The owner of Elliot Lake’s mall was satisfied with safety inspections of the building, his lawyer said in his first public statement since the Algo Centre Mall collapsed Saturday, killing two women and injuring more than 20 others.
“These inspections were public,” lawyer Antoine-René Fabris said, although he refused to elaborate on specific findings of the inspections, or who performed them.
“To the families of Lucie and Doloris: Eastwood Mall Inc., Mr. Nazarian, and myself offer our deepest, most sincere condolences,” Mr. Fabris told a crowd of reporters and emotional residents.
“It’s with a great deal of difficulty that I stand here today, before this crowd, speaking of people that I know, people that have been hurt, families that have been affected. It has been a difficult week for all involved.”
Mr. Fabris said Bob Nazarian wasn’t present because there have been threats on the mall owner’s life. He also referenced legal action against Mr. Nazarian but would not go into details.
“Do not point your finger at me,” he protested in the face of angry shouts from residents watching. “I’m a person of Elliot Lake as well.”
Mr. Fabris added that his family members were in the mall when it collapsed.
“If I had thought there was any danger, I certainly would not have put my family in harm’s way.”
In the meantime, Elliot Lake turned to picking up the pieces after the razing of a major community nexus. About 300 people worked in the mall, says Todd Stencill, general manager of Elliot Lake’s Chamber of Commerce. Of those, about a third have been able to relocate. The rest are out of work. The morning after the mall’s collapse, the Chamber of Commerce formed a remobilization committee to relocate businesses and find financial assistance for employers whose livelihoods were destroyed.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said he’s assisting with economic development and relocating businesses and services that were tenants in the mall.
“It was an important hub for the community. It was more than just a retail centre,” he said. “There were also social services and a library in there.”
Mr. Stencill said the East Algoma Community Futures Development Corporation has already offered a $25,000 no-interest loan for local businesses to get back on their feet. Mr. Stencill said it’s too early to speculate on the economic impact of the mall’s collapse, but said the committee is trying to get the town’s retail sector up and running again and finding people work as soon as possible.
“Elliot Lake was the retail hub for the region,” he said. “A lot of people would travel here on a weekend to come and shop.”