Celebrating 100 years: Great National Land Building

Guess what building in downtown Nanaimo is celebrating its 100th birthday? The Great National Land Building is one of Nanaimo’s best examples of Neo-Classical Revival architecture and is located at the intersection of Church Street and Chapel Street.

5ChurchNanaimo Celebrating 100 years: Great National Land Building
Best example of Neo-Classical Architecture in Nanaimo is on Church Street, built in 1914.

In 1901 the Canadian Bank of Commerce absorbed the Bank of British Columbia and assumed control of their branches.

In December 1901 the Bank of BC building erected in 1888 was demolished and replaced by a two storey brick bank constructed on a triangular shaped lot formed by the junction of Church and Chapel Street, facing Commercial Street. The address was 5 Church Street.

That structure was designed by local architect James Kelly and comprised a banking hall on the corner with offices above and a block of stores at the rear. James Kelly also designed Haslam Hall (1893) 15 Wallace Street, Nanaimo.

ChurchStBank1 Celebrating 100 years: Great National Land Building
Corner of Church Street and Chapel Street Nanaimo  1977

By late 1913, increased business called for larger banking facilities and the banking section of the 1901 building was torn down. A flat iron-shaped building was begun in November 1913, and completed in 1914. V.D. Horsburgh, was the staff architect for Dominion Realty, a subsidiary of the Canadian Bank of Commerce.

Horsburgh designed all of the bank’s branches that were built between 1910 and 1922.

The portico built in Nanaimo was the result of trying to utilize the narrow end of a gore shaped lot.

DanforthBroadview Celebrating 100 years: Great National Land Building
Danforth and Broadview in Toronto, sister building

A contemporary wedge-shaped branch similar to the Nanaimo structure and also designed by Horsburgh was built at the corner of Danforth and Broadview in Toronto. (see photo to left)

A major interior feature of the 1914 Nanaimo branch was its circular banking hall, opening off the main entrance. Cheque tables were located in the center, with wickets and counters on the inner side. Various offices radiated from the hall, beginning with the manager’s, located on  the left side, adjacent to the vestibule. The floor of the main hall was of white marble; murals decorated the walls.

When completed the Neo-Classical structure was considered one of the finest buildings in Nanaimo. It continued to serve as a branch of the Canadian (Imperial) Bank of Commerce until March 1960.

The building was eventually acquired by Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney, president of Nanaimo Company, who renamed it the Frontier Building. Back in the day the “Frontier Building” was the pulse centre of Nanaimo’s business district as Frank Ney, land developer, real estate agent and politician, built the city.

In 1977 a six storey office tower was added.  The accounting firm Church Pickard, a tenant since the addition was built, moves out in December along with Coast Realty Group.  Owner Norman Blattgerste has not revealed to the media what his plans are; maybe it will be renovated, leased or sold.

A heritage designation was given to the building in 1997 by the City of Nanaimo after a $1-million renovation to the exterior.

So much has changed over the last 100 years. What stories will this building have to tell over the next hundred years?

Mid Vancouver Island Voter Challenge results

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There was an unofficial Mid Vancouver Island voter challenge running between Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Lantzville, Nanaimo and Ladysmith. How many people got out and voted? Here is the voter turnout for the six mid-island communities:

  • Qualicum Beach: 62.16%
  • Lantzville: 50.6%
  • Port Alberni: 46.3%
  • Ladysmith: 42.5%
  • Parksville: 35.2%
  • Nanaimo: 34.7%

Unfortunately, Nanaimo was dead last. Why are almost 70% of Nanaimo voters uninterested in their community? Is it true that only the elderly and the religious get out and vote? The reason that low voter turnout is such a concern is that this is an indication of a  totalitarian regime under which people are poor, uneducated, uninformed and individual opinions are suppressed.  Robust voter turnout is fundamental to a healthy democracy.  An indifferent population is much easier to control than an informed one.  Is that the overall plan?

Here are the results of the November 2014 civic election, numbers show votes:

  • Nanaimo  Mayor elect  Bill McKay: 6400
    Elected councillors:
  • Bestwick, Bill: 10218 (incumbent)
  • Yoachim, Bill: 8794
  • Pratt, Wendy: 8307
  • Kipp, Jim: 7142 (incumbent)
  • Hong, Jerry: 6996
  • Thorpe, Ian: 6745
  • Fuller, Gordon: 6703
  • Brennan, Diane: 6547 (incumbent)

Look at the numbers. Notice that every elected councillor received more votes than the elected mayor. Only three councillors were re-elected.  Is this what a pro-incinerator slate looks like? We shall find out sooner than later. Will McKay and his team send the arts community packing? How long will the City Manager and the Communications Director last?

