Feature Story                                                                                                                Monday, May 26, 2014

 

Commercial Revitalization

Big plans for old courthouse, a former nuclear fallout shelter

Staff/Voice photos

 

The old Chilliwack Courthouse at the corner of College and Victoria is being turned into commercial space for lease.

 

cloud of gray dust billows up from what once was the Chilliwack courthouse on Victoria Ave. where crews are tearing out large chunks of roofing material and heave it into a bin on the ground.

At first glance, it appears the red brick structure, which has been vacant for almost 15 years, finally has a date with the wrecker's ball.

But that's not the case. Plans are in the works to refit the building for commercial leases and possibly even residential units.

Daniel Werner from WDI Contracting, told the Voice on Saturday that a group of Chilliwack business people think the structure is worth saving.

 

According to Werner, who has the architectural blueprints, the building was designed to serve as a nuclear fallout shelter for diplomats in the 1950s during the Cold War, and so extras were added during construction. For instance, the reinforced concrete and steel columns have been driven 25 feet down.

"You can't build a structure now as good as they built back then for a comparable price," he said.

Werner isn't sure when the job will be done.

"That depends on the City," he said. "We can start right now, but it takes time to get the paperwork done and everything else."

The property will have to be rezoned from a P1 (Civic Assembly) zone to P2 (Special Institutional) zone first. A P2 zoning "is best suited for medical and private care facilities and general public use facilities."

"Originally it was set up for court. Now we need bigger spaces for the units that will be going in there," he explained.


Daniel Werner (R) speaks with one of his crew at the former courthouse on Saturday.
 

Fnal plans haven't been carved in stone, but the group wanted to make sure that the proper zoning was in place should they decide on a mix of commercial and residential use.

Werner couldn't say when the renovations would be complete but indicated crews will be finished gutting the structure in a couple of weeks.

"The roofline's going to change but we're not going to add a floor not yet anyway. We're still looking at things," he said.

The building has been targeted by metal thieves over the years that it's sat empty. But Werner says they'll have lots of security as construction continues and the power is restored.

"Now we're running off of generators to get going. We applied for the power and when we have power, there's going to be a motion detector and cameras all throughout which will stay until the building is in use," he explained. "If someone jumps over the fence, the motion detector will go off and you're going to hear the siren. The cops are just around the corner."

 

 

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