Proposed hotel plans draw positive reviews

NANAIMO – Open house hosted by developer planning to build Hilton-brand skyscraper.

Nanaimo resident Doug Fetherston looks at designs for the proposed Hilton hotel and sees the potential for revitalization.

“I kind of see that it’s really going to lift the downtown to something that it isn’t now,” he said, at the first open house for the hotel project.

Fetherston was among more than 200 people who turned out to see artist renderings for a $100-million Hilton hotel, pitched for Nanaimo.

The sketches of the skyscraper, which towers 30 storeys above Front Street, show rooftop terraces and a changed waterfront with an artificial beach, kayak launch and possible cafés and restaurants. The luxury hotel would also include more than 300 rooms, conference space and indoor public access to the city’s harbourfront promenade.

John Steil, project spokesman and senior planner with consulting firm Stantec, calls it a move to provide high-quality accommodation to a certain sector of the travelling public, most of which is anticipated to come from Asia. But it’s also believed that it will create spinoffs for the community like revitalization and support for local businesses.

The hotel plans upwards of 300 jobs and aims to put its community contribution toward park improvements. A landscape architect is working with the city on its park planning process to ensure the two visions for the waterfront mesh, according to Steil.

Resident Gord White said he thinks the new addition is going to put Nanaimo on the map.

“This is going to be a landmark,” he said, during the open house.

Other residents were also excited about the potential luxury hotel.

Mike McCartney called it a “stunning addition” to a street that currently isn’t appealing and said it has the potential to attract more people and more business downtown.

Fetherston, who lives in the Pacifica condominiums next to the proposed development, said he loves everything about the hotel.

“I am sure that there will be lots of people that [won’t] like the high rise next to the waterfront, but it’s a big hole in the ground and something needs to go in there,” he said. “I think it’s a great concept.”

The hotel is currently going through a rezoning process for height and setback.