Despite all his McKay ‘back scrubbing’, blogger Jim Taylor wasn’t rewarded with a council seat. Also, Kevin Cantelon, the son of Ron Cantelon (former MLA and  Nanaimo councillor) was dropped.

Many new people were elected as SD68 trustees:

  • Higginson, Stephanie:  9545
  • Kimler, Scott: 8490
  • Solomon, Jeff: 7463
  • Rae, Steve: 7270
  • Bob, Natasha: 7243
  • Brzovic, Tania: 7020
  • Routley, Noah: 6564
  • Brennan, Jamie: 6275 (incumbent)
  • Robinson, Bill: 6242 (incumbent)

There are seven new SD68 school trustees. This is a big change with only two incumbent trustees surviving the election. Will this new group have any luck in getting more help for students of SD68? It should be interesting to watch what happens over the next four years until the 2018 civic election.

MayorMcK Mid Vancouver Island Voter Challenge results
New Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay, looks like he won the 6/49 lotto – maybe he did?

Predicting Nanaimo voter turnout 2014 and more

The big question on everyone’s mind is how many people will vote in the 2014 civic election? There was one advance poll held on November 5th. Here is the voter turnout:

  • Nanaimo: 835 voters
  • Parksville: 301 voters
  • Qualicum Beach: 702 voters
  • Port Alberni: 624 voters

The circle shows the number of people who voted compared to the relative populations:
Nanaimo: 83,810 (blue)
Parksville 11,852 (red)
Qualicum Beach 8,481 (green)
Port Alberni 17,743 (yellow)

Let’s hope more Nanaimo residents will vote. Everyone makes a difference!

Here is a quick overview of civic election hot topics and referendum questions for the mid Vancouver island area:

Nanaimo:
Referendum questions: none
Hot topics:  Colliery Dams, tax increases, long term lease of Georgia Park, incinerator at Duke Point

Parksville:
Referendum questions: none
Hot topics:  the estimated $37 million water treatment project on the Englishman River

Qualicum Beach:
Referendum questions: 1
increasing in size of Town of Qualicum Beach Council from 4 councillors to 6 councillors
Hot topics: Expanding the community boundaries

Port Alberni:
Referendum questions: 2
borrowing for a bridge at Roger Creek at 10th Avenue,  approximate cost $14.6 million resulting in tax increases to the average homeowner of $160 per year for 25 years.
– establishing a Sproat Lake Marine Patrol service
Hot topics: Tax increases, water, air quality

Ladysmith:
Referendum questions: 1
- non-binding opinion referendum question on providing funding for the Cowichan Sportsplex
Hot topics: Expanding the community boundaries

Nanaimo Regional District:
Referendum questions: none
Hot topics: Tax increases, incinerator

Lantzville:
Referendum Questions: 1
reducing the size of the District of Lantzville Council from 6 councillors to 4 councillors
Hot topics: Expansion of boundaries, tax increases, water

In the last three years there have been hundreds of people who attended Council or Committee Of the Whole (COW) meetings in Nanaimo. Every area of Nanaimo has been affected by City of Nanaimo decisions:

North Nanaimo: Pioneer Park, Hammond Bay cell tower
Central Nanaimo: Linley Valley, Linley Valley Drive
Departure Bay: BC Ferry signage, mall expansion into Lynburn Estates
South Nanaimo: Colliery Dams, Harbour sale, Georgia Park

In addition, there were zoning changes that brought many concerned residents to come before council meetings.

If every one of these people who appeared at COW meetings and Council meetings were to get out and vote and convince one or two others, the turnout for Nanaimo could be record-breaking. Some predict the Nanaimo voter turnout could be in the 35-38% range. Only 27% of eligible voters in Nanaimo cast their ballots in 2011.

You have 2 more chances to vote. Make it count!

  • Wednesday, November 12th from 8 am to 8 pm and
  • the BIG voting day is Saturday, November 15th
RDay Predicting Nanaimo voter turnout 2014 and more
Remembrance Day – Lest we Forget.

***Remember those who were sent to off to war.  On the 11th hour of November 11th, pause and reflect on those who sacrificed their lives so you have the opportunity to vote.

This photo was taken October 1, 1940 in New Westminster. These men from Nanaimo were marching off to the Second World War in Europe.

