A house at 215 Newcastle Ave., once owned by former Nanaimo mayor Victor Harrison, is on a list of derelict properties the city has ordered demolished.
The approval to issue a demolition order came during Monday’s council meeting.
The house is currently owned by Elouise Wilson, a relative of Harrison’s who lived on the property until fire severely damaged its interior in September 2011 and April 2013. Both fires were related to a wood stove that was used to heat a portion of the home. The city also deemed the property unsightly and ordered it cleaned up in March 2004.
Randy Churchill, city bylaws manager, said the house is among 15 properties the city has ordered owners to repair or demolish.
“It was identified, through a community process of identifying properties within the city that were in such dilapidated or poor condition, that it was really anchoring negative behaviour and problems to that neighbourhood,” Churchill said.
Several of those buildings reached their states of dilapidation because of fire damage. The city now monitors fire-damaged structures to ensure they are either repaired or demolished, including a house on Gillespie Street which could be demolished in the new year. A house on Estevan Road that partially collapsed in March will likely be torn down in the first week of December.
Chris Sholberg, city culture and heritage planner, said the Newcastle Avenue house is listed among Nanaimo’s heritage buildings and was built around 1900 by Nanaimo carpenter Hiram Woodward. It was purchased by Harrison in the 1930s and it has been in the family since.
Harrison, who served as mayor of Nanaimo from 1925-1926 and 1938-1944, was also one of the prosecutors who succeeded in bringing Brother XII to trial. He also worked for the preservation of the Nanaimo Bastion and created Petroglyph Provincial Park in south Nanaimo.
“It’d be lovely if it had been maintained all these years and be there for future generations, but unfortunately that’s not the story,” Sholberg said.
Churchill said Wilson has 60 days to demolish the house. If she doesn’t, the city will – a process involving permits, environmental assessments and inspections that will take until about March before work can start – and if costs of demolition and disposal are not paid by Wilson then the city can sell the property in a tax sale to recover its costs.
But it seems unlikely a prime waterfront property will be abandoned to a tax sale.
“It is one of the nicest pieces of property, central to downtown, that we have,” Churchill said. “I would definitely say, yes, the property has value and would be of interest should they choose to sell. Everyone would want this piece of property.”