Fire 1

A fire deemed suspicious reportedly started in a port-a-potty and spread to siding near the back wall of the Cannon Valley Vet building. The damage was evident Monday morning. (Sam Wilmes/southernminn.com)

Northfield police are investigating a “suspicious” fire that reportedly originated from a port-a-potty Sunday, spread and damaged the siding of a new downtown building.

Northfield Fire Chief Gerry Franek noted the damage is in the back of the Cannon Valley Veterinary Clinic building on the 500 block of Division Street.

Fire crews were dispatched at 1:01 p.m. and on scene for approximately a half an hour.

In calling the fire “arson,” building owner Michael Strobel said police are reviewing camera footage to try to determine who started the blaze. Franek said it will be difficult to determine the cause due to the complete destruction of the port-a-potty.

When Northfield Veterinarian, the previous owner of the buildings at 510 and 512 Division St., closed in March 2018 and the property was demolished, Strobel purchased the property with the intent to remodel, but it was beyond repair. It was then demolished and plans for the building now there came soon after. Strobel said exterior work is concluding with interior work soon beginning. He said tenants could occupy space within the building in 2021.

The finished space is expected to include two condominiums on the top floor, office space on the ground level and a climate-controlled storage space that can be rented in the basement. There are also tentative plans to open a vet clinic in the building.

The old veterinary building was built in 1905 and rebuilt in 1920. Strobel has said one of the important goals of the project is to recreate the front of the building so that it looks like it did in the 1910s.

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