Construction of the long-discussed, 125-room Port Haney hotel at the bottom of 224th Street could start by summer if Maple Ridge council gives its final OK in the next few months.
Most of the public who showed at an information meeting Wednesday liked the idea, though Linda Meyer was worried about parking on the congested streets and having the hotel being half built, then abandoned if the economy dips.
The hotel, at 22344 Callaghan Ave., will have more than 200 parking stalls, as required by the district, said architect Jim Wong, who pointed out the parking problems in the area already exist. But over time, perhaps some stalls could be shared, depending on time of day, he added.
Meyer also asked about soil stability, but was told consultants are addressing that. “I just don’t want to see it go into the river if there’s an earthquake or something.” She liked the fact that a traffic light will be installed at Callaghan Avenue and the Haney Bypass however. “Oh, that would be great.”
But any type of activity on the now vacant lots would be an improvement to what’s on them now, added one resident.
“I live across the street and I’d rather see it half built rather than what’s there now.”
Kelly Meier, with the Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living, located across the street from the site, supports the proposal. The hotel could provide conference space for community living functions, she said.
“As a business, we’re welcoming it. It will really improve the area.”
Maple Ridge council gave first reading last January to the project proposed by Maple Ridge resident Seiko Huang.
The hotel will be built to achieve silver certification in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building standards and will feature a green roof, overlooking the Fraser River, a stone’s throw from the West Coast Express station.
“I’ve lived here for 20 years. I’ve got a dream. I hope I can do something for Maple Ridge,” Huang told the group of about 20 residents.
He wants the hotel to be, at minimum, a three-star facility, and it will be concrete construction.
Most at the meeting expected the project will improve an area that’s had a checkered past, although it’s changing as more projects get underway.
“I think it will be an improvement, a great improvement,” said Beryl Cunningham, with the Maple Ridge Historical Society. “It looks lovely, absolutely gorgeous. I hope they can pull it off.”
Hari Pal, with the Port Haney Neighbourhood Change Project, a small group that’s trying to plan the future of the area, also favoured the proposal.
“Your coming here is more than welcome, but we still have a lot of questions.”
Parking was a concern, but Pal generally welcomed the idea, saying it change the area and offer more opportunity for culture and the arts.
Solving the parking issues, though, is the district’s responsibility, added Wendy Cook.
Huang, who runs Formosa Plateau developments in Silver Valley, said he wants to bring the same standard of building there to the Port Haney project, so perhaps it resembles Lonsdale Quay.
“I like quality, so if we do a quality hotel, quality people will come,” Huang said. Then the area will no longer be a “dark corner.”
“I hope you’re successful,” said one resident.
Ian McLeod wanted to know why the hotel would succeed when there other hotels in Maple Ridge not at capacity.
Huang said later that 40,000 sq. ft. of the project is allocated to convention, restaurant and commercial space, which diversifies revenue.
Following a public hearing in January or February, the project goes back to council for second, third and final readings. If the politicians approve, work could start in the summer or fall, with the construction period ranging from 16 to 18 months.
Huang said the district’s downtown investment incentive program, currently in place for only three years, is one reason he’s moving on the project. The green building project will be entitled to a three-year tax exemption. He also wants to get the project underway while the Harmonized Sales Tax is in place and before the province returns to the provincial sales tax and the federal Goods and Services Tax in 2013.
Two new bridges offer lots of promise, plus there’s only one downtown, he added.