Rick Hyne, operating officer with Crankshaw Holdings, stands beside three murals painted on the foundation of the old Jean Burns Building by Toronto-based artist Victor Fraser. The murals are water-based and will eventually wash off. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Three murals add colour to empty Jean Burns building site

Long-term future of downtown Nanaimo property remains unclear

A gaping hole in downtown Nanaimo looks a little bit prettier, at least for now.

Victor Fraser, a well-known street artist from Toronto, has painted three First Nations art-inspired murals on the foundation of the old Jean Burns building at the corner Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue. The murals depict a maple leaf, a raven and an orca.

Rick Hyne, operating officer for site owner Crankshaw Holdings, said Fraser reached out to him last week. He said the murals are water-based and will wash off over time, but that he wants to preserve them somehow.

“We’ve thought about putting some kind of coating over them to protect them but I don’t know if we can do that because they are water-based and I don’t know what would happen to the paint,” he said.

The murals come months after Hyne had hoped the site could be used as a community space for events or as a storage space following cleanup in March that saw the removal of concrete overhangs and other debris from the property. However, those plans were never realized.

“We kept asking the city and they never got back to us,” Hyne said.

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

RELATED: Excavators move in to crush former downtown restaurant site

RELATED: Landmark building in downtown Nanaimo demolished

RELATED: Nanaimo heritage building gutted by fire faces demolition

RELATED: Jean Burns building in downtown Nanaimo to be demolished in March

The 100-year-old Jean Burns building was largely destroyed by a fire in 2016. The building was completely demolished and the site is now just a large hole with a concrete foundation in the city’s downtown.

Hyne said the next step for Crankshaw is to determine the property’s value, which can only be done after environmental assessments and geotechnical work has been completed.

“We need to take steps to value the site and to do that we need to eliminate all the unknowns,” Hyne said. “Those unknowns include figuring out what is underground.”

There are a couple of tanks currently under the foundation of the building, but Hyne said isn’t entirely sure what they were used for. He also said during the demolition of the building in March, crews discovered coal slag where Acme Foods once stood.

“Is there a mineshaft down there? We don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t show up on any maps, but we think it is close by.”

Environmental and geotechnical work is expected to take place in the fall. The work should identify what is underground, any environmental issues, associated costs, and what, if anything, can be built on the site.

Knowing the property’s value will determine what Crankshaw Holdings does with it, said Hyne.

“Once we can identify the risks, then we will have an understanding of what it is going to cost to mitigate those risks. Then once we know those costs, we can determine what the value of the property is,” Hyne said. “From there, we can decide whether we want to sell it, keep it or build on it, or what we are going to do with it.”

Cleanup has cost Crankshaw Holdings nearly $1 million so far, according to Hyne. He said it’s been a long process and that it isn’t as simple as filling a hole with dirt and building on it.

“You can’t build until you drill and you can’t drill until you do an environmental study. Not everyone understands that,” Hyne said.

View this post on Instagram

In the "spirit of our land" I present to all the Beaver in the Haida style representing Earth in the city of Nanaimo. . The "hole" as it's referred to in Nanaimo has been here for some time now. It is in the centre of town & has been a point of contention for many for some time now. . On my 3rd & not final visit it was deeply important to me to finally be able to contribute. Thank you @dj_jacky_dee for bringing me to this part of Canada. . . I am so glad to have had the weather window to give the wonderful folk of Nanaimo (and guest's) something else to look at for a time. . . Special thanks to @vaultcafe for water kindness & yummie human made delights. . I can't help but wish I had just one more day. .. . Time to push back to the @nba 2019 CHAMPIONSHIP City @cityofto to enjoy some more summertime @aircanada have that printer ready! #howdowespendourtime #spiritofourland #inspired #haida #nanaimo #westcoast #vancouverisland #love #healing #respect #firstnations #beaver #raven #orca #islandlife #whatsvictorupto #nativestyle #haidaart #cityofnanaimo #freehand #earth

A post shared by VicTOr (@whatsvictorupto) on

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Redmen become Nanaimo Seahawks

Football Nanaimo says new moniker reflects West Coast heritage

Nanaimo woman to compete in new season of ‘Big Brother Canada’

Carol Rosher, a cancer survivor, is one of 16 houseguests appearing on reality TV show

Nanaimo Buccaneers win in overtime in playoff opener

Bucs goalie Austin Dendl makes 46 saves to lead his team to 2-1 win over Campbell River Storm

Banned Nanaimo investment advisor accused of lying under oath to investigators

B.C. Securities Commission to schedule hearing in March

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Opal frustrations creating danger

Traffic-calming on Opal Road has increased driving speeds on Rock City Road, says letter writer

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to meet today with federal and B.C. governments

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

Chinatowns across Canada report drop in business due to new coronavirus fears

Around the world, about 81,000 people have become ill with the virus

Endangered butterfly species to be reintroduced to Hornby Island

Hornby Island is about to play a major role in the saving… Continue reading

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Blockade reroutes traffic on Pat Bay Highway

About 80 people from four major Peninsula First Nations blocking major highway

Most Read