Years after devastating fire, Hay River apartment building still in limbo

Mackenzie Place Apartments closed in 2019 after a fire on the 11th floor. (Carla Ulrich/CBC - image credit)
Mackenzie Place Apartments closed in 2019 after a fire on the 11th floor. (Carla Ulrich/CBC - image credit)

It's been almost five years since Hay River's Mackenzie Place apartment building shut its doors to tenants, and there is still no timeline for the building to reopen.

The 122-unit high rise is located in the middle of the community's downtown core. In 2019, residents were forced to evacuate after a fire broke out on the 11th floor. Due to public health related issues, they have not been able to return.

The building has been vacant since.

Heritage Valley Capital, the new owners, took over the high rise in 2022 and hoped to reopen it in a year. Now, they say they still don't have a timeline for reopening the building.

Ed Siffledeen, a partner at Heritage Valley Capital, said they are still working on pre-development work.

"I don't really want to comment too much, because I'm working with a couple of groups and trying to ensure that we are able to bring it to market in the most efficient manner," he said.

The project is still moving forward, he added.

"I do want to say that we've done a lot of work," he said.

"We are just looking at what would be the most effective way to start the repairs and maintenance."

Siffledeen said the hope is to make the apartments available as soon as they can.

"We would really like to see Mackenzie Place back and operational at occupancy, obviously — we didn't come in to acquire it to leave it sitting empty," he said.

"So obviously it's a priority for us. And we know the community up there could really use the housing, so we're very aware of that."

Hay River senior administrative officer Glenn Smith said as of right now, they don't have an update on the high rise apartment building, and there are no permit applications pending.

He added that having the apartment building available would reduce the housing demand in the community and help boost the local economy.

"It's been difficult for some employers to attract employees from an external labour pool with limited housing options in the community," Smith said.