The final cleanup is being carried out on the former site of the Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo. Current plans call for the site to be usable as a venue for community events. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Owner hopes to convert downtown hole in the ground to community space

Nanaimo’s Jean Burns building site undergoing final cleanup

A hole in the ground in downtown Nanaimo could become a gathering place.

The final cleanup phase started Friday on the former site of the Jean Burns building, at the corner of Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue, as heavy machinery moved in to clear remaining debris and knock down concrete overhangs and other structural issues that could pose safety hazards.

The cleanup process has happened in several stages following a fire that destroyed the 100-year-old building in March 2016.

The operation is continuing this week, but in the process work crews discovered more “surprises” that might need to be dealt with before the property can be opened to the public.

“This is our final cleanup of the site,” said Rick Hynes, operating officer for site owner Crankshaw Holdings. “We had scheduled this for January, but due to weather concerns and other commitments, we’re just now getting it finished.”

Hynes said he’s had a number of queries as to whether the city has purchased the site. He said no one has bought the property, there have been no offers to purchase it and Crankshaw Holdings plans to maintain the site as it is until sometime in the future. A two-phase environmental assessment has to be conducted along with some geotechnical work to determine what can be built there.

“During the demolition phase we have come across a number of surprises, such as floating slabs and coal under one of the slabs and also some sort of portal leading to perhaps a tank or some other type of water supply or something underneath the ground – we don’t know – and those are some of the things we’ll leave up to the environmental specialists to take a look at,” Hyne said.

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Crankshaw Holdings hopes to have the site prepared adequately by summer for such uses as community flea markets, art gatherings or other uses, providing no regulations crop up to prohibit such uses on the site.

Hyne said one issue that has slowed the site cleanup process has been asbestos abatement.

“We used another abate company twice and twice they didn’t do the job properly so our own environmental hygienist, who we’ve contracted with, takes care of those things and he’s failed us all those times,” Hyne said. “This time he’s passed us, so we were good to go to finish the demolition.”

RELATED: Damaged, stolen art replaced at Jean Burns building



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