Chinese Investors Looking At Hotel Location

So it wasn’t just a rumour. (See my post from last week.) It’s just that they’re still in the stages of determining feasibility. Here is an article about it from the local paper, the Nanaimo Daily News. My hope is that it’s a go as I’m ever excited to see downtown grow because I’d like to see more of a “city centre” in Nanaimo.

FYI, I am now offering Chinese language (Mandarin) service thanks to help from Vicki Wei, my assistant from Beijing. We should have a Chinese language website up any day now at www.jianada-fangdichan.com So, if you or anyone you know is interested in getting Chinese language service from someone who is native to the area, but who also understands what it’s like to live in a totally different culture, I’m your guy. I’m originally from Vancouver Island about an hour from Nanaimo so I have always had some sort of relationship with it, and I’ve spent four years in Japan. While I’m at it about languages I’ll mention that I grew up speaking from at school from the age of five and although my Japanese isn’t perfect I can offer service in that language too as that’s what my wife and many friends (potential assistants) speak most easily.

Ryan Coffey

City hopes offshore investments save hotel

Potential Chinese investors also looking at fast ferry service and land for condominium towers

Derek Spalding
Daily News
Empty lot where the new hotel was suppose to be built in  connection with the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.
CREDIT: Krista Bryce/Daily News
Empty lot where the new hotel was suppose to be built in connection with the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

Nanaimo’s international inroads with China have kept alive the city’s hopes for constructing a downtown hotel, viewed as a crucial component to revitalizing the area and making the Port of Nanaimo Centre financially viable.

Two Chinese investors and another Canadian developer are several months in to developing their business plans that will determine whether or not the project will be profitable. All three groups want to build condominium towers near Maffeo-Sutton Park. Despite Mayor John Ruttan’s reluctance to offer the land as an incentive to get a hotel completed, he may have to change his mind if a definitive plan comes forward within the next year.

Members from the newly formed Nanaimo economic development commission met for the first time Thursday afternoon and the hotel dominated discussions. The hotel is considered a key component to downtown development that will likely inspire another fast-ferry service and create higher residential density and increase business in the entire city, Ruttan explained. With strong ties already established with China, a country that particularly wants to invest in Canada, a future hotel is still very much viable.

Staff in the economic development office have worked extensively to build the relationships in Asia. Investors there may be more interested now that construction costs have dropped significantly in recent years.

“Nanaimo is poised to become an investment community,” said Marilyn Hutchinson, economic development manager. “Once we have one successful project, there will be greater interest from international investors.”

The city joined the provincial government two years ago through a program aimed at encouraging mid-market regional centres to pursue international investment. Staff members received $50,000 and significant support to build inroads overseas, according to Nanaimo’s legislative services director, Ian Howat.

The city used the additional resources to send two envoys to China. Staff members and politicians have also hosted many visitors. With massive financial growth in the country, the potential for investment in Nanaimo is significant, Howat explained.

And one project will just be the start. Of the 10 Chinese investors inquiring about a downtown hotel in the past two years, many of them also inquired about a fast ferry. Others are interested in building condos near Maffeo-Sutton park, an incentive once part of the now failed agreement with Vancouver based Millennium Development.

“Getting that first foot in the door is huge,” Howat said. “Once these investors see a successful project, it will lead to more.”

Ruttan would rather not include land for condo towers in a hotel deal. He even mentioned this during his election campaign in 2008, but if the offer is serious enough, he may be forced to change his mind.

“If we had a really solid hotel offer, one that was substantial and specific and included everything we want, I would reluctantly look at that site again,” the mayor explained.

Ruttan sees the hotel as the impetus to more investment in the downtown.

Even with two condo towers, the downtown would have increased density, the conference centre could reach its full potential and the right investor could create or at least inspire a new fast ferry service. Revitalization would be well underway.

The NED committee consists of some of the city’s most influential leaders and business people. Likely Ruttan’s most significant initiative since elected, his team will meet every second Thursday of each month.

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