EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) - Since an arsonist torched developer Rick Holliday's Emeryville property twice in one year, he has installed ten additional security cameras and hired armed guards for day and night shifts.
Holliday said he's built more than 15,000 housing units in his career, many in the East Bay, and this was his first insurance claim and first fires.
For the first time since fire tore through the commercial/residential project, Holliday took 2 Investigates through the destroyed construction site explaining the vision he still believes will become a reality.%INLINE%
"If you came up here and wanted to be in the beer garden or rode your bike...it'd be like a bike shop here. Kids would help out," said Holliday.
Local and federal fire investigators have not connected the four major construction fires in the East Bay. They've determined Holliday's two fires and one near Lake Merritt were arson. The latest fire in Uptown Oakland is still being investigated as of Tuesday.
Holliday said he believes the fires are connected and that the culprits are no amateurs.
"These people were smart," he said. "They could probably find out the pattern for the guards. We had two armed guards. I mean it was a good job. Someone is good at what they wanted to do, so it's obvious it's someone who is well educated."
When asked if he believes the suspect acted alone, Holliday said he has no idea.
"It doesn't matter what I think. It matters what ATF thinks because they're fire investigators. I only know what I saw in the videos," he said.
"The irony is the project didn't have any controversy about it. It was the opposite. We were embracing the community and the community embraced the project," Holliday said.
In addition to housing, Holliday said he planned to allot some of the units for nursing residents at a nearby children's hospital. He also was in the process of bringing in a local brewery, a bike shop that helps community children and possibly a market.
"The victims here are also the people who don't get more housing, the people who lose their jobs and the businesses that would've hired people and come in and create a neighborhood place," he said.
2 Investigates asked Holliday what kind of builders he had working on the project, and if they were with a union.
"Yeah we worked with union and non-union contractors. The unions were actually the first ones to offer to help us solve the case, so I don't think it has anything to do with union issues at all," he said.
No one was hurt or killed in the four East Bay construction fires, but Holliday believes it's only a matter of time if they continue.
KTVU's Candice Nguyen and Simone Aponte reported this story.