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This article was published 20/4/2015 (1639 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A local developer who buys older properties and fixes them up is writing off the older part of the North End after one of his refurbished homes was set on fire, another was stripped down to the bare walls, and a third was tagged with graffiti — all in the same week.
"Last week was a tough week, I'll tell you that," Stefan Aarnio, owner and founder of Archangel Asset Management Ltd. and head of the Manitoba Real Estate Investors Association, said in an interview. "There's like a crime wave or something going through some of my houses."
Aarnio said that with the help of joint-venture partners, his company has purchased and refurbished more than 50 homes in older areas of the city over the last two years. That includes about a dozen in what he describes as "the core area of the North End."
But now he wants nothing more to do with that part of the city after a house his company was refurbishing on Pritchard Avenue was heavily damaged by an arsonist, another home it had nearly finished on Stella Avenue was stripped down to the bare walls and a third in the 400 block of Aberdeen Avenue had a gang symbol spray painted on the front door.
"We're trying to invest in Winnipeg and trying to turn some these neighbourhoods around. We buy these houses that are screwed up and messed up and we clean them up and... we sell them to immigrants who are moving into town," he said.
'...Now I don't want to invest there anymore, which is too bad because there are a lot of homes that need to be improved'— developer Stefan Aarnio, after three of his North End homes were either torched, ransacked or tagged with graffiti
"But now I don't want to invest there anymore, which is too bad because there are a lot of homes that need to be improved. I'll still buy west of Arlington (Street), I'll do north of Inkster (Boulevard), and I'll do by the HSC (Health Sciences Centre). But I'm not going into that core area of the North End anymore."
Aarnio said he also knows of at least two other developers who in recent weeks have had similar things happen to homes they're renovating in the same part of the North End. He predicted other developers also will be having second thoughts about buying and fixing up homes in that area.
The Winnipeg Police Service confirmed they have received several reports of break-ins targeting homes either for sale or under renovations in the District 3 area.
"We've been aware for a short period of time that this is occurring," the police said, in a statement by email. "There have been no arrests, and the Division 13 detectives are actively investigating. If members of the public have any information, they are asked to call either Crime Stoppers or Division 13 detectives at 204-986-2848."
Aarnio said he's hoping the Pritchard Avenue home can be repaired, but he's waiting to see what the insurance company says.
He said the Stella Avenue home, which was nearly completed, had already been sold. It was broken into twice within a matter of days. The first time, thieves stole a television and some display furniture. The second time, they stripped out all of the new cabinets, counters, granite countertops, appliances, and kitchen plumbing and lighting fixtures.
"They took everything. They literally cleaned the place out."
Now he's looking at replacing it all.
What happened to him sounds eerily similar to what happened at a bi-level house developer/renovator Matthew Crawford was refurbishing in the 400 block of College Avenue. In Crawford's case, thieves not only stripped out all of the cabinets, counters, countertops, appliances and fixtures in the kitchen, they also stole the toilet and vanity in the washroom.
"And they scratched up the floors and dented the walls," he added. "It was pretty brutal."
Unlike Aarnio, Crawford said his insurance company told him it won't cover the estimated $10,000 to $15,000 in losses and damages.
"So I either have to save up thousands of dollars so I can replace everything, or I have to sell the house at a $30,000 loss."
Crawford said another house he refurbished and has listed for sale on Alfred Avenue hasn't been hit. He said he's unsure if he'll be buying and refurbishing any more homes in the area.
He and Aarnio both think one group of thieves is responsible for all of the thefts. Ross Eadie, city councillor for the Mynarski Ward, also said it sounds like the work of professional thieves.
Eadie said these kinds of incidents aren't limited to the North End. He's also heard reports in recent years of thieves stealing building materials from homes under construction in newer parts of the city. But he said it's still unsettling a series of these crimes happened recently in the North End.
"I am worried, because we do need housing renewal. This is what our resident associations want, and this is what improves the neighbourhood. Fix up houses, encourage home ownership — that's really important to a neighbourhood's continued viability."
He said headway is being made in the William Whyte and Dufferin neighbourhoods, "and it's a real deterrent to hear that kind of stuff" is happening.
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