PHOTO SUBMITTED BY TIDES OF CHANGE The historic building is a former nurses residence located near the ‘Namgis burial grounds.

Historic building in Alert Bay to be restored

Former St. George’s nurses residence could become a tourist attraction

An historic building in Alert Bay, will be getting a new lease on life.

The ‘Namgis First Nation is developing revitalization plans for the former St. George’s nurses’ residence that was constructed in 1925. The building is located on the Cormorant Island Waterfront near the culturally important ‘Namgis burial grounds.

“It’s a really nice asset that is right on the water and there is a need for more retail space or some kind of tourism related component in Alert Bay,” said Karla Duarte, Economic Development Officer for Tides of Change, which is a partnership between ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay, and is one of the first joint First Nation-Municipal economic development strategies in Canada.

Tides of Change’s priority areas are downtown revitalization and tourism, and Duarte said they identified the building as a candidate for restoration because, “It’s is the only building here that is from that time period and it’s in great condition.”

She added that resorting the historic building would “Enliven that whole area and get more people to take advantage of the harbour front.”

Several steps are already underway as Steelhead Enterprises Ltd.has been contracted to replace the roof to ensure that no further deterioration takes place, and a contract has been awarded to JWT architecture and Planning for preliminary concept drawings.

A design charette took place in january to get community input and Duarte said once the concept drawings are completed ‘Namgis council will decide what they would like to see go into the building once it’s restored.

A Tides of Change press release stated that the building has the potential to be a historic tourism attraction that uniquely embodies both First Nations and settler history, and could offer spaces for businesses, food services, and/or accommodations.

“I think people would take pride that it’s a nice project that is happening in their community,” said Duarte, adding “There’s still people in Alert Bay who used to be nurses and worked and lived in there so there’s a lot of memories that people have with this building.”

She also noted that in front of the building lies the headstones of some of the first settles of the area. “They were from the 1800s one of the first families that came to live in Alert Bay,” said Duarte.

Tides of Change is awaiting funding from Aoriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for remediation work to clear some minor asbestos in the basement of the building, but Duarte said the initial concept drawings are excepted to be completed in mid-march and will be voted on by ‘Namgis council at the end of the month.