A local landlord and property developer who received more than $1 million in grant money from the City of Winnipeg's downtown development arm is facing a series of lawsuits and court actions.
Andrew Marquess and his companies — B and M Land Company and Gem Equities — own several highrises and apartment complexes across Winnipeg.
But over the past year, numerous businesses and government agncies have filed more than 30 lawsuits and actions through the courts against his companies or Marquess personally. Creditors have also claimed millions of dollars in unpaid bills and damages, according to documents obtained by CBC News.
In January, McDiarmid Lumber won a judgment against Marquess for more than $1 million.
And Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Branch hit B and M Land with more than two-dozen orders last summer because the company hadn't been paying its electricity and gas bills.
Tenants at a B and M highrise on Cumberland Avenue showed CBC News orders from January 2010 instructing them to pay their rent directly to the tenancies branch.
The justification is to cover unpaid Manitoba Hydro bills from the company.
Marquess originally agreed to sit down with CBC News a few days ago to discuss the challenges facing his companies but changed his mind.
During one phone interview he said his business stumbled when a major lender dropped out. However, he insisted there is a plan in the works to pay off all his creditors and some have already been paid.
Farm boy from Alberta
Marquess arrived in Winnipeg just over nine years ago. The self described "farm boy" from just outside Calgary, Alberta, worked at wealth management company Assante and started an animal genetics company in Saskatoon with his brother before he got into property development in Winnipeg.
Marquess and his financial backers started several companies and acquired many properties around the city, including a highrise on Hargrave Street and an apartment block on Cambridge Street.
Marquess has won awards and praise for infill housing and recently bought and retrofitted a downtown hotel, turning it into apartments.
It was for that project on Donald Street that he received a $1.2 million grant from CentreVenture, the city's downtown development agency.
The money was given to Marquess' company against taxes he will pay on the property in the future. It was part of an incentive designed to encourage condominium or apartment development in the downtown.
Instead of taking the grant in instalments every year, the company was cut a cheque for the cash up front.
Marquess was also part of a controversial land swap last summer in which the city agreed to trade 25 hectares of land in the Parker neighborhood, near Taylor and Waverley, for four hectares owned by Gem Equities along the Fort Rouge railway yards.
Marquess’ plan is to build about 3,500 townhouses in the Parker area.
McPhillips Common sitting idle
Another project for B and M Land is McPhillips Common, which involves the reconstruction of a series of apartments and townhouses. The $25 million-plus project, which includes hundreds of rental units, is to be heated with geothermal technology.
The redevelopment was started around three years ago but it appears to be stalled with supplies and machinery sitting idle.
Only five of the buildings have received occupancy permits from the city and there are less than 100 tenants.