2011 – 2014 Nanaimo Civic Politics Review

Let’s look back—what happened in Nanaimo Civic Politics from 2011- 2014? Nanaimo’s last civic election was in 2011.  The citizens elected 1 Mayor and 8 Councillors.  The following were elected in 2011:
The Mayor: John Ruttan*
Councillors:  George Anderson, Bill Bestwick *, Diane Brennan*, Ted Greves*, Diana Johnstone, Jim Kipp*, Bill McKay*, and Fred Pattje*.  (*are running again November 15, 2014 election.)

Over the last 3 years, so much has happened, the outgoing Mayor and council have been very busy.  Here is a list of some topics that came up at council over the past 3 years:

Also, Nanaimo voters elected 9 school district trustees back in 2011. They were Donna Allen, Bill Bard*, Jamie Brennan*, Nancy Curley*, Kim Howland*, Dot Neary*, Bill Robinson*, TerryLynn Saunders*, and Sharon Welch*. (*are running again November 15, 2014 election.)

Over the last 3 years some of the issues covered were the massive school closures in South Nanaimo and the endless land swaps and property sell offs.  There were budget troubles and shortfalls. Also, teachers and teacher assistants were cut and student services have been gutted.

Here are some posts over the last 3 years relating to SD68:

Advanced polls open this week on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 and also on the following Wednesday, November 12, 2014.   Polls are open from 8am to 8pm at the Bowen Park Auditorium, 500 Bowen Road, Nanaimo.

You can take in more information at these public forums:

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce is hosting an all candidates meeting showcasing school trustee and civic hopefuls on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 from 5 to 9:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

The Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association is hosting an all candidates meeting showcasing school trustee hopefuls on Thursday, November 6, 2014:  6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at John Barsby Community Secondary School.

The Parent Advisory Council from John Barbsy Community Secondary is hosting all candidates meetings showcasing school trustee hopefuls Thursday & Friday, November 13th & 14th from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at John Barsby Community Secondary School.

***Breaking *** Upset residents on Rutherford Road have a petition under way now. They want to stop Linley Valley Drive, a major connector planned from Departure Bay to Turner Road. Below is a video of the latest “RALLY IN THE VALLEY” thanks to Shaw TV.

Colliery Dams – studies on dam failure

What’s happening with the Colliery Dams? Do the dams need to be repaired or not? Two areas of concern have been identified for the Colliery Dams:

  • Would the dams survive an earthquake
  • Would the dams survive a flood

It has been determined that the Colliery Dams will not fail in a seismic event. The dams are in much better condition than previously thought.

Now the concern is what would happen if there was a flood.  At the September 15th Committee of the Whole meeting Councillor Kipp raised some interesting points:

  • Dam Inspection report: January 21, 2012 = no risks.
  • Dam Inspection report: August 12, 2012 = problem.
  • City spent $1 million between 2012-13 to study problems.
  • City spent $2.47 million to conduct studies related to a seismic event.
  • Now city would like to spend approximately $400,000 on a Hydraulic study

This would mean that the cost of the safety studies on Colliery Dams will total approximately $4 million dollars.

At the September 15th meeting it was decided to hold off on approving the Hydraulic study until a number of concerns could be addressed and included.

It the Hydraulic study goes ahead it would determine the rate of erosion in a flood situation and what would happen if the lower dam overtopped. This study would answer questions such as: how would the embankment hold up? Would the core concrete wall inside fail? Where would the water go?

CDembankment Colliery Dams   studies on dam failure
Colliery Dam embankment – would this area fail if water went over it?

A scale model would be built of the Colliery dams to see how the embankment behind the dams would hold up. Then an overtopping event would be conducted to see what would happen.

CDspillway1 Colliery Dams   studies on dam failure
Colliery Dam Spillway – would the water go over the sides?

The scale model would cost about $100,000 to build. From that model engineers would find out how best to armour the dam for a failure event. The explanation as to why the scale model is so expensive is because in doing the tests the scale model will get destroyed and they would have to rebuild the model again.

The Colliery Dam Technical Committee disbanded at the end of August 2014 and by September 8th they decided upon a Hydraulic Study which could lead to options of either overtopping repairs or expanding the spillway size or leaving the dams as they are.

Many people spoke at the September 15th Committee of the Whole meeting and had several questions that remain unanswered such as:

  • What about the back fill?
  •  What would happen to the fish?
  • Why can’t the water level be lowered prior to the wet season?
  • Why was a drain pipe filled with concrete?
  • Why was there no updated drilling done on the bank?
  • Why has no soil profile been taken so far?
  • Why was only a sonic sample taken?
  • How can we make a model of the dam if we haven’t done soil samples?
  • Have there been any water/drainage flow studies done of the area?
  • Have there been any rainfall studies done?

