The plan for a 21-storey, 240-room hotel connected to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre will be reviewed by the city of Nanaimo design committee Thursday.
Chinese investors SSS Manhao International Tourism Group Co. Ltd. have applied for a permit for a $50-million hotel on the vacant lot at 100 Gordon St, at the foot of the Military Museum property.
VICC officials believe a shortage of hotel rooms has been a barrier to the conference centre attracting bigger events since it opened, in June, 2008.
The property in question is already zoned for a hotel, and the city approved the deal with SSS Manhao in principle in July. The design review stage is to make sure the developer's vision for the building meets city design guidelines for the area.
The review will be by a panel of architects and others in the design field. Once the project is deemed to have met downtown design guidelines, it would go before city council. Council approval would clear the way for the a development permit needed to start construction.
"They've applied for a development permit and it goes to the design panel on Thursday," said Andrew Tucker, city director of planning.
The panel will comment on the application and can make recommendations.
"If there are recommendations that require follow-up... we would work with the applicant to try to make whatever changes are needed."
The design includes a thirdfloor walkway to the conference centre, something that should satisfy proponents of larger conferences the VICC has failed to attract in the past.
VICC officials believe that larger events in the 400-to 600-delegate range, such as chapters of the Porsche Club of America and the B.C. Teachers Federation have shied away when they realized the downtown lacks the required rooms within walking distance of the venue. If built, the hotel "will certainly resurrect" interest among a lot of those clients, said Denise Tacon, VICC general manager.
"They're more specifically interested in having a property where they can take the elevator home."
Tacon is glad to see the project move forward, and says conference centre staff works hard to attract those clients now, but many conference organizers expect to have the hotel within the same facility, and that some are "adamant" that any venue they book include this feature.
"It's wonderful," she said. "It then gives us some more opportunities to target other (conference) properties in the Lower Mainland."
The developer has more than business tourism in mind for the hotel.
Proponents also plan to fill its rooms with Chinese tourists, now that Canada is on the Chinese government's approved destination list.
The developer hopes to have the building finished in 2015.
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