1 Commercial Street, Nanaimo

‘Intention is to bring the community together:’ new era approaches for long-closed Nanaimo A&B Sound property

June 14, 2024

Alex Rawnsley, Nanaimo News Now — Despite minimal changes to the building’s exterior, work inside the old A&B Sound site in downtown Nanaimo is nearing completion.

A request for proposal stage is underway for tenants to occupy the newly-dubbed Soundworks property at 1 Commercial Dr., with developers looking to fill the building with local businesses, a market, restaurant and other downtown attractions.

Santanna Portman, from listing company William Wright Commercial, said to date they’ve gotten a few firm applications to infill the building under active renovation work.

She said more frequent tours are being arranged with more tangible transformations occurring.

“When A&B was open, they were the anchor downtown so the intention is to bring the community together, get some local businesses in here. The vibe will be an open market, local, we do have franchise interest as well but we really are handpicking as to who we want as users.”

The RFP runs to the end of June with a review set to be complete by July 31 and selected tenants able to move in and begin customizing their space this fall.

While the main street level space along Terminal Ave. will be dedicated to retail and service businesses, the upstairs portion (which has street level access off Wallace St.) will be primarily office space.

It’s believed the complex will open to the public by spring 2025, although an exact timeline is still to be determined.

Portman said a floor plan and general design is available for the property but with no interior walls yet constructed, everything is customizable.

“If you look at the floor plan, it’s definitely not set in stone so we’re able to adjust any bay sizes, adjust different capacity for what people need if they get in the early stages now. That’s why we’re putting a deadline to it so we can make those adjustments.”

The goal for construction crews, through work done by the designers, is to give the building some long-overdue attention while also paying tribute to its longstanding history in Nanaimo.

“It’s really a refresh of the building, bringing it back to its basic structure, improving on that where it needs to be improved. Just give it that fresh life to extend it out for a number of years,” site supervisor Michael Lewis of Montroyal Contracting, told NanaimoNewsNOW.

He said they’ve been able to check off a lot of milestones internally over recent weeks and are in good shape to rehabilitate the outside of the building over the summer.

“We should be starting more exterior work which the public will really see tangible changes to the outside of the building over the next couple of months. That target of late fall turning spaces over for tenants to really kind of sink their teeth into their improvements inside is very realistic.”

A new roof, updated canopy and installation of windows “from one end to the other, and then some” are among the items on the to-do list, according to Lewis.

He said one exciting part of the work to date was finding a brick flue from an old fireplace, which they were able to date back to the late 1920’s.

A portion of it was carefully removed and shipped to a museum in Medicine Hat for safe keeping.

He added what appears to be one solid building from the outside is actually the amalgamation of five or six structures which were merged or worked on at different times.

The most recent upgrades were in the 1970’s or 1980’s, according to Lewis, with A&B Sound closing and the location dormant since 2008.

A fourth-generation Nanaimo resident, Lewis said it’s a little surreal working on a project near and dear to both his past, but the community as a whole.

“I can look back in pictures from my grandparents of the building and think back to my own history with this building and the businesses that were in here. It’s really great to be able to add to our community something positive, give something old some new life.”

In addition to work being done on the building, the attached parking lot between Soundworks and Man Lee Oriental Market will also get a refresh, including a rain garden, trees and lighting.

More information on the space and available units is on the William Wright website.

Read the full article published by Nanaimo News Now

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This communication is not intended to cause or induce breach of an existing agency agreement. E&OE: All information contained herein is from sources deemed reliable, and have no reason to doubt its accuracy; however, no guarantee or responsibility is assumed thereof, and it shall not form any part of future contracts. Properties are submitted subject to errors and omissions and all information should be carefully verified. All measurements quoted herein are approximate.