NANAIMO — The burned out Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo will be demolished shortly, but don't expect anything new to pop-up on the high-profile site anytime soon.
Rick Hyne of Crankshaw Holdings told NanaimoNewsNOW they expect to demolish the charred building on Victoria Cres. at Terminal Ave. by March 19. He noted that permits from the City of Nanaimo and WorksafeBC are required before that can happen.
However, Hyne said they intend to sell the land after the 29,000 sq/ft building is razed.
“We have no plans to rebuild at this time until downtown Nanaimo becomes a little more vibrant,” Hyne said.
He said selling the Jean Burns site may take some time, noting the economic climate downtown is not favourable right now.
“If we were to try and rebuild just retail there, the numbers don't work,” he said. “We just don't get the dollars downtown for square foot on the return that you would up north or some other parts in town.”
Hyne said Crankshaw intends to sell all four of its downtown properties — two buildings on Victoria Cres. and two on Commercial Dr.
The Jean Burns location is not the only prime real estate in downtown Nanaimo sitting in disrepair. Residents have long-lamented the state of the old A&B Sound building on the other side of Victoria Cres. That location has been sitting vacant since 2008, according to the City's real estate manager.
Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay said the City is committed to helping spur downtown development. He points to a current clause which waives development cost charges for new downtown projects.
“I would suggest that if we are concerned about the current product available and its value with respect to return on investment, making an investment will improve that,” McKay said.
McKay noted there are certain buildings in parts of the downtown core that are lacking investment from their owners. He said he'd like to hear what more the City can do to help foster a more positive business environment.
“Particularly as we move forward into this economic development strategy, and determine what it is we can do, I'd love to see more investment downtown, but we need to work on it together,” he said.
Hyne said it will indeed take a multi-partner effort to help create a more vibrant downtown Nanaimo.
“This has to be a partnership between property owners and the City and everybody else,” he said. “But we've got too many silos, everybody interested in their own little department, so something needs to change.”
The high-profile Jean Burns building, which was home to 15 businesses, went up in flames in a blaze deemed accidental on March 30 of last year.
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