Multiplex proponent seeks meeting after project named priority

NANAIMO – City council identified multiplex as priority in update of strategic plan.

A representative of Howard Johnson Hotels wants to know what involvement the City of Nanaimo wants in a multiplex after politicians named it one of their key capital projects.

Howard Johnson Hotels has proposed the Millstone Gateway project, a redevelopment of its downtown site with a new 150-room hotel, sports arena multiplex, and commercial and tourism buildings.

Construction for the project hasn’t gotten underway, something Dan Brady, general manager of Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel, partially attributes to waiting to see if the city named the multiplex as a priority. Now that the city has named it as a top priority in its recently released strategic update, Brady said the company is looking for clarification on what that means, including if the city will build the centre itself, have someone built it, or if it is looking to partner.

The new strategic update shows the city aims to provide a ‘major boost’ to downtown revitalization by supporting the creation of the facility.

When a citizen asked what ‘support’ means during an e-town hall meeting, Coun. Bill Bestwick said it’s on the list to investigate a sports and entertainment centre possibility, “be it private, public or a partnership or a combination thereof.” He also said the city will try to attract private development to bring forward a proposal to determine if it’s an attractive proposition, but is not there yet.

Brady is excited the city has mentioned the multiplex and said he hopes the city wants to do some sort of public-private partnership. He’s going to try to schedule a meeting with the city in the next two weeks.

“Hopefully, like I said, we get this all straightened out very quickly in the next couple of weeks, find out what they want to be involved with, do they want to rent ice time, dry floor time? Do they want to be a … straight-up partner on that?” said Brady. “Those are all the questions we need to have answered.”

Mayor Bill McKay told the News Bulletin he supports a multiplex under the right conditions, which means it is the 100-per cent privately funded model that had been presented to the city. He said P3 indicates the city is going to build something with a third party.

“If they want to talk about a three-P then that puts a whole different slant on that because they’ve certainly never had any discussions with us about that to this point,” he said. “And what does three-P look like? Does it look like we’re going to have some capital costs roll in it, is that what that means?”

news@nanaimobulletin.com

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