A local consortium’s plan to redevelop the old Nelson Daily News building into offices, retail space, and potentially condos is being welcomed by neighbours and others.
“I think it’s great,” says Wayne Germaine of Valhalla Path Realty, which is next door. “New life will be put into it and it’s an excellent development for that end of Baker Street.”
Germaine says with the closure of the newspaper last year, the street “definitely deadened a bit.” But he has no doubt it can come back.
“It’s on its way. We’re going to see a transition that we’ve never seen. Everybody I’ve talked to at that end is really happy and excited that it’s going on.”
A local consortium, including Nelson lawyer Tim Pearkes and legal assistant Greg Haydu, announced last week they’ve bought the building from Glacier Media. Their vision is to completely renovate the interior and add on to the building to create several small condos.
Nelson Chamber of Commerce manager Tom Thomson says the development will dovetail nicely with their own restoration of the old railway station.
“It’s positive, absolutely,” he says. “When a building sits idle for a year, people start to wonder what’s going to happen. Anytime there’s new development potential, that’s fantastic.”
Thomson says despite a few holes, there are positives on the west end of Baker, including anchors like the Best Western Baker Street Inn and Dancing Bear Inn, as well as more recent additions like Big Cranium Design.
“The Nelson Daily News is a nice historical building. If these guys are prepared to invest in Baker Street, invest in the community, and invest in improvements, it’s a positive for the area.”
Heritage advocate and former Daily News employee Greg Scott also supports the project. “It’s an adaptable reuse of the building,” he says.
“I am a proponent of more housing downtown, because I think that’s the difference between a viable Baker Street or not — having people live there.”
Scott expects the renovations will be pricey, however. “As soon as you start tearing the walls apart, what’s there? There is some asbestos. There’s a drain in there that god knows what’s been poured down over the years. So there are some issues.”
He agrees there probably isn’t much worth saving inside, aside from some woodwork. Much of the existing wood panelling dates to 1956.
“When that drop ceiling comes off, and the top of those Palladian windows are shown, there may be some stuff hidden, but it’s not going to be like uncovering a hammered ceiling or anything like that,” he says.
Scott says he’s comfortable with additions to heritage buildings, believing they can be done sympathetically. “You don’t put gingerbread all over them, but you build them so they blend material-wise.”
He feels it would be possible to add on while maintaining the facade and retaining the building’s integrity.
“I’m glad to see somebody within the community that has a sense of the community buying it,” he adds. “I would rather see somebody like Tim [Pearkes] than some outsider.”
• The building’s iconic sign will be coming down, Haydu confirms, but is expected to be preserved.
• One drawback to the sale, perhaps, is an end to free parking on Baker Street — the building’s parking lot has been fenced.