Editorial: Hold out hope for hotel plan

Nanaimo’s long-awaited conference centre hotel project is going nowhere these days, let alone 21 storeys skyward.

Instead of a hotel, all we’ve got is a vacant lot. Nanaimo’s long-awaited conference centre hotel project is going nowhere these days, let alone 21 storeys skyward.

Ever since developer SSS Manhao let its building permit expire a few months ago, Nanaimo city council has been left to wonder at the hotel’s status, and stew. One councillor, Gord Fuller, intends to put forth a motion for the city to exercise a clause to buy back the property should the developer miss the deadline to pour the foundation.

We understand council’s frustration with the project’s delays. It has been 10 months since the hoteliers held a ribbon cutting at the site and suggested construction would be completed in 2016. Clearly, the photo op and the timeline were overly optimistic.

But why pull the property out from under SSS Manhao now? Buying back the land would cost taxpayers in the short term, and there’s nothing to suggest it would be a sound business decision in the long term. If there were other viable proposals for the Gordon Street lot, fine, but according to the mayor, there aren’t.

Unless we go so far as to rezone the land and sell it to the highest bidder to build a stack of condominiums, then the property is only worth so much. Manhao’s hotel and its promise of tens of thousands of Chinese tourists are as much as we could hope for at the site if we’re thinking tourism and downtown revitalization.

So why not hold out hope a little longer? Watching and waiting isn’t costing us anything – not until we’re watching and waiting while a better opportunity passes us by.

If that’s happening, now is the time to let city council know. If we’ve lost confidence in this conference centre hotel, and think there’s another solution for the city, then we should speak up.

One way or another, let’s make sure we get quite a lot out of our little vacant lot.

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