The listing agent for a historic downtown Preston building that burnt down earlier this month is defending himself and the property owners amidst rumors that the fire may have been a convenient way to make way for a proposed condo development.

The Hopper, a former dance club and sport bar, was destroyed by flames on May 6.

“It's been a landmark,” the property’s listing agent, Tony Schmidt, told CTV News on Tuesday. “It's been here since before I was born so seeing this corner open up like this, it was definitely a shock.”

The fire has been deemed suspicious and Waterloo regional police are leading the investigation.

What sparked the flames has not yet been determined.


The Hopper hadn’t been in business since a previous fire in 2015.

Schmidt said the group that owns the property was working to prepare it for a condo development.

The Hopper

“The intention was always to redevelop, bring something really special to the Preston core, about 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial, 48 residential units above,” Schmidt said.

Those plans are up in smoke – for now.

“Everything is just completely on a pause. We're waiting to see what the next steps are going to be through discussions with the city, the region, and everything else that now has to take place.”

Comments have been made online that the fire was a “convenient” way to clear the property.

“It's hard to not take some of those comments personally. I know the leg work that they've done – heritage impact studies, archaeological studies and all of these things they have to go through to navigate the process,” Schmidt said.

The Hopper fire

Not to mention, a stone wall from the original 19th century building was also destroyed. Schmidt said the plan was to incorporate the structure into the new development.

“The loss of that stone wall that was here, that was one of the pieces of the puzzle that would've been great to have had,” Schmidt said.

Navigating the process is uncharted territory for Schmidt. It’s also something Cambridge hasn’t seen at the corner of King and Lowther streets for nearly 200 years – an empty lot.