Developer of Pembina building calls December fire arson, but police investigation continues

The developer of a building across from the University of Manitoba that was damaged in a December blaze says he believes the fire was set deliberately.

Henry Morton, president of Campus Suites, developer and one of the owners of the project — a 16-storey multi-use complex known as The Arc — told 680 CJOB his company has been looking into the incident over the last month-and-a-half.

“We’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time in understanding what’s actually happened to the building and how the issue was caused,” said Morton.

“I don’t believe it’s been deemed 100 per cent to be arson at this point, but there seems to be some significant enough indications that that’s what it was.”

Morton said there is construction site video, currently part of the police investigation, that backs up his allegations.

Winnipeg police told 680 CJOB the incident is still under investigation by the Major Crimes Unit, and there have been no arrests to date, but would not speculate about whether arson was involved.

The building, which was intended to provide much-needed relief for student housing demand in the area, with 570 beds in over 360 rental units, is now going to be delayed, likely for another year.

“We were going to be ready, undoubtedly, to be welcoming students in the fall,” said Morton, “but as of now, we’re probably going to be opening the next September, because the business is such that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be opening mid-season, mid-school season.

“It’s exceptionally frustrating. We’ve been providing local jobs, we’ve been contributing to the local economy, we’re helping to bring people to university. We strive to be great corporate citizens and involved in the community, but yet people still do incredibly stupid things.

“I could live to a billion and I could never get into the mindset of someone who does something like this. It’s beyond comprehension.”

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