Special Offers

Click on our special offers and latest deals below for great savings and benefits for use during your stay with the painted Turtle Guesthouse.

Make a Reservation

Make your reservation with the Painted Turtle Guesthouse. Enter details and click BOOK NOW for room options & availability

Arrival Date
Nights Arrow Arrow
Departure Date
Reset Dates
Error Message
Bruce Barnard, owner of the Painted Turtle Guesthouse in Nanaimo, says city incentives helped him restore the building.
CREDIT: Krista Bryce/Daily News
Bruce Barnard, owner of the Painted Turtle Guesthouse in Nanaimo, says city incentives helped him restore the building.
Incentive programs begun by the city of Nanaimo seven years to encourage the retention and restoration of Nanaimo's most historically and culturally significant buildings appear to be paying off. There has been a flurry of activity in recent years on a number of the approximately 160 structures designated as heritage buildings by the Nanaimo Heritage Commission. Its inventory was last completed in 1998, as the city and property owners worked together to preserve these buildings as close to their original designs as possible. One of the more popular heritage programs is the facade grant, through which the city pays 50% of the costs of renovating and upgrading the outside of heritage buildings up to $10,000. It has led to 25 separate heritage renovation projects by private property owners in the city since 2003. While the city has contributed $300,000 toward renovations through the program since it began, the private sector, which owns the vast majority of properties in Nanaimo with heritage designation, has in turn invested about $2 million. Permissive tax exemptions from the city that allow designated heritage property owners to invest in their buildings have also shown success. Chris Sholberg, Nanaimo's heritage planner, said these are the kind of results the NHC and city officials had hoped to achieve as part of their Heritage Action Plan, that laid the groundwork for preserving some of the area's oldest buildings when it was adopted by city council shortly after the heritage registry was established. He said the city hosted a public meeting in November looking for input into how residents want Nanaimo's strategy to maintain its most precious buildings to proceed, but he acknowledged the city has accomplished the vast majority of objectives that can be attained under municipal jurisdiction. All that's left for city officials is to "tweak" what's already in place. Bruce Barnard, the owner of downtown's Painted Turtle Guesthouse, said about one-third of the entire cost of the $350,000 worth of renovations that was completed on the once-decrepit building before he reopened it in 2004 was covered through the city's heritage grant programs. The city decided to give Barnard a one-time, five-year heritage tax exemption when he bought the building to allow him more money to invest in the structure, formerly the Commercial Hotel. He said the exemption alone has added up to about $100,000 over the five years which he reinvested back into the building. "Nanaimo has a long history and I think that any efforts by the city to enhance that keep its heritage buildings intact is great news for everyone concerned," said Barnard, an Australian who decided to invest and move to Nanaimo after his wife, Angie, and himself visited the city in 2003. The criteria for inclusion of the city's heritage registry is that the buildings must have either some architectural values that are unique, and/or they are connected to some historical event or persons in Nanaimo. However, as most are privately owned, being listed on the registry does not mean their heritage values will be maintained, or even save them from the wrecking ball if the owners chose to tear them down. Just six buildings in the city, mostly publicly owned, have been given special municipal designation as heritage properties, which means the city has a significant say in their maintenance and upkeep. They are the Bastion, E&N Railway Station, Beban House, Great National Land Building, Piper Park's Miner's Cottage and Commercial Street's Earl Block. "At the end of the day, almost every action that the city can take to help preserve its heritage buildings under our municipal jurisdiction has now been taken," Sholberg said. "I find it unfortunate that the federal and provincial governments are not more actively involved in helping maintain heritage buildings. Other than a few small grant programs that have since been cancelled, the feds were hardly ever in the game and the province began pulling out of its heritage funding programs in the 1990s." Barnard said he was "intrigued" by the city's downtown and its heritage values since he first laid eyes on it in 2003. He said the city's programs and approach to its heritage buildings this decade has done much to preserve the downtown's core's distinctive heritage and architectural styles. "When we were renovating the Commercial Hotel, we found an old photo of the hotel as it was in 1875 when it was in operation across the street, and our contractors would often refer to it during the renovations," Barnard said. "The city's on the right track, but I think a lot more can still be done. The city and downtown organizations should be more aggressively targeting the heritage buildings and work harder to stimulate more investment into them."
Robert Barron
Daily News