The city is trying to take the next steps toward a hotel and a foot ferry, but it feels like it’s taking its first steps.
The conference-centre hotel project at the Gordon Street site downtown and the passenger-only ferry are priorities that successive city councils and the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation have touted, with very little to show for their exertions.
Now, all at once, council has moved to prepare requests for proposals on both files. It was the Nanaimo Port Authority that floated the RFP process for the foot ferry, impatient with Island Ferries’ lack of progress and insistent that another proponent will come forward. The impetus for the hotel RFP, on the other hand, apparently comes from multiple expressions of interest in the site lately.
So it could be that there are various ferry operators and hoteliers wishing to invest. We hope that’s the case. But with the city issuing RFPs and asking for ideas, it crystallizes just how little has been accomplished on these files. It’s an admission that on these fronts, Nanaimo doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot going on, so we’re open to anything.
Both the hotel and the foot ferry have obvious implications relating to downtown revitalization, and council could find itself facing far-reaching decisions. What sort of proposals are we talking about for Gordon Street? The mayor says it’s hotel or bust, but as we saw with the last would-be proponent, the municipality was prepared to allow a certain number of time-share condominiums in the tower. Is that going to be the only way to get something built on that site? What’s best in the short term for taxpayers burdened by a little-used conference centre? What’s best in the long-term as we dream of developing a downtown that is a destination?
Sometimes it feels like we’re close, and then we realize that we’re right back at the RFP process, back at the beginning, where everything is achievable, and nothing has been achieved.