About 40 of Plateau residents were forced from their homes by police Tuesday evening because of a heritage building on the verge of collapse – and the borough says the Quebec government has dragged its feet on the matter.

Homes around the heritage building on Esplanade Ave. between Mount Royal Ave. and Marie Anne St. were evacuated at 8:30 p.m. as a safety precaution.

“The fireman knocked on my door (and said), ‘You have five minutes to leave,’” said condo owner Barbara Zakrzewska. “It was a shock.”

Condo owner Bobby Beshro’s unit shares a wall with the building and said he wonders what’s next for him.

“If the wall has to be demolished, we need to know how that will affect us,” he said.

Recently a judge ordered the owner to repair the crumbling building. According to the borough, the owner applied for the permits, but the Quebec government hasn't approved the plans.

“The ministry of culture objected to certain ways that he intended to proceed with the demolition,” explained interim Borough Mayor Alex Norris.

Engineers from that ministry were on site Wednesday to determine what steps should be taken.

Norris said this has been one of the most frustrating cases he's ever dealt with.

“I think this case shows the limits the powers that municipalities have to deal with extreme cases of negligence on the part of property owners,” he said.

Norris said the priority now is to determine a quick solution to save what can be saved of the building and let neighbours return home.

That area is now closed to pedestrians and traffic.

Neighbours said they’ve been frustrated watching the building, which was first erected in the early 1900s, crumble.

“It's sad to see it deteriorate, to fall so badly when it is such a beautiful spot,” said local resident Esmeralda Borges.