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Nanaimo's Old City Quarter park targeted for concert hub

Moira Shore, Young Professionals of Nanaimo member at large, and Adam Hawryluk, president, are getting ready to change from office attire into gardening grubbies to help clean up Cappy Yates Park at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wall streets. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Moira Shore, Young Professionals of Nanaimo member at large, and Adam Hawryluk, president, are getting ready to change from office attire into gardening grubbies to help clean up Cappy Yates Park at the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wall streets.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Community groups are teaming up to transform one of Nanaimo’s derelict downtown properties into a temporary public space.

The Old City Quarter Association will team up with the Young Professionals of Nanaimo and the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association to turn Cappy Yates Park into a hub for concerts and picnics.

If you’re feeling a little déjà vu, it’s because this isn’t the first time the property has been refreshed.

The private, weed-choked lot on the corner of Fitzwilliam and Wallace streets has followed a pattern of temporary use and neglect since the mansion of seafarer Arthur Fitzgerald Yates was torn down for development in the early 1980s, according to records from the Nanaimo Community Archives.

By 1988, the space was still vacant and landowners allowed the Performing Arts of Nanaimo to christen it Cappy Yates Park and use it for special events and concerts, according to the Nanaimo Free Press. When the property changed hands, the site appears to have lapsed back into overgrowth until other residents took on its restoration, including the Nanaimo Youth Services Association in 2000.

Now, community groups have visions of cleaning it up again so people can enjoy music in the park. They say a public space could attract visitors and add to the ambiance to the Old City Quarter.

“[Recently] it’s not been the focus of any effort to turn it into something really good. That’s what we want to do,” said Eric McLean, president of the Old City Quarter Association. “We think it’s in ... an ideal location for events and picnics in the summertime.”

Cappy Yates Park is owned by Paul Saroya of Akal Developments who purchased it about seven years ago. While he has development plans, Saroya said he’s had to focus on other projects and won’t likely turn his attention to the site for another three years. He is considering building an apartment-style hotel but in the meantime, said he is happy to see the property used.

The cleanup is anticipated to begin in July and is already getting a lot of attention, according to Adam Hawryluk, president of the Young Professionals of Nanaimo, who said there are more than 90 likes on their Facebook page for the project and dozens of comments.

“There’s a lot of community push behind it. It seems to have struck a chord,” he said. “We know we are on the right track when we get that kind of response.”

A work plan is currently being developed.

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