It started with a broken window, and when that wasn't fixed promptly, people started breaking in and trashed the apartment. The tenant was out of town, as was the building owner (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Infamous Highland Manor sold to Creekside owners

New owners promise to improve living standards in the run-down apartment

An infamous apartment building in Port Hardy has a new owner, and with that, hopes of improved living conditions.

Highland Manor, a 41-year-old, 50-unit building has been called a fire hazard. It has been notorious for drug use. Tenants have had no to little hot water since April 2020, it has one working washing machine and dryer, black mold lives in the walls, and the stairwells smell like alleys.

It’s a known problem to the District of Port Hardy, which issued at least two fines in 2020 for false fire calls, and is developing a new minimum rental standards bylaw, in part because of Highland Manor.

The same team that bought Creekside Apartments, recently renovated and reopened after a 2017 fire displaced all 65 residents, are now tackling Highland. The sale closed Jan. 29 for $1.6 million.

Greg Vance and his business partners are committed to improving living conditions, starting by renovating vacant suites and giving current residents first chance at the upgraded units.

The new owners will be hands-on, paying more attention to maintenance, Vance said, adding that there needs to be a give and take with tenants.

“You have to have higher expectations of tenants. They need to be accountable for their living conditions, too. If we’re going to put in new lighting, drywall and carpeting, then you can’t have someone parking their motorcycle in the hallway.”

The previous owner, Matthew Liang, had been managing the building himself. He was challenged to upgrade conditions, as vandals would quickly undo any improvements he made. In November, Liang estimated there were 78 residents, with extra people crowded in illegally.

The over-crowding, cold water and poor living conditions pose the question as to why so many people choose to live there.

“Where else can I go?” is the answer from Jane Wardill, who previously lived in Creekside Apartments and was displaced by the 2017 fire. From there she moved to Town Park D Block, where she says she was robbed twice. She moved to another place, but that didn’t work out either.

Finally, Wardill ended up in a ground floor suite at Highland. Her dog Tucker has fashioned a bed for himself in the retaining wall garden in front of the living room window where he greets whoever comes and goes – some with a wag, others with a yip or a growl.

It was April 4, 2020, Wardill wrote in her day planner, when the hot water turned cold. It stayed that way for months, until Liang came and “did something to it,” and thereafter it was hot for a few hours a day, and lukewarm otherwise.

She said Liang posted a hot water schedule at the elevator — which is also broken — but another tenant ripped it down. A few other residents mentioned the schedule that identified blocks of times when hot water would be available, but no one had a copy.

In Liang’s windowless office/bedroom — a queen mattress stuffed behind shelves of maintenance supplies and his desk — he brought out the rent roll, showing rental rates and how much is outstanding. He claimed to be out $45,000, saying that’s why he couldn’t fix the hot water. His own part-time bedroom has no bathroom, nor a sink or kitchen.

He also said it’s a capacity issue – too many people living there, drawing on the hot water. When the Gazette asked plumbers for their assessment, they say the original commercial system was replaced with a collection of inadequate residential water heaters. One local plumber now refuses to service the building because the system is so dysfunctional.

Residential-sized hot water tanks in the basement at Highland Manor. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

RELATED: Port Hardy council is sick and tired of derelict apartment buildings

RELATED: Late night fire at Highland Manor caused evacuation, but no injuries

Problems at Highland began long before Liang took over. A former building manager, Darrell Gilmore, was tasked with turning things around in 2016. It took a full year, during which time he claims he had to remove 47 tenants, but he was able to reduce 911 calls from an almost daily occurrence to just weekly. Working closely with the police, fire department and local health authority, Gilmore says the building was just about up to code.

“And then, you can track the timeline from when the fire happened at Creekside.” With no where else to go, people from Creekside crashed with friends in Highland, including some drug dealers, Gilmore claims. Things went downhill quickly, and within a year Gilmore quit.

The landlord put another tenant in charge for a while, until Liang bought in. Now the building has another new management team. Liang confirmed the sale, but had no further comments for this story when contacted by the Gazette on Feb. 9.

On the fourth floor, with an incongruously beautiful view of the ocean across a parking lot and the roofs of Lindsay and Westpark Manors, Sheena Popham lives with cold water and mold that keeps coming back, no matter how much she cleans. She has painted designs on the living room wall — probably something that will cost her part of her damage deposit — where mold creeps from the ceiling toward her wolf-feather-skull mural.

The water in the tap runs cold, gradually warming to room temperature after a few minutes. If she wants to do dishes, she can boil water or wash them cold. Sometimes she can get a warm shower in the morning, but there’s no apparent pattern.

On the other side of the building, a broken window in a vacated suite became a calling card for vandals. The unit is in disarray, evidence of parties.

Tenants are hopeful the new owners will have more energy and funds to bring the building up to reasonable standards.

Sheena Popham in her apartment at Highland Manor. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:



The laundry room has a dozen washers and dryers, but only one of each work. The floor is wet, and smells sharply of mold. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

The laundry room has a dozen washers and dryers, but only one of each work. The floor is wet, and smells sharply of mold. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Just Posted

North Island Gazette
EDITORIAL: What to do about homelessness in Port Hardy

‘people suffering from homelessness deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion’

North Island Eagles logo
North Island Eagles give update on the upcoming 2021-2022 season

The North Island Eagles minor rep hockey teams are getting ready for… Continue reading

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Most Read