The owner of a house so notorious that it's been dubbed Murder Mansion by neighbours says he hopes to demolish it.
Jeff Shwaluk says he planned to clean up the notorious rooming house when he bought it in 2011 and after some initial trouble, it did well for about five years — but after the past year, he's done.
"The first two years were really hard, but then after that, the five years after that, it was amazing — just loving, family-ish-type vibes. It was going really good," Shwaluk said.
The property at 624 Balmoral St. has been the site of numerous assaults and homicides over the past 10 years, earning it the Murder Mansion moniker. Things slowed down after Shwaluk evicted some troublemakers, he said.
Things started to go wrong again last February, when gang members started "terrorizing" his residents, Shwaluk said. Several tenants were robbed and the gang members were selling drugs out of a tenant's suite, he said.
In December, the place caught fire for the third time in weeks, ultimately forcing the tenants of the 22-unit building out. One tenant, Shayne Metraux, told CBC that residents were constantly coming and going.
"A lot of dangerous people hang around. People are being stabbed and people are being punched, so I just barricade my door at night," Metraux said.
Time to tear it down
Shwaluk said he is in the middle of putting together the paperwork to apply for a demolition permit. The City of Winnipeg sold an empty lot directly adjacent to the house, which sits at the intersection of Balmoral Street and Cumberland Avenue, and he said he's talking to the developers who bought that land.
His asking price is about $400,000 as is or about $500,000 with the building torn down. Without a demolition permit, he said he will have to leave the property boarded up, as estimates to repair the building are at $500,000.
Shwaluk said his insurance was unexpectedly cancelled before the fire.
Eric Fleury Jr. of Wreck-It Demolition confirmed his company has been retained to demolish the house and the company erected a fence around it Friday.
Neighbours told him they were relieved when the security fence went up.
"We had a number of neighbours walk by that were actually extremely happy to see the fence and the demolition was going to happen," said Fleury. "They're sick of the crime that happens around that house.
"There's two guys in particular that mentioned to us that they thought that that building coming down was going to change the entire face of the neighbourhood."
On Friday, Fleury said he put a post up on his company's Facebook page about the demolition and said it reached 60,000 people. Usually, his posts reach about 1,000. All of the response was positive, he said.
"There's quite the interest in this project, that's for sure."
The house will take about a day to demolish with excavators if the permit is granted, said Fleury, with cleanup taking another day or two.