The City of Nanaimo now owns a hole in the downtown to fill as it sees fit.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog, at a council meeting Monday, July 26, announced that the city has purchased 6, 10 and 14 Commercial St.
The city issued expropriation notice at the former Jean Burns building site in late May to owner Crankshaw Holdings Ltd.
“Together, with the purchase of In Print and Black and Blue Tattoo, council has taken bold steps to redevelop a key area of the city’s downtown…” said Krog. “We all look forward on council to seeing action on this highly important part of our beautiful downtown.”
The mayor said citizens will have an opportunity over the coming months to view and provide input into the design of the new city property. He said potential uses include pedestrian improvements along Terminal Avenue from Esplanade to Commercial Street, an “attractive public space or plaza” on the Jean Burns site, a transit hub between Terminal Avenue and Shaw Lane, development of the Albert Street cycle route, improvements to the Albert-Wallace-Commercial-Victoria Crescent intersection, and “a coherent urban design plan for the Commercial Street corridor to enhance the street as a vibrant public space.”
Krog indicated he’s hopeful that the private owner of the old A&B Sound building across the street from the Jean Burns site will recognize “it’s a great time to make some changes in our downtown.”
The mayor encouraged citizens to participate in the Reimagine Nanaimo master planning process and have a say in the city’s future.
The details of the Jean Burns property purchase were discussed in a closed meeting Monday and the price of the three properties was not disclosed at the open council meeting. Director of legislative services Sheila Gurrie said she expected the purchase price would not be made public.
Crankshaw Holdings, which has previously indicated it won’t speak to the media, posted on social media that it is displeased with the way the city handled the entire process.
“This sale … is bittersweet as it has been a long journey since the loss of the building and hundreds of thousands of dollars of income to our company. We have spent over a million dollars to bring the site to where it is today,” the post noted.
Kevan Shaw, president of the Victoria Crescent Association, said work is definitely needed to revitalize the downtown and make it appealing to residents and tourists, and said a burned-out building lot wasn’t doing that.
“You need something there that is going to be nice, that is going to attract people, but on the other hand, is not going to become a centre for criminal activity…” he said. “Everyone needs to feel safe downtown, that’s going to be the No. 1 thing. So if you’re putting parks in, if you’re putting a bus exchange in, if you want people to come to the stores, the restaurants and the bars, everyone has to feel safe.”