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City of Nanaimo seeks offers on conference centre hotel site

NANAIMO – The city is requesting offers for 100 Gordon St. – and not specifically to build a hotel.
A lot in downtown Nanaimo sits empty after multiple hotel proposals over the years have fallen through.

The City of Nanaimo's Gordon Street lot is up for sale – and not necessarily for a conference centre hotel.

The city issued a bid opportunity today (Dec. 16) for sale offers on 100 Gordon St., city-owned land behind the conference centre that had been reserved for a hotel.

SSS Manhao, which had bought the property, pulled the plug on its $50-million project in 2015, not believing its project had the support of the majority of council and determining the viability of the hotel development was at risk. The city bought back the land and announced a year ago that it would issue a request for proposals in the spring of 2016 to developers interested in building a hotel.

The city is instead looking for request for offers on the sale of Gordon Street. The bid document also shows while a hotel is still a goal of council, other uses contemplated for the site are welcome to be identified through the process. The property zoning provides for a wide range of uses, including a hotel, multi-family dwelling, retail, office and restaurant.

Mayor Bill McKay said the city went ahead with this process because it wants to sell the property and essentially “get out of everybody’s way.” Coun. Jerry Hong likens it to an expression of interest, where developers will say what they are willing to pay and what they want to do, and where council still has control.

A hotel is still a first choice, but council wants people to come back to it with offers to purchase and tell it what they are intending to do, so council can get a better idea of what the variables are, according to McKay, who said before it was far too prescriptive.

“Council’s feeling is they want to let everybody’s imaginations flow – tell us what your thoughts are,” he said. “In the years past we had a very long list of inducements that the city came forward with on that property; now we’re saying, 'you tell us what you propose to do with this property,' and we can negotiate inducements.”

McKay said it’s a sale offer and doesn’t mean it’s going to be sold to just anyone or the highest bidder and council wants to look very carefully at what people come to it with.

Council has laid out what it’s wanted in the past and Hong said it hasn’t worked because they can’t tell developers what to do.

“We just want to know what developers want to bring to us whether it’s a hotel, whether its a hotel/condo, whether it’s a condo, whether casino buys it for expansion ... we’re just entertaining any ideas that they have to offer to us,” said Hong.

He would have liked to see the sale offer issued two months ago, but pointed out that council had had a lot to do.

The deadline for offers is Jan. 24.