Construction on the downtown hotel has officially broken ground.
PEG Developments held a ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday morning that featured remarks from company officials, local politicians and members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. PEG, a Utah-based company, is planning on building a $23-million, nine-storey, 172-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel at 100 Gordon St., which is a vacant piece of land across from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
During the ceremony, PEG announced it intends to hire members of the Snuneymuxw First Nation to work at the hotel and will work with the SFN to cross-market the project.
“We are so excited to start this venture, this partnership with Snuneymuxw First Nation,” said Cameron Gunter, founder and chief executive officer of PEG Developments.
Gunter said PEG has an “affinity” for helping communities and other people in the industry and called the opportunity to involve Snuneymuxw in the business is a “wonderful opportunity.”
Snuneymuxw Chief Mike Wyse said the property was once the site of an ancient village and has significant meaning to his people.
He also said meetings with PEG to ensure “economic inclusion” in the project began a year ago and that it is important for the Snuneymuxw to be included in the project.
“Snuneymuxw participation in this project not only contributes to the strengthening of the Snuneymuxw economy but also creates jobs for our people and a source of income that will help to continue to strengthen our Snuneymuxw families,” Wyse said.
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Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the hotel will benefit the city in numerous ways and is a step in the right direction for the downtown area.
“It’s an exciting time for Nanaimo and the hotel is key to the continued revitalization of our downtown…” he said. “The positive impact of this hotel through the creation of jobs, enhancement of Nanaimo’s downtown vibrancy and increased competitiveness in our city’s tourism, sport and conference sector is really quite wonderful.”
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said she’s thrilled to see the project break ground.
“It has been something top of mind to have this happen in the community…” she said. “I am so happy and so pleased to have this come to the community because I know the benefits will be tenfold.”
Construction on the hotel technically began last year, as PEG started site work in order to beat a Dec. 31 deadline that would have seen its building permit expire.
Wednesday’s ceremony also comes nearly six years after the SSS Manhao International Tourism Group held ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Gordon Street property to mark the beginning of construction on a future 21-storey hotel. That project was later cancelled by SSS Manhao and the property was repurchased by the city in 2015. PEG purchased the property from the city in 2017 for $750,000.
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterwards, Gunter said everyone at PEG is pleased to finally get the project underway after so many delays. He said PEG is very serious about seeing the hotel come to fruition.
“We’ve got the contract signed and ready to go and all the financing in the place,” Gunter said. “We don’t break ground unless we are going and we’re confident we’re moving forward.”
Gunter also said Nanaimo has been supportive, understanding and accepting of PEG Developments. He explained that the delays were largely due to rising construction costs, which he believes can be blamed on strong economies in both the United States and Canada.
“Construction costs in today’s market are very high and trying to figure out how the economics of the deals work, it’s slowing a lot of the projects that we are doing down across Canada and the U.S.,” Gunter said. “The economies are doing well and because of that construction costs are going up. So the risks are a little bit higher and we try to be conservative.”
Construction on the downtown hotel will be completed in 18 months’ time, according to Gunter.