It’s time for politicians and residents to discuss the issue of repurposing the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, according to Mayor Bill McKay.
Nanaimo city council unanimously agreed Monday to buy back 100 Gordon St. from SSS Manhao, who called off plans for a $50-million, 21-storey hotel earlier this month.
The site was sold to the developer just two years ago to build the long-awaited conference centre hotel, anticipated to draw 70,000 Chinese tourists each year. The company, however, allowed its building permit application to lapse and did not meet the deadline to pour foundation for its proposed hotel, prompting a council decision to offer SSS Manhao a six-month window to get a permit before it considered exercising its right to claw back the property. The extension would have been in exchange for the company putting $100,000 toward Piper Park improvements and giving up a first right of negotiation for management of the conference centre.
The terms were not accepted by the company, who did not feel the project had support of the majority of city council and the viability of the hotel development was at risk, a letter from its legal representative shows.
The cost to buy the property back will be $565,000 and money will be used from a property acquisition fund. McKay said the city doesn’t want to keep the land and will put it back on the market. According to the mayor, a hotel is still wanted there, and he’s had one inquiring already, but McKay also said before anything is done with the land council and the community need to talk about the idea of repurposing the conference centre.
“Anybody who’s going to build a hotel there to serve a conference centre as part of their business plan needs the assurance there will be a conference centre,” he said.
Nanaimo city council had the option to take no action but directed staff, without any further discussion, to exercise its option to purchase to reacquire the property.