One speaker commented on the concrete core shown in green in the drawing below:

“…it shows that the concrete core is narrow from top to bottom…they are built tapered, thicker at the bottom, we paid $500,000 for a study…they drilled two holes 30 feet from the concrete straight down…if they drilled the hole 10 feet away from the wall then they might have discovered the footing of the dam and found that the dam core is tapered… no dam in the world looks like this…it’s just wrong.”

Take a look at the diagram below:

CDhydraulicstudydiagram Colliery Dams   studies on dam failure
Flood event: what would happen? Green represents concrete core which speaker noted is the wrong shape

The city was going to hold a public open house in September but it was cancelled.

Repairing the dams will mean another multi-million project. Are these dam repairs really necessary? Is this overreaction? Ironically, if these dams were still in the hands of a coal mine operator, it would be doubtful if the same scrutiny would be applied.

CDrepairoptions Colliery Dams   studies on dam failure
Colliery Dam repair options – either $3+million or $8.2 million to repair

Note that Option 1 for a Hydraulic Study has increased to $400,000 to cover model building.

Why hasn’t the City given the same attention to the miles of coal tunnels under the City of Nanaimo and Protection Island? When Duke Point was being blasted in the early 80’s, many homeowners complained of sinkholes on their property. It was proven by the engineer that the root cause of the sinkholes was the old coal tunnels. What about the new five star hotel slated to be built next to the Number One coal shaft? Who would be liable if there was a failure?

The Colliery Dams were completed on May 1, 1911. The dams have stood for 103 years. They withstood a 7.3 earthquake that shook Nanaimo and Vancouver Island on June 23, 1946.

Why can’t the City just let the dams be? A simple drain would most likely solve the problem. It’s as if the taxpayers are being held hostage on this project.

Nanaimo Civic Election 2014 Hot Issues

The Nanaimo Civic Election will be held on November 15th and everyone will have an opportunity to vote for the next mayor and council who will sit for the next four years.

So why should you vote? Here are some topics of interest:

Many people are under the impression that the WTE incinerator will not happen. The reality is that the incinerator location issue is too hot of a topic to have around election time so it has been shelved until after the municipal elections are over.

Metro Vancouver’s plan to build a new $517-million WTE incinerator will probably resurface and when it does where will they build it? Metro has mentioned that it has committed to stop using the Cache Creek landfill.  What are the alternatives, burn the garbage or bury the trash in other landfills? Will the new package and paper recycling system overseen by Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC) be effective in diverting waste?

Just recently the provincial government rejected Metro Vancouver’s Bylaw 280, which sought to ban garbage shipments out of the region. There are two opposing camps; those who want to recycle and landfill and those who want to burn garbage.  The question is who will win out in the end?

The incinerator folks have lots of clout and this is a great time to stack the incoming mayor and councils in areas that are of interest to them. We know that Duke Point was one of the sites chosen for the proposed incinerator so could we see a slate of pro-incinerator politicos installed?

There are 10 people running for mayor of Nanaimo. Here’s a quick look at where they appear to stand on this issue: N = opposed to WTE incinerator Y = support WTE with zero waste system

Bruni Bruni: N
Kendal Justus Csak: ?
Bill Holdom: N
Gary Korpan: ?
Alisha Neumann-Ladret: N
Bill Mckay: Y
Roger McKinnon: ?
Jim Routledge : Y
John Ruttan: N
Al Thompson: ?

There are 26 candidates running for council. If the past serves as any reference then there are only three new council seats up for grabs.

As far as Georgia Park goes, will the park get leased out to the new Hilton Hotel? It’s your waterfront park and an important public asset.  Who stands to gain?

Other hot topics here in Nanaimo that people might want to think about include:

Check out Nanaimo Election page — they have a complete list of all the candidates and their contact information so you can ask candidates any questions.

Check out some forums by Progressive Nanaimo. There will be a New Candidates Forum this Wednesday, Oct 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Beban Park Social Centre. If you missed their first two forums you can watch the candidates on youtube. Round One and Round two.

The best thing this current council has done is videotaped all the council meetings and committee of the whole meetings and put them on the City website. They are archived and before the recent blackout because of the election they were live streamed. Make sure you check out some of these videos. It is the best value for your tax money!