Nelson's heritage is an integral part of what makes the community unique. With around 300 identified heritage sites, the City of Nelson has the highest number of heritage structures of any BC community outside of Vancouver and Victoria. There are four main levels of heritage designation – Federal Heritage Designation, Municipal Heritage Designation, Community Heritage Register, and Heritage Inventory:
- One site, the CP station is a federally designated heritage site. Any changes are regulated through Parks Canada as well as the City.
- The CP Station and 12 other sites have been municipally designated through bylaw. Alterations to these buildings have to go through the City's Heritage Alteration Permit process.
- These 13 sites, along with over 200 others form our Community Heritage Register. Many of these sites were put on our register in 1979, 1994 and 2011. The City's Heritage Working Group is currently working towards making sure all sites have an up-to-date Statements of Significance. More information about our Community Heritage Register can be found below.
- Our Heritage Inventory is a list of places that the City has identified as important, however, the list does not offer any level of heritage protection. There are close to 100 sites on this list, including 'ghost sites' which no longer exist.
Community Heritage Register
Community Heritage Register status does not give any formal protection to a site and is not the same as municipal or federal heritage designation. Inclusion of property on the Heritage Register provides Council with the ability to temporarily withhold a building permit, temporarily withhold a demolition permit for up to 60 days, and/or to require a heritage impact assessment if deemed necessary.
However, for properties that are on the Community Heritage Register and also are located within the City’s Development Permit Area #2 (Downtown and Waterfront), any alterations or development will require a development permit to ensure compliance with the heritage design guidelines as well as the character-defining elements identified in the site’s Statement of Significance.
Heritage Master Plan
The City approved a Heritage Master Plan in May 2022. This document is intended to:
- define a vision for heritage protection and use; and
- provide prioritized strategies for the identification and development of our heritage initiatives
Nelson was one of the first communities in the pilot project for the Main Street Canada Program, with 70 heritage buildings in the downtown core restored between 1980 and 1985. Find out more about Nelson's history.
Heritage BC has useful information about heritage including homeowner's guides on insurance and permitting processes.