The new owners of the vacant Mackenzie Place apartment building in Hay River say they want to help address the North’s housing crisis.
Heritage Valley Capital, a real estate company based in Edmonton, bought the highrise from Satdeo Inc in January, a transaction first reported by NNSL.
The deal came after no bids were placed for the building at a Town of Hay River tax arrears auction in August 2021.
Ed Siffledeen, one of the partners at Heritage Valley Capital – which also owns properties in Saskatoon, Edmonton and Calgary – told Cabin Radio this is his company’s first foray into the North.
“We saw it as an opportunity to help a community that’s got a housing crisis at this juncture, and no one’s, quite frankly, doing much up north,” he said.
“We’ve done some really good things for the communities in Saskatoon and Edmonton. We’ve created housing that’s either got greater amenities or presents a great option for people to live in.”
According to a 2019 community housing survey, while Hay River had the highest rates of home ownership among regional centres in the NWT (at 65 percent), housing affordability was an issue for nearly one in five households. Just under 40 percent of Hay River dwellings reported housing issues.
While the town is trying to build more homes to cope with expected demand, this month’s flooding is likely to set back that work. Floods around Vale Island and Paradise Gardens are among the worst in living memory.
Siffledeen said he was recently able to tour the highrise in Hay River and speak to city officials. He said that while restoring the building is “going to be a lot of work,” he sees its potential to help Hay River grow.
“I think that we can revitalize this building and make it ready for occupancy,” he said.
Mackenzie Place has been empty since a fire broke out on the 11th floor in March 2019, forcing around 100 residents to evacuate the building. Tenants were told they could not return to their apartments due to a public health order related to hazardous materials, including asbestos and mould.
Even before the fire, in 2014, residents were forbidden from using their balconies over safety concerns. Issues were also reported with the building’s fire alarm system. Satdeo Inc was fined $10,000 for building code violations in 2017.
Then-landlord Harry Satdeo said in 2019 he intended to renovate and reopen the building to tenants, but those plans were continually pushed back.
Satdeo ultimately began searching for another group to take over the highrise, which had a debt of around $1.6 million and was still in need of repair by July 2021.
Siffledeen said there is no timeline for completion of work on the highrise, which depends in part on the likes of building permits. What type of housing the building will offer remains to be seen.
“We’re still in the process of talking to the housing authorities and figuring out how we can best serve the community,” he said. “We’ve got our work ahead of us, for sure, to get more clarity on the situation.
“We look forward to creating good relationships in the North and helping the community. We do want to serve the community up there, so we’re going to do the best we can to do so.”
The town’s community plan, published in August 2019, projects the community will grow from around 3,500 residents to 6,000 over five years.
That increase is attributed to developments like a new fish plant and long-term care home in Hay River, a proposed mine at the nearby former community of Pine Point, and an industrial park in neighbouring Enterprise.
The town has four planned residential developments that are designed to help meet that demand over the next four years.