Nanaimo seeks proposals for conference centre hotel project

NANAIMO – City council launches request for proposals after multiple international parties express interest in property.

The City of Nanaimo will hold a competition for the right to build a conference centre hotel downtown, with “significant interest” in the project.

The municipality announced Tuesday it will send out a request for proposals in the spring 2016 for developers interested in building a hotel at 100 Gordon St.

A market study will also be updated to provide council and developers a better understanding of opportunities and challenges in developing the hotel property and adjacent Vancouver Island Conference Centre, a press release says.

The RFP, decided on in an in-camera meeting Dec. 7, is a response to a level of interest in the property not seen before, said Mayor Bill McKay, who notes it’s significant with multiple, predominantly international parties.

He believes the interest is because of changing market conditions to interest in external investment particularly outside China and promotion of the hotel project by the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation.

A number of people have asked for letters of intent to deal exclusively with them and there’s hearsay of different visions, including a hotel-condominium mix, according to McKay, who says council wants to see exactly what projects are being proposed and pick the vision it feels fits best for the community.

He also believes this process will be more transparent than just doing a single-source bidder.

“There’s a number of parties that the city and NEDC have been cultivating for some time. Now it’s time for them to get their thinking caps on and envision something that we think is going to be successful for both them and us. Something that we’re going to be proud of,” said McKay, who believes there could be up to four proposals.

Coun. Gord Fuller is thrilled with the process announced this week, and believes it should have happened a long time ago. It puts the onus on developers to come to the city with ideas instead of the city begging for ideas, he said.

He will be looking for answers, including if the city should be going after a hotel and what developers are interested in building.

“Previously we put it out and reality, we essentially sole-sourced to developers to build a convention centre hotel and we’ve given them all these perks to get them to do it and even with all the perks that we’ve given them we haven’t been successful,” he said. “To me that says something and to me this will make it clear.”

The mayor said the project will still be private and land would be sold with the intent developers will build a hotel. The market study update is expected to take three months.

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