The historic old Nanaimo Free Press building at 223 Commercial St. will soon see a new restaurant established on its ground floor.
Morgan Carey, president and CEO of the Nanaimo-based realestate web design and marketing firm Real Estate Webmasters, is investing approximately $2 million to completely renovate the old building where he plans to consolidate his operations in the city.
Carey said the kitchen on the main floor of the building is already being used to provide meals, which are prepared by Red-Seal certified chefs, for his approximately 70 staff members who are currently working in two nearby offices.
He said that when the renovations at the building, located at the intersection of Commercial, Chapel and Church streets, are complete early next year, the plan is to have the front section of the first floor as a restaurant with a deck on Commercial Street with the rest of the floor used as a staff cafeteria.
"We're preparing to comfortably house a staff of up to 100 employees at 223 Commercial Street when the renovations are complete," Carey said Tuesday.
"It will be the company's corporate headquarters when we move our staff from our two offices at 210 Fourth St. and 324 Terminal Ave. We're considering buying more buildings in the downtown core, but it took us two years just to get this project finalized."
The building was built in 1893 to house the Free Press, the forebearer to the Nanaimo Daily News.
Originally three storeys, the building was damaged by a fire in 1930, and the top floor was removed when the structure underwent renovations in the 1950s, but Carey is building a new third floor for the structure and a patio for use by his staff.
Carey said he decided to go with the addition of the third floor to augment his investment in the building.
He said he originally planned for a building with approximately 10,000 square feet which could have been accomplished with just two storeys, but he didn't want to have a building fronting Commercial Street with no retail space in it.
Carey said the renovations are a long-term investment for him and his company and it hopes it will assist him attract new staff, as well as keeping the staff he already has.
Nanaimo city council granted Carey a 10-year heritage tax exemption last spring, plus a $10,000 heritage facade grant to help fund exterior improvements to the building.
Carey said he needs more space to expand his business, and the downtown location is a desirable fit and one that will help him attract and keep quality talent.
"Real Estate Webmasters is the largest company in the world that provides website designs for real estate agents, and I've decided to stay in Nanaimo because this my home and my family has roots here," he said.
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