Taxpayers in the City of Nanaimo are now the owners of a downtown vacant lot.
Mayor Leonard Krog announced Monday night during a council meeting that the city has purchased multiple downtown properties including the former site of the Jean Burns building, located near the corner of Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue, for an undisclosed amount.
Also included in the purchase are the properties occupied by In Print and Black and Blue Tattoo, which are beside the vacant Jeans Burns building site along Terminal Avenue.
“With the purchase of In Print and Black and Blue Tattoo, council has taken bold steps to redevelop a key area of the city’s downtown,” Krog said during Monday’s meeting. “I think most of us would acknowledge that the intersections of Commercial and Terminal are the core of this city.”
Purchasing the property now allows the city to move forward with conceptual plans to redevelop the downtown area the Terminal Avenue-Commercial Street section of downtown Nanaimo. Those plans, according to the city’s website, include pedestrian improvements to Terminal Avenue, creating an “attractive public space or plaza” on the site of the former Jean Burns building, creating a transit hub between Terminal and Shaw Lane, and installing a cycle route through downtown via Albert Street.
“We all look forward on council to seeing action on this highly important part of our beautiful downtown,” said Krog, who later called the purchase a “major” step forward.
The Jeans Burns property has sat vacant as an empty hole near one of the city’s busiest intersections ever since a fire destroyed the buildings on the site in 2016. The City of Nanaimo, frustrated by the lack of action, served the owner, Crankshaw Holdings Ltd., notice of expropriation earlier this year.
Rick Hyne of Crankshaw Holdings, told CHEK News that following the fire there was a protracted fight to get a proper insurance payout and after a pandemic shutdown they were planning to redevelop the property when the city served them a notice of expropriation.
“We had already told the city that we weren’t interested in selling to the city or anybody else until we could obtain an accurate value of the site based on future needs,” he said. “We have been prevented from doing that so the price of the property that we sold to the city may not necessarily be what the value of the property may have been if we were allowed to continue.”
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Though conceptual plans are in place, nothing has been approved yet and residents will be able to provide input and feedback on those plans over the coming months, said Krog.
“This is an opportunity to help shape this city’s future, to build on what has been achieved today, and to enhance what we already have,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Victoria Cresent Association said it supports the revitalization of the former Jean Burns building property and the area around it, but with one caveat.
“The number one thing for the revitalization of downtown does need and that’s for sure is safety number one we all got to feel safe,” said Kevan Shaw of the Victoria Cresent Association.
The purchase price hasn’t been disclosed but the property was most recently assessed at more than $830,000.
CHEK News reached out to the City of Nanaimo regarding the purchase price of the properties and was told that the city “will be in a position” to disclose that information after the official closing date in mid-August.
To view conceptual plans for the Terminal Avenue section of downtown Nanaimo, click here.