Re-development plans proposed for former Nanaimo city hall annex

NANAIMO – Tectonica has applied for a development permit for a five-storey residential and commercial complex for the old city hall annex.

The dollar sale of the former city hall annex wasn’t the deal many thought it was, says Tectonica partner Darren Moss as the company prepares to move ahead with plans for a new five-storey building.

Tectonica, a construction and project management company, has applied for a development permit to build a new five-storey residential and commercial complex at the site of the former city hall annex.

Nanaimo city council agreed to sell the building to the company for a dollar in 2012 on the condition the seismically-unsafe building is upgraded or demolished within two years.

With plans for a 32-unit condominium and commercial project, Mayor John Ruttan said he doesn’t regret the transfer.

It also wasn’t the deal a lot of people thought it was, according to Moss, who calls the dollar price tag for the previously- assessed $3.5-million property fairly mathematical and based on the cost of demolition. If things go the way they think, they will have gotten fair market value but they also absorb the risk of the tear-down, he said.

“So it seems like a wonderful deal, but the cost of that covenant is very … real,” he said.

Tectonica saw the land officially transferred in January and plans to partially demolish the former municipal building by the end of 2015 if it moves ahead with construction. Its next move hinges on market activity.

The current development permit proposal is for a 45,000-square-foot building on the corner of Wallace and Franklyn. It’s an “interesting spot,” with good exposure for commercial on the ground floor and views off the upper levels for residential, “so there’s a good possibility of that conversion being well received in the community,” said Moss, who  can picture professional offices along Wallace Street and a restaurant or cafe on the corner.

Ruttan said he is excited about the plan. The building has been derelict with no aesthetic value, but as a rebuild it will be an addition to the Old City Quarter and tax producing, the mayor said.

The city purchased its former annex for less than $500,000 a decade before deciding to sell. The issue was a seismic review that showed the structure was at high risk for structural damage or partial collapse during a significant quake. A city press release says it required an estimated $6.2 million in upgrades.

“I think in this way the end result will kind of justify it all by having a very, very high-quality, upscale building there with a number of tenants and it will revitalize that area which really has been a little bit soft,” Ruttan said.

The development permit is expected to go to council Monday (Nov. 24).