Fire is a great equalizer. It can destroy things in a manner of moments, and it can also be responsible for rebirth and regrowth as evidenced by forests years after fire rages through it. In some stories we find a place or facility that is so meaningful to the community that those who live there would literally move mountains and earth to do the impossible; that is to resurrect something that at first look appeared lost.
The morning of August 26th, 2007 was like many other mornings in the budding metropolis of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. That is except for the harbinger of change that was settling into the historical train station in the heart of the city. By 4:50AM a local resident looked out his window at the train station to see signs of smoke billowing from the facility. In moments the damage had been done and a significant piece of local history appeared to be lost.
The first few days after the fire found mass confusion. The Island Corridor Foundation had just recently taken over the premises from VIA Rail and there was a high level of uncertainty whether or not there was even fire insurance on the building. And if there was, would it be enough to rebuild. Many local experts who surveyed the property after the fire had serious doubts. The damage was significant and extensive and there was little money in the cities coffers to deal with such a thing.
Once again we find ourselves amidst a story of hope and perseverance. This wonderful old station was not only one of six remaining buildings in the city that hold federal and municipal heritage status, it was an actively used train station that served the island’s rail corridor. No one wanted to see it disappear even though the political will and appetite to do something seemed less than exuberant.
As it turned out there was indeed an insurance plan in effect. This was a nice start, but the funds required to fully refurbish the facility were well outside the scope of the funds received from the policy. Local groups were formed and a coalition of sorts was created. They then set about the massive undertaking of raising millions upon millions of dollars to get the job done.
And do the job they did.
Darren Moss, a director of Tectonica Management and the construction manager, called it a challenging project, but rewarding to work on.
“We ended up lifting the building, blasting underneath, reconstructing a new foundation and then giving it structural upgrades and seismic improvements,” he said. “Then we had to conceal all the modern-day mechanical systems within the fabric of a 100-year-old building.”
And the results truly speak for themselves. According to several experts, the job was done well beyond expectations and the contractor involved in the project went over-and-beyond the call of duty to truly achieve the goals set out. Today it’s open again, a lovely little restaurant the first tenant just waiting for rail service to begin again on the corridor. Given the work that was undertaken to rebuild what was once was thought lost, and the impeccable quality of the work, all Islanders have a future to look forward to that includes this truly important building.
We couldn’t be more thrilled.
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