Cigarette factory turned into homes in Petersburg

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - A ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday morning to celebrate the transformation of the old Brown and Williamson tobacco building into a residential complex.

"It shows the rebirth and revitalization of Petersburg," said City Manager, William Johnson lll.

The multi-million dollar project nearly collapsed in July 2010 when a fire devoured much of the structure.

The massive fire delayed the project by several months and added $7 million to the total cost -- bringing the price tag to $25 million.

As the completion ceremony took place -- the fire department is still trying to figure out what sparked the blaze.

In November 2010 -- insurance investigators determined the fire was caused by a lightning strike. But the Petersburg Fire Department says the cause is  undetermined.

Fire Chief T.C. Hairston: "We're still waiting on analysis from an engineering report to make a determination."

Nicole Bell: "Any time frame on when that report will be submitted to you guys?"

Fire Chief T.C. Hairston: "No exact time frame."

Nicole Bell: "It's been 2 years why so long?"

Fire Chief T.C. Hairston: "That's the private sector. We don't have control over the private sector but again it's undetermined - we do know it's electrical in nature."

The fire chief says his department may never have an official cause of the blaze.

Despite the destructive fire the Perry Street Lofts is up and running.

"It's nice to see we got through it and we have a beautiful finished product," said developer, Tom Wilkinson.

Office and retail space will also be built on the seven acre property. That portion of the project is expected to be completed by 2015.

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