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Property owner in hot seat after St. Veronica’s fire

Ward 5 councillor Corey Gardi is expressing his disappointment with the property owner of the former St. Veronica’s elementary school, which is once again under investigation after weekend fire

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the old St. Veronica’s property is owned by the same group of investors, including Mike Anobile, that owns the Doctor’s Building at 955 Queen St. East. In fact, the Doctor’s Building is owned by a different numbered company (16667271 Ontario Inc.) of which Anobile is the president and secretary.

The numbered company that owns the old St. Veronica’s site (2749978 Ontario Ltd.) has two mortgages on the property. The first, for $1.85-million, lists the lender as Berkshire Enterprises Inc., an asset management company owned by Anobile. The second mortgage, for $400,000, lists the guarantors as Mike Anobile and Italo Ferrari.

The current version of this story has also been revised to indicate that the PUC’s disconnection notice in relation to the Doctor’s Building was cancelled.

“If you’re a property owner, you need to do your best to keep it up,” says Corey Gardi, a Ward 5 councillor who’s expressing his frustrations over the fire that ripped through the old St. Veronica’s elementary school over the weekend.

Fire crews were called to the site of the former school on East Balfour Street late Saturday evening after a portion of the building went up in flames.

Sault Fire Services deputy chief Paul Milosevich confirmed to SooToday that firefighters were at the scene for more than five hours, dousing tall flames and battling thick plumes of smoke.

“The flames were a bit stubborn, but they managed to get it out by the morning,” Milosevich says. “The building is extensively damaged, the roof is collapsed, and the exterior walls on one side of the building dropped.”

After the fire was extinguished, the scene was turned over to Sault Police.

Sault Police spokesperson Lincoln Louttit told SooToday that detectives from Investigation Services are now investigating the incident.

It is not the first time the derelict building has been investigated for fire-related incidents, which is leaving city officials and residents frustrated over the lack of action from the building’s property owners.

Considering the state of the structure, Gardi says he wasn’t surprised by the result Saturday evening.

“As far as I’m concerned, the owner hasn’t been responsible for years, and it was only a matter of time,” he says.

As a councillor for Ward 5, Gardi says he had made it a habit to drive by the building every few weeks to check its condition, and subsequently contact the building or police departments when it was necessary to get the building sealed up again.

The old St. Veronica’s school is owned by a numbered company: 2749978 Ontario Ltd., based in Vaughan, Ont. The vice-president and public face of the company is Woodbridge, Ont. businessman Italo Ferrari, who is also general manager of Leisure Meadows Community Living Inc. — the company that purchased the old hospital site, along with another company, in 2019 with plans to redevelop the waterfront property into condominiums and a long-term care facility.

According to land registry documents, there are two mortgages registered on the former St. Veronica’s property. The first, for $1.85-million, lists the lender as Berkshire Enterprises Inc., an asset management company owned by Mike Anobile, who is also president of Leisure Meadows. The second, for $400,000, lists the lender as M Plus M McKerlie Holdings Inc. and the guarantors as Ferrari and Anobile.

Anobile is also president and secretary of a numbered company that owns the Doctor’s Building at 955 Queen St. E., which was recently threatened with a power disconnection notice from PUC. The disconnection notice was canceled in early September, just days before the power was scheduled to be cut off.

A sign posted outside the former elementary school on East Balfour advertises the future home of "Balfour Residences."

Gardi doesn’t have confidence the former school site will be transformed into the proposed villa rentals anytime soon.

“Considering their track record with the hospital site, I would say no,” he says. “I don’t know what their specific plans are for the site, but I’m not confident with a timeline.”

Out-of-town property owners buying up derelict buildings in the Sault leaves Gardi concerned that properties like the St. Veronica's site won’t receive the adequate attention they need to ensure the safety and well-being of nearby residents.

“The owners don’t have the same kind of loyalty or interest to the community,” he says. “We’ve been working on sharpening up some of our policies and by-laws in and around these types of properties, so we hope to see that problem being alleviated to a certain degree.”

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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