A bird's eye view of Downtown Nanaimo at the intersection of Terminal Ave and Commercial Street features the old A&B Sound building on the left and the old Jean Burns building on the right. Courtesy of Nanaimo Archives
Nanaimo Vancouver Island

Downtown Nanaimo, Then and Now

Julie Chadwick December 3, 2020

Downtown Nanaimo is not the place it used to be. But while many once-iconic buildings sit empty, the memories remain. We dug into the Nanaimo Archives to bring you some downtown ‘then and now.’ 

1. Commercial Street and Terminal Avenue

The front side of the A&B Sound building is where people would line up for the epic Boxing Day sales. Today, it’s boarded up and covered with art, thanks to an initiative driven by local artists. 

2. Terminal Avenue

Many people will remember the service area around the back of the old A&B Sound building where the car stereos were installed.

 

 

3. Commercial Street

The side and end of the old A&B Sound used to house Pirate Chips, which was the final tenant of the end unit of the building. It was the only unit left to still have windows.

 

 



4. Terminal Avenue and Commercial Street

 Built in 1941, the Art Deco building at the intersection on the right used to house the Nanaimo Duncan Utilities Company. Today, it houses local shops.

5. Wallace and Albert Street

On the right is the Wallace Street side of the A&B Sound building, taken from the intersection near the old Merchant’s Bank of Canada building, now The Vault (not shown). The Edwardian-style commercial building on the left was built in 1912, and housed the old Diners Rendezvous restaurant, once one of Nanaimo’s most popular restaurants. Today, it’s home to Tandoori Junction Indian Cuisine.

6. Commercial Street

The Jean Burns building, which backs onto the China Steps, was constructed in 1955 and became the location of a high-end ladies and children’s wear shop for over 40 years. It went on to house many small businesses, including the Acme Food Company, before the entire building burned to the ground in 2016. Due to various geotechnical and permitting challenges, it it has not been rebuilt since, and today, it’s known as “the hole.”

 

 


Julie Chadwick is reporting for The Discourse as we work to make our in-depth coverage of Nanaimo permanent. You can show your support for this work by signing up to get emails from us here.