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Downtown Nanaimo hotel project in limbo as owners selling property

Front Street property listed for $3.8 million
An artist’s rendering of a proposed hotel on 15 Front St. in downtown Nanaimo. The property is now for sale for $3.8 million. (Moore Wilson Architects image)

A proposed hotel in downtown Nanaimo is on the market.

The owners of 15 Front St. have decided to sell the 1,170-square-metre property, listing it for $3.8 million just a few weeks ago.

A six-storey hotel, complete with a private courtyard, sky bar and retail space, has been proposed for the Front Street property and is estimated to be a $13-million project. A development permit for the project was approved by city staff last March. Shortly afterward, city councillors also awarded the hotel project a 10-year tax exemption, resulting in approximately $2 million in tax savings. However, the owners are required to build on the property prior to the end of this year in order to be eligible for the tax exemption.

The property is owned by 0885216 BC LTD (Li Minglong) according to the city’s website. The previous owners, Alphateck Canada Investments, had proposed a five-storey mixed-used building on the property in 2007.

Jasmine Zhang, realtor with Nu Stream Realty, said the owners have not been able to find an operator for the hotel and are looking to sell because of increased costs.

“The construction costs are higher right now,” she said, adding that the owners had a budget amount of around $8 million but the projected costs have increased well beyond $13 million.

The project is in the final stages of a building permit, according to Zhang, who said the owners are looking for someone to purchase the land and continue on with the project.

“They really wanted to do this project, but the costs have increased too much.”

Coun. Jerry Hong, a member of the city’s design advisory panel, called the owner’s decision to sell the property “disappointing.” Hong said while he realizes the owners are within their right to sell the property, council and staff have spent a significant amount of time on the development.

“I get that is business, but I don’t think it is fair when developers ask for rezoning then flip the property,” he said. “We don’t need an empty lot sitting there in hopes that somebody is going to buy it.”

Hong, who had previously been supportive of the project, said he believes councillors should seriously consider pulling the 10-year tax exemption on the project, adding that he wants to bring the item up at a council meeting. Hong said he believes the previous owners had sold the property for around $1.5 million only a few years ago and finds it frustrating that the current owners are selling.

“For [the current owners] to redo some drawings to sell it for $3.8 million, I think that is ridiculous. I get that people are trying to make a buck, but not on the city’s back and the work that council and staff have done, especially with what we’ve told businesses in the area is coming,” Hong said.

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