The Coast Plaza Hotel and Suites at 1763 Comox St is “well into” a rezoning application that could see the 269-suite hotel converted into more than 300 rental suites in the West End, says a representative of the building’s owners.
“We’ll go through the rezoning process and if we’re successful, residential space in the form of rental suites will be allowed on the site,” says Laurie Schmidt of Brooks and Associates who are managing the rezoning process on behalf of the hotel.
“As of 2017 it could continue as a hotel or they have the option to convert into residential rental units, depending on the market or other variables.”
The property will operate as a hotel until 2017, according to Coast Hotels vice president Craig Norris-Jones.
“Coast Hotels and Resorts has a long-term lease at that location and we will be a hotel for many years to come,” he says. “We have a lease in place which goes until 2017.”
Coast Hotels and Resorts signed a contract late last year with 0792203 BC Ltd., a numbered corporation associated with the Siddoo family, who purchased the property in 2007.
When their contract expires, the owners will decide to either continue as a hotel or convert the property into rental suites, provided the rezoning application is accepted.
The prospect of new rental units in the West End comes as welcome news to Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.
“We’ve seen such pressure on rental stock,” Chandra Herbert says. “Very few people are building rental at all and we’ve seen such an issue there. If we can increase the supply in a big way it will increase the stock and thus reduce the demand to increase rent or get around the Residential Tenancy Act with things like renovictions.”
Schmidt says the hotel is currently negotiating a potential community amenity contribution with the city.
“I don’t want to say what that amenity is right now but we’re close,” he says. “Once we have agreed upon the amenity contribution, the city and the owners will conduct one final neighbourhood open house at which time that amenity contribution will be announced and shortly thereafter we’ll go to a public hearing where city council will vote on that proposal.”
Schmidt hopes the hearing will occur sometime in the fall.
Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson, who is supportive of new rental suites in the West End, believes the rezoning could give the hotel more leverage in its negotiations.
“This could be a very good negotiation tool,” he says. “They didn’t have that during these negotiations. They’ve been going through these very heavy-duty union negotiations and now they have a seven-year contract but the people who owned the property didn’t have that application approved. They didn’t have the hammer, if you like, when talking with Coast Plaza.”
On January 15, Coast Plaza’s unionised workers ratified a three-year contract with their employer.
“We were able to secure decent wage increases,” says Michelle Travis, a spokesperson for Local 40. “We also brought the medical and pension benefits closer to downtown standards.”
Brent Granby, of the West End Residents Association, hopes some of the prospective rental units will be geared-to-income housing.
“We think a third of those units should be affordable,” he says. “When we say affordable, we think the rent should be tied to income. The number one concern for West End residents is affordability. Affordability allows a full range of people to live there. We want to encourage diversity in the West End and we believe there is a direct line between diversity and affordability.”