The Jean Burns building

Nanaimo heritage building gutted by fire faces demolition

NANAIMO - Jean Burns building owner intends to tear down building after surveying extent of structural damage.

Rick Hyne, operating officer for Crankshaw Holdings, vented his frustration with the ongoing saga over the Jean Burns building in an online newsletter and at a Nanaimo city council meeting this week.

The building at the corner of Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue, which was heavily damaged by fire in March, was awaiting approval from WorkSafe B.C. and Crankshaw Holding’s insurance provider over methods and costs to clean up the site so decisions could be made whether to salvage or demolish the 100-year-old structure.

The delays, ongoing since July, prompted complaints to the city over the building’s appearance in an effort to force action to have the corner cleaned up. A report from city staff, requested by council, over what to do about the building included four recommendations, including one to have the building declared a nuisance property and force the owner to clean it up.

Hyne said the building owner and tenants have continued to be victimized following the fire by the complaints and constant break-ins and thefts.

“Last week, it think it was, we walked in there and there’s two people in there stealing things,” Hyne said at Monday’s meeting. “We caught them and tried to hold onto them. They jumped through a little hole in the drywall they’d cut holes in.”

Police attended and called in Nanaimo Fire Rescue to search the building, but the culprits weren’t found because they’d managed to conceal themselves in spaces between the floors or walls.

When asked by Coun. Ian Thorpe if security could be hired, even temporarily for the building, Hyne said the option had been looked at, but it’s expensive and he questioned whether security would be effective.

“For example, like I said, somebody busted out the Acme window the other day, right smack in the corner of Highway 1 and Commercial Street, right in the middle of the daytime and nobody noticed,” Hyne replied.

Hyne said he hoped cleanup work can start by Oct. 31 and that Crankshaw Holding’s insurance provider would make a decision soon afterward.

But, in an interview Tuesday, Hyne said there were new developments following a tour through the site with a structural engineer that morning, which indicated the building is in much worse condition than was initially estimated. Even if the structure could be salvaged, bringing it up to modern building codes would be prohibitively expensive. Hyne said the city was notified of the latest development.

“So now we’re trying to meet with people like WorkSafe and we’ve notified our insurance company that, You know what? You have enough evidence. Let’s move forward on this,” Hyne said. “That’s where we’re going to go right now. Our intention is to demolish the building.”

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