City council approves downtown hotel deal

Nanaimo city council unanimously approved Monday the sale of its 100 Gordon St. property to SSS Manhao for the construction of a hotel.

A new downtown hotel will make its mark on the city’s skyline. Nanaimo city council unanimously approved Monday the sale of its 100 Gordon St. property to SSS Manhao for the construction of a hotel.

“I’m very excited and extremely pleased,” said Mayor John Ruttan. “This has been an overnight success – it took only seven years.”

The building will be larger and taller than initially proposed, as the project’s architects now want a 240-room, 20-storey hotel. The initial plan was for 197 rooms and 17 storeys. Ruttan views the height increase as positive.

“We’ve always wanted as many rooms as we could get,” he said.

The revised plan still falls well within the 87-metre height limitation of the zoning bylaw, said Ted Swabey, the city’s general manager of development services.

“They’ll lock themselves into the height, the form, the character of the development permit that you end up approving,” he told council.

The revised plan includes two restaurants on the top floor, a swimming pool, retail shops, gym and spa.

Another newly revealed aspect of the hotel plan is that SSS Manhao will be granted the right to strata subdivision of the building. The hotel won’t have condominiums, but suites will be made available for sale as time-share units. Owners will be limited to two weeks of use per year.

“I guess it is, in effect, [a time share] but that’s not unusual,” Ruttan said. “A lot of developments are done in that manner … An enterprise of this size, $50 million, it does make a lot of sense and pretty well every application we ever had had a similar format.”

He said having the time-share component wouldn’t have been his first preference, but said the city would make every effort to ensure that the hotel’s block of rooms will be available as rental suites.

“We don’t need a bunch of condominiums downtown,” Ruttan said. “Desirable, but not needed – but a conference centre hotel is.”

A city staff report noted that SSS Manhao representatives stated that the company plans to invest $50 million in the hotel project. It expects to attract 70,000 tourists per year, generate $35 million annually in revenues and create more than 500 jobs.

Coun. Jim Kipp questioned the expected revenues, but said he nevertheless supports the sale of the property. Coun. Ted Greves said any skepticism among the other councillors might be because they had seen the hotel process drag on for so long.

“I’m very encouraged and very excited about this, so hopefully this turns out to be the agreement that we want,” Greves said.

The 0.17-hectare property will be sold for $565,000 including a deposit of $100,000 that will be tied to a development covenant. The foundation must be poured within 18 months and the hotel itself must be built within three years.