Perched beside the Millstone River it’s a 7.2-acre property at the north end of Nanaimo’s downtown that formerly housed a Howard Johnson hotel, which closed in 2018.
It’s the largest privately held group of properties in the city’s core and its owner, Oakwood Park Estates, has big plans for it — nearly 700 residences, a 120 room hotel, 6000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and a small park as well.
But the land needs to be rezoned for the development to go ahead.
The plans haven’t gone before city council yet but Nanaimo’s acting mayor likes what he’s seen in the development application to the city.
“It’s a terrific development for downtown Nanaimo. Downtown’s only become vibrant when there’s a lot of people living here and this is one more step towards that goal,” said Jim Turley.
It’s deja vu for many as there were plans for this property six years ago. A $70 million development that would’ve seen a hockey rink for a WHL team and hotel but those plans were withdrawn.
Turley says another hotel is still needed.
“With the conference centre to be able to host some of the larger conventions and conferences we do need more hotel rooms. We’re fortunate that the Marriot courtyard is currently under construction.”
One of the current tenants is a church. Its pastor says he supports the build even though it means they’re looking for a new home.
“I think the plans are beautiful. Nanaimo is a beautiful city and it needs a bit of a facelift so what they’re planning on doing here is amazing and I’m all for it,” said Wayne Nelson.
The church of more than 80 members is still looking for a new place to lease. They’ve been given until Sept. 30th to leave.
A neighbour says she welcomes the development though she has one caveat.
“My big concern is whether they’re going to have adequate parking or not. We just have a little street there, Mill Street and there’s not a lot of parking there as it is,” said Sherry Smart.
Smart says a recent new apartment wasn’t built with enough parking making street parking hard to find.
City staff says it will now be reviewing the application and it could be up to a year before the rezoning hearing.