that they were “displaced through no fault of their own.” She said that they should also be given an opportunity to pre-inspect their units prior to moving back in.

“Although I extend my thanks to the landlord for completing their work, I will continue to hold the landlord and the property management company responsible to ensure that the move-in process is efficient, timely and well communicated,” she said.

In a message posted to Twitter on Friday afternoon, Mayor John Tory said that the residents of 650 Parliament are “wonderful, patient people” and that the city will continue to help with their return home.