Jack Ball

Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo to be demolished in March

NANAIMO – Jack Ball, owner of Jean Burns building, currently does not want to invest in rebuilding on downtown Nanaimo site.

Almost a full year after it was heavily damaged by a major fire, the Jean Burns Building will be torn down.

Crankshaw Holdings, parent company of the building located at the corner of Terminal Avenue and Commercial Street, announced Monday the building will be demolished on or around March 19 and it is unlikely its owner Jack Ball will rebuild.

Ball, who said he is nearly in his 90s, has approved an initial $300, 000 to clean up the site and remove asbestos-contaminated material for proper disposal. He also said that it would be highly unlikely he would ever realize a return on his investment into the property in his lifetime and he does not want to sink any more money into the site.

“I don’t know if I want to go any further,” Ball said.

Even prior to the fire it was tough to break even financially, given the building’s maintenance and operating costs versus the amount for rents that could be charged to tenants in the downtown core.

“To keep the rents reasonable and keep it occupied, it was a tough deal,” Ball said.

Ball has owned and operated buildings downtown since the 1990s. The Jean Burns Buildings, he said, was one of the last buildings he purchased.

Modern building and set-back codes are part of what makes rebuilding on the site prohibitive. Ball said he believes a six-storey building could be constructed in the site, but if a new building had to be set back three metres from both Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue, little room is left for floor space.

“You’d have a Popsicle for a six-storey tower,” Ball said.

Rick Hyne, Crankshaw Holdings operating officer, said the company is still in dispute with its insurance company over the value of costs that company would cover should Cranshaw choose to rebuild. One option being considered, he said, is to take a simple cash payout, clear and fence off the site and sell it.

Since the fire there have been complaints about the property’s appearance and smell and continuing problems with people breaking into the building and stealing fixtures, plumbing and wiring from the building as well as property belonging to former tenants.

“It’s becoming very problematic for us and it’s pulling our resources away from other things to have to deal with it so the sooner I get down on the ground the better it will be,” Hyne said.

He said demolition and disposal costs could climb to as much as $500,000.

Ball said Copcan Civil has been hired for the demolition.

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