The site of the old Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)

The site of the old Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)

City of Nanaimo buying Jean Burns site for potential ‘public realm and transit improvements’

City starts expropriation process for properties on Terminal Avenue

The City of Nanaimo is looking to buy the old Jean Burns building site, which could potentially be the site of a downtown transit exchange in the future.

Bill Corsan, city director of community development, said the city has started a process to acquire the old Jean Burns building property, along with two other properties on that block. The site has been vacant since it was gutted by a fire in 2016.

“The city’s begun the expropriation process,” said Corsan. “Through the legal process, the land transfers to the city and we work with the owner (Crankshaw Holdings) to arrive at a purchase price … we’re looking at doing public realm and transit improvements in that area, so the whole block, which we call the 500 block of Terminal Avenue, will get rebuilt and as part of that, we’ll start doing some consultation.”

Corsan said one of the elements the city will examine is whether to relocate the downtown transit exchange, currently located on Front Street, to Terminal Avenue.

“Our transportation engineers have been working on the downtown mobility hub and that’s a study that’s been looking at a whole range of different downtown transportation improvements and one of the key ones was to find a site for the transit exchange,” said Corsan. “So we think this is a good site for it and based on the feedback that we get and the engineering work we do on it, there’s probably a good chance it’ll be there.”

In terms of the next steps, the city will further examine the property, according to Corsan.

“With the posting of the notice, it gives us an opportunity to do some more investigative work on the property to understand its characteristics a bit better and then if council is comfortable with that, then we’re able to move forward with completing the acquisition,” Corsan said.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the acquisition of the properties resulted from a number of studies that identified opportunities for pedestrian and transit improvements in the downtown core. The 500 block of Terminal Avenue has been identified as priority for revitalization, he said.

The current bus exchange has been adequate, said Krog, but could be better situated.

“It’s worked well enough, but I wouldn’t say there is enthusiasm,” said Krog. “[Some people] would like to see something better and more conducive and frankly more attractive, and gets you closer to where you want to be … if they were a little more central, that would be certainly helpful.”

Corsan said the city has been doing investigative work in areas around the properties, including examining geotechnical and environmental issues and examining existing utilities.

“This whole area is fill. It’s what we call the ‘Terminal trench,’ so it’s all historical fill from the coal mines in Nanaimo…” Corsan said. “The coal waste generally isn’t toxic, but it needs to be disposed of in a different manner. You can’t just take it to a regular landfill.”

RELATED: City to re-examine Terminal-Commercial for bus exchange

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