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24-storey hotel project reaches City Hall

The much awaited waterfront development proposal for the old Willow Inn site has finally come to light.

Westcorp Properties, owners of the former hotel site have submitted plans for a 24 storey, 206 room hotel and conference centre to City Hall.

Along with the 206 hotel rooms the plans also include provisions for 17,000 square feet of conference space, 4,800 square feet of retail space, plus a restaurant and coffee shop adjacent to Kerry Park.

With the current re-birth in the downtown area including the new pier, new yacht club, expansion of Stuart Park and revitalization of Bernard Avenue, Westcorp's director of development, Gail Temple, says she believes the development is the 'missing piece of the puzzle.'

"I think it's going to be a fantastic people place that is created right behind Kerry Park," says Temple.

In a news release announcing the project, Westcorp President, Phil Milroy says he believes the project will 'revive' this area into the 'vibrant, central hub it once was' during the historic glory days of the original Willow Inn.

"It will connect the community's waterfront with the downtown core through a pedestrian-only realm that will foster social activities and community interaction," says Milroy.

"We feel it embodies the vision of renewal expressed by many residents and downtown business owners and are excited for what it could mean for the downtown core."

The proposal includes a request by Westcorp to purchase and close Mill Street and a portion of Queensway Avenue directly in front of the property.

Both requests will require rezoning and Official Community Plan amendments.

Temple says the project would abut onto Mill Street but not Kerry Park.

"We are proposing to purchase Mill St - we are not proposing to purchase any of Kerry Park," says Temple.

The city would lose 22 parking stalls along Mill Street and Queensway, however, the proposal states those stalls would be rebuilt within the city's parkade.

According to a report prepared by Grant Thornton, the project would require a capital investment of more than $65M, a conservative estimate according to Temple.

The Grant Thornton report also states 720 direct and indirect construction jobs would be created with an economic impact in excess of $12M.

The development proposal will be scrutinized by City staff before a report and recommendations are delivered to City Council.

City Urban Planning Manager, Ryan Smith, says that could take three to four months.

"Because it is high profile it will probably get more scrutiny than less from city staff, as well as the community," says Smith.


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