What a difference a good council can make. Since being elected last November, the new Sooke Municipal Council has been busy. They’ve arranged for several provincial government grants for public projects, installed nearly three kilometres of new sidewalks, pushed ahead with plans for downtown revitalization, and now, finally, Sooke is going to get its hotel.
Sooke has long been known for its fabulous bed and breakfast facilities, and the Sooke Harbour House, a world-famous high-end seaside inn, but has always lacked a modern, middle-of-the-road hotel for everyday tourists. That’s all going to change.
Last year, three waterfront parcels along West Coast Road just before Whiffen Spit were put up for sale. The District of Sooke bought one, and the other two were acquired by Prestige Hotels. The District and Prestige have proposed an agreement to build a 122-room hotel, with a 400-person convention centre, full service marina, gym, spa, pool, lounge and restaurant and two ‘bistro-style’ eateries. Construction could start as early as this fall. The District will agree to build a public boat launch and pier on their property, and will pay Prestige $300,000 for five years, which will entitle the District to 12 rent-free days per month in the convention centre, for a total of nearly two years of free usage for the District.
A similar deal was reached in the community of Salmon Arm. District representatives traveled there last year to meet with Prestige representatives and talk to local politicians. While the idea of paying the hotel company was controversial at the time, it has worked out very well for Salmon Arm. Conventions and tourists are coming to town, and the building of the hotel attracted another new hotel to build in the area, and caused another one to undertake a major renovation.
As I see it it, there is no downside to this. A major commercial operation like this hotel will generate a lot of revenue for the District in property taxes, not to mention the ability to host conferences and conventions, weddings, tournaments, and all other events that will generate spending in our town. It takes a lot of people to build a hotel – the jobs will be welcome as residential construction has slowed in the past year. After the hotel is built, there will be jobs for people to work there. Finally, there will be a publicly-owned boat launch in the centre of Sooke and another marina right next to the mouth of the harbour. The fitness facility will be open to public membership, and the convention centre will be available free of charge to community and non-profit groups.
More details can be found in this article from the Sooke News Mirror. Sooke’s council has accomplished much in their first ten months. They should be applauded for taking the initiative to attract this deal rather than waiting around for some hotel company to eventually find their way out the winding Sooke Road.
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