Passersby check out the damage to the Jean Burns building on Commercial Street the day after a fire gutted the structure. The building’s owner and insurance company are still negotiating what to do with what remains.

2016 Year in Review: Demolition of downtown building expected after fire guts structure

NANAIMO – Jean Burns building went up in flames night of March 30.

Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo went up in flames on March 30 and while it’s facing demolition, it’s not know when that will occur.

The fire at the Terminal Avenue and Commercial Street-situated structure was caused by electrical malfunction and deemed unsafe by an engineer, said Rick Hyne, operating officer for property owner Crankshaw Holdings.

Crankshaw was given approval for demolition of “fire-damaged portions” by its insurance company and while Hyne would like demolition by the end of January, it’s complicated.

“Our foundations are [at] Commercial Street and the highway, so if those were arbitrarily removed, we’d end up with possible expansive damage, across the sidewalks, into the highway, into Commercial Street, so this needs to be done with a very methodical process.

“It’s not a simple case of ‘take it down because we don’t like the looks of it.’ We need to be allowed to move through our process and we’re continuing to do that,” Hyne said at a Dec. 19 council meeting.

Hyne told the News Bulletin that Crankshaw is working with an architect on various scenarios.

“We have to replace it with retail because the insurance company says, ‘If you want us to pay out, then you need to functionally replace it as it was,’” said Hyne. “Now what we do over and above that is entirely up to us and that’s our own investment.”

Insurance also requires office space on the second floor, although that is negotiable. Hyne doesn’t rule out residential either.

“We can go up to six floors and we’re looking at those options, so six floors could be four floors of residential, but with that requires parking as well, so there’s considerations with that,” said Hyne.

Another consideration is a recent Terminal-Nicol corridor report. The building is located along that area and mixed-use development and better pedestrian access were recommended.

Hyne said he has met with the Terminal-Nicol Re-Imagined Committee. It is a big puzzle with a lot of pieces, he said.

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