Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district says its fire insurance money isn’t enough to fund restoration of the Franklyn Street gymnasium, which is why it’s looking to demolish it along with the nearby career resource centre.
The 98-year-old gym on the corner of Franklyn and Wesley streets sustained substantial water, fire and smoke damage in a 2018 blaze and Mark Walsh, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ secretary-treasurer, told trustees at their Wednesday board meeting that costs associated with repair of the gym building surpasses money provided through insurance.
While the building has been used by other organizations, it currently isn’t being utilized by the district, and as such, there is no B.C. Ministry of Education money available to make up the shortfall, stated a staff report.
Walsh said the career resource centre demolition project is out for tender and there has been a lot of interest. Proponents are going to have incentive to “give very competitive bids in the event that we proceed to demolish because CRC and Franklyn are so close to each other,” he said.
“The board, in the past, didn’t actually have the finances to be able to demolish the facility either, but now that we’re coming to the end of our process with insurance, reviewing the cost of the full refurbishment … and reviewing the cost of demolition, from a financial perspective and long-term viability and to be able to proceed with something in the future on that site, which we don’t know what that would be, demolition is appearing to be the best option,” said Walsh.
The district recently approached the City of Nanaimo and received a heritage alteration permit, allowing it to tear down the gymnasium, with a city report stating hazardous materials, such as asbestos, were present in the building.
Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, said she wanted to make clear that the board has not yet made a firm decision on the gym’s fate. The district is investigating its options and that requires work in conjunction with the City of Nanaimo.
McKay said the gym has been meaningful to Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre, which held programs there for years.
“They’ve supported many members of the community and I just want to acknowledge their work and their partnership in utilizing a building that was not being utilized for schooling purposes, but simply to share and acknowledge the value that site has held for a long time…” she said. “The board is taking this decision very seriously and we’re in the process of following our due diligence, which I think is important to acknowledge.”
In May, the school district said it was planning to demolish the old career resource centre and library building on Selby Street, around the corner from the gym. A funding agreement with the ministry is anticipated shortly, Walsh said at the meeting.
After a successful proponent is named, staff will report back to the board with recommendations on how to proceed.