The old Taku didn’t slip easily into history

When the old Bonanza Inn was gutted for renovations it revealed some startling surprises. No, there wasn’t any treasure — other than a…

When the old Bonanza Inn was gutted for renovations it revealed some startling surprises.

No, there wasn’t any treasure — other than a few 1948 pennies.

And there were no mummified cats.

These were surprises of a different, more expensive sort.

Like Pisa’s famous architectural blunder, the building was leaning and had slowly sunk in one corner.

It was due to frost heaving, said contractor Terry Sherman, and over 60 years the structure had sunk nearly 23 centimetres.

This caused the roof to belly out as well as other major structural problems.

Sherman also discovered that a water mane had broken five to 10 years ago and was leaking water into the foundation.

Serious repairs were needed.

To get the building up to code, the corner had to be lifted using eight, 20-tonne jacks somewhat similar to those used to change a flat tire on your car.

The unexpected problems led to a great deal of extra cost and extra time.

The building process was set back three months and it cost more than $600,000 just to get the building leveled and restructured.

The process began a year ago, said Mary Jane Warshawski co-owner of the building and Coast Mountain Sports, which will be moving into the ground floor.

“The old store was filled to bursting and it was time to move.”

The store was courted to move to the north side of town.

“But we’re just not a drive-in mall kind of a store — people like to cruise in off the street and look around,” said Warshawski.

“Our people are Main Street people so we wanted to stay on Main Street.”

So, when they heard that the Bonanza Hotel was up for sale it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

But this meant moving into the space occupied by the much-loved Taku bar.

Knowing that the community would mourn the loss of the Taku, Warshawski spoke with Ed Isaak, the bar’s owner, to see if it could be moved somewhere else.

“We knew we were going to have a lot of people mad at us — to many people this was their living room,” said Warshawski.

But Isaak didn’t want to move to another location.

He was planning on retiring anyway.

On Wednesday afternoon, it was difficult to recognize where the venerable bar had once been.

Its beer-soaked, fake-wood carpeting has been ripped up, as has much of the flooring underneath it.

And the walls separating it from the restaurant and shops that used to exist next door have been removed.

To open up the building, many of the former load-bearing walls are being removed and replaced with thick wooden beams.

Some of these beams weighed up to 1,134 kilograms and were more than seven metres long and had to be carefully hoisted into place.

All of the construction is being done to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

“It’s the next generation of green construction,” said Sherman.

It would have been cheaper and a great deal easier to just tear the building down and start from scratch.

Instead, the building is being rebuilt from the inside out, reusing as much of the original materials as possible.

Everything that couldn’t be reused was donated or given away.

A lot of furniture and bedding was given to the Salvation Army and Kaushee’s Place.

“All of this would have gone to the landfill,” said Warshawski.

“And besides, this building is part of our heritage.”

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards also mean there will be a higher level of energy efficiency.

There will be limited exterior lighting and interior lights will be turned off each night to conserve energy.

To meet the standards, construction costs are going to end up costing 20 per cent above normal.

But there are also cost savings over time.

Heating costs in the hotel used to run upwards of $7,000 a month.

With increased insulation, triple-paned windows and a state-of-the-art heat pump system that will better distribute heat throughout the building, the owners plan to decrease that cost to $2,500 a month.

The renovated building will also be barrier free, with elevators to the top to floors and ramps for better wheelchair access.

The basement was “almost an open sewer” and the concrete floors had to be redone.

It will be converted into an office for the shipper/receiver as well as showers and bike storage for staff members.

The top two floors will be converted into office space.

Other than a room that Coast Mountain will be using for a staff rest area and office space, the rest will be leased to local businesses and constructed to meet their needs.

Another financial surprise that the Bonanza had in store was that the renovation triggered a city bylaw, which requires the site to have 11 more parking spaces.

With expensive downtown property prices, this will end up costing an additional $200,000.

Warshawski is applying to the city to remove these new parking requirements.

“It’s like we’re being made to pay a $200,000 penalty for rebuilding Main Street.”

“We hope that we’re leading the way to revitalizing Main Street,” she said.

“I think a lot of people are waiting to see what we do here and how it goes.”

Coast Mountain Sports should be open by late summer, just in time for its fall and winter lines.

An entire corner will be dedicated to Yukon-made products, said Warshawski.

“And I’m talking to our suppliers and trying to get some deals for the opening.”

After a year waiting to move into the new store and all of the unwanted “surprises,” Warshawski is ready to celebrate the opening.

“We can have one big party!”