Editorial: Hotel requires a busy setting

The City of Nanaimo and SSS Manhao struck out in constructing a $50-million skyscraper hotel at the Gordon Street site.

Nanaimo isn’t getting a new hotel next to the conference centre, but on the bright side, the vacant lot is perfect for playing stickball.

The city and SSS Manhao struck out in constructing a $50-million skyscraper hotel at the Gordon Street site, as the Chinese company backed out last week. SSS Manhao cited Nanaimo city council’s bad faith as a reason for stepping away. We don’t buy that. Although city council’s divided and capricious attitude toward the project couldn’t have helped, if there was money to be made, these business people would have persevered.

There’s no sense blaming the hoteliers. They may have given us false hope with promises of 70,000 tourists a year, but ultimately the failure isn’t their fault. Whether we wish to believe it, the only factor that could have been a deal-breaker is that Nanaimo’s downtown is not desirable enough right now to get that kind of hotel built in today’s economy.

We’re right to hope for a hotel across from the conference centre and it would make a difference in revitalizing the area. But we’re caught in a catch-22. Without the hotel there, our downtown isn’t all it can be, and if our downtown is lacking, then it doesn’t make sense for a hotel developer to invest there.

It isn’t an option to ignore our downtown and let it regress. It matters too much to too many people – not least of all taxpayers – that our investments to date pay dividends.

If downtown matters to our city leaders, then their continued efforts will be worthwhile. Our downtown can build its capacity and become busier, more appealing and more vibrant. And that’s the sort of place that will attract hotel developers.

We’re still playing stickball in downtown Nanaimo. If we want to make it to the big leagues, we need to keep working at it.