The walls at Sattva Spa have been stripped to the studs and coated with special paint to kill mold. Lightbulbs hang by wires and long plastic tubes navigate the maze of beams to ensure proper air circulation is delivered to every room. Six months after arson sparked a massive fire in Victoria’s downtown core, the local business is still suffering.
On May 6 a suspicious fire began, destroying the former Plaza Hotel at 603 Pandora Ave. and severely damaging the neighbouring building.
Millions of gallons of water were poured onto the building’s roof, sinking next door into the walls and basement of the Sattva Spa at 1411 Government St.
“Everything was destroyed,” said business owner Heidi Sherwood. “I’ve been told by the HAZMAT team that this building is one of the worst disasters they’ve ever seen in the downtown area.”
The building’s basement wasn’t accessible for three weeks due to structural concerns, and when people could finally go in they found it was waist-deep in water, covered in mold. Cracks in a shared wall between Sattva and the Plaza Hotel continues to be an engineering issue.
For months restoration teams needed to wear respirators and full suits to access the building. On Thursday Sherwood finally received the all-clear to go in without a mask.
“The aftermath for us has been pretty devastating,” Sherwood said. “We have no floors, no ceilings, no walls. We’re looking at a complete replacement of the elevator, new wiring, new drywall, new insulation, new everything. Right now we’re just down to brick and mortar.”
Only a handful of things survived the fire, including a couple sinks, vent grills and baseboard heaters.
“This is everything that’s left,” Sherwood said, tearing up. “There’s just so much work to do.”
Sherwood’s business had just celebrated its second anniversary, and was just starting to feel established in the community.
After the fire some of the Sattva staff were transferred to the sister business, Sapphire Day Spa, but most had to find jobs elsewhere.
Sherwood’s insurance covers all the assets which were inside the building: things like chairs, sinks and massage beds, but not the cost of restorations or renovations. While the building owner is responsible for basic infrastructural repairs, the bill for business-specific renovations in the 6,000-sq. ft. space falls on Sherwood.
The bill, she said, will sit in the millions.
Despite all the setbacks, Sherwood is determined to reopen again in 2021. The push to keep going, she said, is from the spa’s clients.
“I think they are asking us to be part of this business community,” She said. “They are the reason we are a business, the reason we operate and the reason we opened . I think what we were able to deliver was meaningful.”