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Fire safety upgrades underway at Ward Street Place

Ward Street Place - Sam Van Schie photo
Ward Street Place
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

Work is underway to install a new fire sprinkler system at Ward Street Place.

The 100-year-old building at the corner of Ward and Victoria streets contains 37 low cost rental units and five commercial storefronts. Stepping Stones emergency shelter runs out of the basement.

The Nelson CARES society bought the property 10 years ago, and recently refinanced the building to come up with the $400,000 for fire safety improvements.

"When this building was built, there were very different fire regulations," explained Jenny Robinson, executive director of Nelson CARES. "We take our community responsibility very seriously, and we want to ensure we're doing everything we can to protect our clients, tenants and commercial retailers in the building."

Local contractor Trainor Mechanical has set up a workshop in a mobile storage unit outside the building. The workers need to completely re-build the water system in the building before they can install the piping for sprinklers in every room.

"It's a pretty elaborate undertaking," Robinson said. "When it's finished there will be sprinklers everywhere, from the commercial spaces to the closets and bathrooms."

Besides the sprinkler systems, there will also be a new fire alarm system installed and electrical upgrades in the suites, as well as interior door treatment to improve fire safety. The work is scheduled to be complete by March.

This is the first phase is a larger revitalization project planned for the building. Further improvements are grant dependent (Robinson expects to hear back about a $1 million grant from Columbia Basin Trust and BC Housing any day now).

Future improvements could include moving Stepping Stones out of the basement and renovating that part of the building to include 12 new rental units. The society also wants to restore the heritage facade of the building to improve the look of the streetscape, and make the building more energy efficient.

Nelson CARES is planning a community fundraiser, which will launch next year, to help cover some of the costs of the improvements.

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