Last summer, Canadians held their collective breath as rescuers dug through the rubble of the Elliot Lake mall for two women trapped beneath the collapsed roof. Their bodies would be pulled from the concrete five days later.
What happened at the Algo Centre is about to be dissected at a public inquiry set to begin March 4, but a new ebook by Maclean’s Senior Writer Michael Friscolanti (available here) reveals the disturbing backstory of a building that was literally doomed before it even existed.
Drawing from court documents, property records, inspection reports and dozens of interviews with the people who lived it, Doomed: The Untold Story Behind the Collapse of the Elliot Lake Mall, tells the shocking backstory of a mall that was cursed before it even existed, a star-crossed structure plagued by dreadful timing, dubious decisions and a collective case of wilful blindness. The 14,000-word investigative piece, available here, uncovers stunning details about the building’s troubled history and the people now forever linked to its demise.
Among the revelations:
- The original architect of the mall tried to convince the developer not to put rooftop parking over the stores but his concerns were rebuffed
- The engineer who oversaw the structural design of the mall botched so many later projects that regulators had to warn previous clients to double-check his work
- The engineering firm that inspected the Algo Centre mall just 10 weeks before the roof caved in—and declared it “structurally sound”—was itself falling apart, disciplined by engineering regulators and preparing to close down.
- The owner of the mall at the time of the collapse has a long history of stiffing contractors, insurance companies, architects and even his own lawyers, with many of his real estate deals winding up in court. There are key contradictions about his claims to have fixed the roof that will likely be central to the public inquiry.
This is the story of one mall in one small town—but it is a tale that every Canadian should care about. The disaster that struck Elliot Lake could happen anywhere else, at any moment.