The Nelson CARES Society is thrilled to announce that the enormous heritage restoration project of the Annable Block (Ward Street Place) has been chosen as the recipient of the Honour Award in the Conservation category for this year’s BC Heritage Awards. Since purchasing this iconic building in 2002 it has required a huge commitment from Jenny Robinson and the entire Nelson CARES team, including the board of directors as well as a slew of highly skilled trades people to ensure it was returned to the safe and beautiful building it once was for its 45 residential and seven commercial tenants. 

“It was truly a labour of love to restore and bring dignity back to this amazing building and to the people who live there,”  said project manager Jenny Robinson. 

Ron Little, Nelson CARES board chair has this to say “This award is a wonderful acknowledgement for the building which now outwardly reflects the safety, stability and sense of community for the residents inside.”

Since 1912, the Annable Block (Ward Street Place) has been home to offices, storefronts, and furnished one-room apartments that still serve our community today. When Nelson CARES acquired the building, it pledged to do everything possible to safeguard the long-term viability of the last affordable housing site in downtown Nelson. 

Much of the very essential background work would not have been possible without the work of Steffan Haake and the Nelson CARES maintenance team. 

Steffan Haake, maintenance lead at Ward Street Place shares “It’s been a real privilege to have an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to me and my family.  I’m honoured to have been part of a project that helps conserve our town’s rich history and simultaneously help deal with the present housing crisis that troubles so many of our communities.” 

Nelson CARES completed a Heritage Conservation Plan in 2018, which detailed significant upgrades to the building including, a rebuild of the roofline cornice, preservation of original Florentine glass transoms, awning renewal, updated cooling/heating system and new doors and windows.

Bill Lynch, project manager states “For me this has been not only an education in antique materials and design, but an eye-opening discovery that we have here in our community the contractors and the tradespeople capable of taking on some very unique challenges and also capable of reviving some antique skills. I hope that passers-by will stop for a moment to look closely at the roofline cornice to consider the puzzle of how the Heritage Roofing team made curved sheet-metal seams on the decorative dentils and corbels; see if they can tell which of the storefront windows by Kootenay Glass are new and which are original; which of the wood doors by Forest Designs are new and which are original; enjoy the beautiful awnings by Speedpro Signs and the paint by Valor Painting.”

In 2011 a budget was developed for the long-term restoration and operation of the building including a 30-year maintenance reserve. In 2014 Room to Live, a $700,000 fundraising campaign, partnered with the community to renovate one residential unit at a time. The community could watch as the ‘windows’ on the building thermometer were lit up one at a time indicating that another single-room occupancy residence had been renovated to make them more livable and safe. In 2017 extensive interior renovations were completed including a fire suppression system. 

Elana Zysblat, Heritage Consultant, CAHP Ance Building Services, said “This project involved not only a fascinating old building, with multiple layers to restore or reveal, but the most satisfying aspect was working with Nelson CARES staff, Bill Lynch and the various local trades. Everyone in Nelson was open, curious and willing to go on this ride into the unknown, which indeed brought surprises at every turn. Together, we troubleshooted every challenge and all learned so much in the process. A meaningful win-win for the building, its tenants and those of us who worked on the project!”

Nelson CARES Society looks forward to maintaining Ward Street Place, a bastion of affordable housing, for many years to come and would like to thank the commercial and residential residents for their patience and understanding during these extensive renovations. Lastly, the Society reserves its most profound thanks for its donors, partners, and supporters throughout our community who helped preserve one of Nelson’s historic jewels. 

This project was made possible with the support of the Columbia Basin Trust, the technical guidance of BC Heritage experts and the many skilled trades in our community of Nelson who worked on the project. 

Nelson CARES Society