A B.C. union has purchased a long-empty downtown Nelson building.
The BC General Employees’ Union bought the heritage building at 561 Josephine St. for $1.3 million. The stone structure, built in 1920, has been vacant for 11 years and was most recently occupied by Nelson Home Furniture.
BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch says the building needs extensive structural repairs.
“It’s something that would make less sense for (short-term) investors, to simply turn a profit, but would make more sense for us as a union, with a long-term presence in Nelson and across the region. We’ve done a cost benefit analysis on that, and we think we can do it.”
He said the location will become a regional office and the union will close its current rented Castlegar office.
But the 10,000 square foot building will become more than a union office, and other uses could include rental housing. Finch said the union might add more storeys to the building, depending on engineering reports and the wishes of city council.
“We’re in the process of weighing our options,” he said.
The property is listed in the Nelson heritage registry as “old city garage,” according to city planner Rhiannon Barbour.
“There is a covenant on the property registered in favour of the City of Nelson protecting the exterior appearance of the building,” she said. “This means the city will have significant discretion in how the façade is retained in the redevelopment.”
Across the province, according to the union’s website, its 85,000 members represent employees in the provincial government, community social services, education, highways maintenance, casinos, credit unions, municipalities, and regional districts.
The union represents about 1, 800 members in the West Kootenay.
The BCGEU, before a name change in 2021, was previously known as the BC Government Employees’ Union.