That iconic mural on the Reo’s building is fast disappearing. By the time you read this it might be gone. That’s the mural that caused such a commotion at city council in 2008 when it was first painted because some people thought its bright and wild look didn’t fit the heritage vibe.
Reo’s owned the building until last summer when it was purchased by Dave Harasym of DHC Communications Inc., a technology company whose offices and 18 staff members occupy much of the building.
Harasym says the surface of the building was deteriorating badly.
“In addition to peeling paint,” he says, “the existing stucco was cracked, damaged and leaking through in many areas. The best repair method was to patch the base and add a mesh ‘skimcoat’ throughout the most damaged areas. This ensures a long-lasting and resilient exterior finish.”
The coat being added now is not the final product. The building will be painted, not with a mural, but with a new colour scheme that Nelson designer David Dobie says will fit the neighbourhood.
Dobie was also the designer of the Reo’s mural, and he says the old design and the new one both serve the images of the businesses they represent.
“When I created the Reo’s videos mural it was a time of independent movie rental and I wanted to create an atmosphere of hilarity and whimsy. It was a nondescript building—it was a poorly built warehouse in the first place— so we felt we had a lot of licence.”
Dobie says a high-tech communications company calls for a different look.
“Now there is a new owner and new circumstances. We are going to make it more modern, more up to date, more technical.”
Harasym says he likes having Reo’s as a tenant in the building.
“It’s a somewhat unique mix of old tech downstairs and cutting edge new technology upstairs, but we all get along well,” he said.
Harasym and Dobie are tight-lipped about what the building will look like.
“As far as the final colour scheme and layout, well, you’ll have to wait for final completion later this summer and see for yourself,” says Harasym. “It will have some noticeable colour but nowhere near as wild as the former look. The final stucco layer will have embedded colour. New paint throughout will accent with additional colour and complete the overall consistent look of the building.”
“It will stand out in a different way,” says Dobie, “because it will have unique facade rendered in stucco and paint.”
Harasym says the building was constructed in 1898.
“The historic Swift’s Meat sign on the rear of the building will be maintained & surrounding brickwork rehabilitated to suit. During renovations a number of treasures were uncovered including a half-full container of pig lard from 1904, an 1898 Queen Victoria stamp and various documents dated 1901.”
Dobie says there is nothing about the building that would justify giving it special treatment. “It has no historical value as a piece of architecture,” he says.
In 2008, Nelson’s heritage commission turned down the new mural design but city council had the final word and they approved it in a 4-2 vote. One of the opposers was Councillor Robin Cherbo, who felt it clashed with Nelson’s downtown heritage look.
“I’m really concerned that this could open the floodgates to somebody that buys a building on Baker Street to paint it however they want,” Cherbo said at a council meeting, reported by the Nelson Daily News in 2008. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. But years down the road it could.”
Dobie has strong opinions on the heritage look and what it means. He says the treatment of a building is connected to its architecture and its original use.
“It is more about fitting in rather than having a specific look,” he said, “because it is an existing square box building with no historic value as a piece of architecture.” He said Nelson and its buildings can have an eclectic and authentic look without “adding a layer of phony history.”