Council has unanimously OK'd a development permit for a downtown hotel development said to be worth $50 million.
Mayor John Ruttan and city councillors also voted to approve a 10-year tax exemption for the project, which could break ground as early as spring.
The project was brought forward by SSS Manhao International Tourism Group, a subsidiary of Suzhou Youth Travel Services Co. Ltd., a major Chinese tourism and travel company. The developer has said the 21-storey, 240-room luxury development would be a landing pad for 70,000 tourists a year visiting Nanaimo and Vancouver Island.
The building will have a restaurant on the top floor overlooking the Nanaimo harbour, and would be right next to the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. It would be connected to the VICC through an overhead walkway.
The development will be built on a vacant, city-owned site at 100 Gordon St.
"This is really an exciting project. .. and it's been a long time coming," said Ruttan.
The mayor noted that the developer has agreed to purchase the site for $565,000. He acknowledged that the city's offer of a 10-year tax exemption - a policy applicable for all hotel projects valued at $2 million or more - has drawn the ire of some city ratepayers. However, the property is currently tax exempt and "hasn't brought a dime" into city coffers, Ruttan added.
The project also has the backing of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation and the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.
The hotel will be designed to resemble the bow of a ship surrounded by water, said Coun. Diana Johnstone, who saw drawings of the project during the design advisory panel phase. She described the concept as "magnificently beautiful." There are sill a few more details that must be ironed out between the city and SSS Manhao,
including a non-exclusive parking agreement for car spaces in the VICC parkade, plus a 'right of first negotiation' agreement to allow the developer the option of mounting a bid to run the conference centre.
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