Decision on future of high-profile Nanaimo building not likely until Spring 2017

By Ian Holmes
September 12, 2016 - 4:34pm Updated: September 12, 2016 - 5:10pm

Photo credit: Crankshaw Holdings

NANAIMO — It's still very much unclear what the future of downtown Nanaimo's Jean Burns building looks like, five-and-a-half months after a devastating fire ripped through the heritage site.

Rick Hyne of Crankshaw Holdings, the company that owns and operates the building that went up in flames last March 30, says there likely won't be any redevelopment decisions for several months.

Hyne says there is plenty of work to do, with the next step in the process, removing debris from the destroyed top floor, scheduled to happen this month.

“We are hoping to also get rid of the upper walls, then once that is done and the building will probably sit until next spring while we go through the various building code processes and architects and those sorts of things,” says Hyne.

The blaze in the nearly 29,000 sq/ft Jean Burns building, on Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue, destroyed the top floor and leveled 15 businesses, however, the old Acme restaurant building was largely spared, according to Hyne.

The building sits on arguably the most high-profile intersection in Nanaimo and Hyne realizes there is a desire in the community to have the charred remains either knocked down and rebuilt or refurbished.

He says Crankshaw Holdings has no plans to sell the site and is 100-percent committed to redeveloping in some fashion.

“We are working very hard to make this a better building than what it was and be a focal point of downtown Nanaimo.”

He points out that multiple agencies have a stake in determining if the building can be saved, and that Crankshaw Holdings must abide by that process.

“There are a number of people involved from insurance companies, adjustors, and WorkSafeBC, and City of Nanaimo and a number of others.”

As for the future, Hyne says redevelopment plans have been discussed, noting the building could be constructed in a much more efficient manner.

He says adding two floors to the old Acme Restaurant building for housing and office space is one scenario.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigators concluded that the Jean Burns building blaze was accidental and caused by an electrical malfunction in a ceiling fan.

'Don't even try to move', man who held down Nanaimo mill shooter testifies