FORT NELSON, B.C. – The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has received three options for renovating Fort Nelson’s Town Square building.

The three competing plans involve three increasingly intense—and, by extension, expensive—renovations. 

The first requires only the improvements required to ensure the building is up to current provincial building codes.

The second will do these upgrades and improve the municipal offices housed in the building, making them more efficient and a better use of the space.

The third and most extensive option is a “revamp of the entire building,” according to Jak McCuaig, of McCuaig & Associates Engineering, presenting the firm’s options to council.

Tenants in the Town Square building include the district library, the Phoenix Theatre, the Fort Nelson Playschool, Northern Health’s Mental Health Clubhouse, and Service BC.

Each tenant was asked what they would love to see in a renovated building, and each had a list of requests that varied widely, but all included improved accessibility, better layouts, and additional space.

According to McCuaig, there is space in the building that is not used as well as it could be—it would be from this square footage that requests for more space would come.

He made clear to council that if it ever wanted to make changes to the building on this scale, they should be made now. Otherwise, work from the currently proposed renovation would likely have to be taken down to make changes in the future.

The question, then, becomes one of the future, not just of a building but of a community. 

And whether or not that future is one of growth that requires a redone public building on the scale the third option proposes. 

“The question that people are asking without asking it,” councillor Danny Soles said, “is whether or not we have a future—whether this community has a future.”

The amount of money expected for each plan jumps from $17,642,600 for the limited option one to $18,092,250 for the functional renovations to the municipal operations section of the building proposed in option two.

Option three, once completed, would equal a $22,095,400 investment in the building. There is also an option to plan for option three but stage the project, completing tenant renovations over a series of time. This, McCuaig warned, would leave a public-facing part of the building clearly unfinished and keep parts of the building vacant for some time. 

The requested tenant renovations comprise a $2.5 million increase in the potential budget required for the project.

These changes would allow the playschool to potentially expand to a full daycare centre, make the Phoenix theatre wheelchair accessible, and add space for mental health care in the town.

Council, with some members not in attendance, moved to postpone their decision on the plan until absent councillors could review the information.

Selecting the plan is the last stage before a final design can be drawn up for the changes to the building.

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Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.