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Harry Satdeo, the owner of the Mackenzie Place highrise, is optimistic that the fire-damaged apartment building will be reopening to the public in the near future.

Harry Satdeo, the owner of the Mackenzie Place highrise, stands in the kitchen of a 15th-floor apartment on July 22. Satdeo says about 70 apartments are ready for occupancy in the building, pending final government approval. The building has been closed since a fire in March 2019.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

In fact, Satdeo said Aug. 1 is a possible reopening date, if final government approvals come soon.

Asked if Aug. 1 seems like it might be a very quick timetable to reopen the building, he replied, “Very quick? It’s 16 months since the fire took place.”

The 16-storey Mackenzie Place has been empty of tenants since an estimated 125 people were displaced by the fire on March 15, 2019.

Satdeo said the main thing standing in the way of reopening is environmental approval from the Department of Health and Social Services.

The owner said he filed a report two months ago on the environmental conditions in the building with the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC), with the understanding that the report would be shared with other government agencies.

“One department isn’t communicating with the other department,” he said. “Initially when we started this process, they said to submit all the reports to one department and they would communicate with the other departments.”

Damien Healy, the communications manager with the Department of Health and Social Services, said that the required documentation on what work has been completed is still outstanding.

“The owner is aware of what is still required,” he said in an email to The Hub.

Public health order still in effect

Healy also noted that a public health order issued last year to ban the public from the building is still in effect.

The order was issued because of asbestos, mould and lead dust in the building.

In late January, Satdeo released two letters from Arctic Environmental Services Ltd. of Alberta outlining its work to deal with mould in the building and asbestos exposed by the fire in Apt. 1102.

As of last week, he was planning to submit the report directly to the Department of Health and Social Services.

Satdeo estimated he has spent about $1 million on repairs since the fire, along with heating the building.

There are now about 70 apartments ready for people to move in, he said.

“They have to clean it, and that’s it,” he added, noting he might give tenants credit for cleaning because labour is hard to find.

The 48 apartments underneath the site of the fire will need more repairs before being reopened.

NWT Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs said several GNWT authorities with different roles and responsibilities are involved in the highrise file — himself, the WSCC, electrical inspectors, Environmental Health, and the Department of Health and Social Services.

“I don’t have the building closed under an order,” he noted. “I have the 11th floor closed and the balconies.”

However, Dewar said he would not be agreeable to the building reopening while the public health order closing the building remains in effect.

Satdeo confirmed the 11th floor is closed and the balconies are off limits.

The building owner noted he will be applying for federal funding to do extensive improvements to Mackenzie Place, in excess of repairs as a result of the fire.

That could include improvements to lighting, insulation, siding, balconies, elevators, windows, doors and bathrooms.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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