Jean Burns building on track to be torn down in weeks

By Ian Holmes
November 9, 2016 - 4:51pm

Crankshaw Holdings' Rick Hyne

NANAIMO — The Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo could be dismantled by Christmas, according to a representative from the company that owns the burned-out building.

Rick Hyne of Crankshaw Holdings says they are moving forward to knock most of the building down without their insurance company.

“Now it becomes a liability for not only us but for the city due to the potential snow loads and ice with a building that has no roof. We need to now look at it from that perspective and have decided that the building will be demolished,” said Hyne.

He says they are in the process of getting quotes from demolition contractors. The future of the high-profile building at the intersection of Terminal Avenue and Commercial Street became more clear after an abatement contractor and environmental consultant visited the site in October. However, at that time it wasn't clear when the wrecking ball would be brought in. Hyne says they are keeping their insurance company and public adjuster informed and are proceeding with the process to tear the Jean Burns building down.

“We are moving forward with this project now,” said Hyne. “Working collaboratively with the people like WorkSafeBC and the city of Nanaimo, hopefully to come to a conclusion that everybody will be happy with,” said Hyne.

Hyne says that the building must have its heritage designation removed and then a demolition permit granted, which he anticipates will be in order by early December. He says it's not clear when re-construction would begin, citing unknown factors such as exactly what the new building would look like. Hyne warns that there will be inconveniences in the months ahead.

“There's going to be some conveniences for the traveling public and the people of downtown...during the demolition process we may shut down the Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue sides as well as the China Steps.”

City councillor Jerry Hong, who owns the nearby Queens Hotel, says news that Crankshaw intends to demolish the building is great news for the entire downtown core.

“Because the smell of the building and the mold was becoming very obvious,” said Hong. “I think the smell was a deterrent in keeping them (shoppers) in that area.”

The nearly 29,000 sq/ft building was badly damaged in a March 30 fire. Nanaimo Fire investigators deemed the blaze was caused by a ceiling fan malfunction. Fifteen businesses were destroyed in the fire, which sent flames and smoke high into the sky before large crowds of people. The eyesore of a site has seen numerous break-ins which have frustrated downtown merchants and city council.

Hong looks forward to the re-birth of what he agrees is arguably the highest profile intersection in Nanaimo.

“I think it's going to be a huge increase for the spur of business because they actually had a lot of businesses in their building there. I think that's just going to attract more businesses to Victoria Crescent and the area,” said Hong.

Another twist in Nanaimo foot ferry saga