Historic Building in downtown Nanaimo demolished


Jean Burns Building is torn down by early Sunday afternoon

Before the sun comes up Sunday morning crews are demolishing a piece of Nanaimo’s history.

Two of the Jean Burns buildings, that contain asbestos, are coming down.

They’re spraying water to ensure the toxic fibres stays out of the air.

“Some initial air sampling we just finished doing has indicated zero or negative air asbestos in the air so we’re happy about that,” says Rick Hyne of Crankshaw Holdings.

The fire started March 30th, 2016.

It took Nanaimo Fire Rescue 14 hours to put the fire out.

Investigators determined the cause to be an electrical issue. The flames destroyed 15 businesses including My Favourite Fabric Store.

“I just wanted to close the chapter,” says Tanya Gruszecki, My Favourite Fabric Store Owner. “It’s been a year since it happened so some closure would be nice.”

Gruszecki among those watching the demolition. When the fire happened her store had only been open 64 days. Despite a 10,000 dollar pay from insurance she was still out of pocket 20-thousand.

“It’s still heartbreaking,” says Gruszecki. “Like the pain doesn’t go away but I hope it will after this.”

Others also wanted to witness the buildings end.

“It had some nostalgia for me so coming down today thought it would be interesting to see. Historic event.” says demolition watcher Russ Fairweather.

“I hate to see it go but there’s got to be changes down here anyway,” says Tom McGladrey who was also watching. “Downtown needs more residential and stuff to pull people in.”

That’s a wish. The property’s future is a question yet to be answered.

“It depends on how much of a fight we have with the insurance company,” says Property Owner Jack Ball. “I’m paying for all of this out of my pocket. They’re not paying a nickel out on it so. We’ve got money from them but very little.”

Ball says the pay out has been just a couple hundred thousand dollars while he had insurance for $2.5 million.

A dispute that will carry on while the demolition will cost half a million.

For those impacted by the fire, the fall out is like a burn that still needs to heal.

The demolition wrapped up Sunday afternoon but sorting and disposing of the rubble is expected to take another 20 days. The building that housed the Acme Food Co. will be demolished at another time.


Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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