Ron Mundi isn’t concerned about taking on two hotel projects at the same time.
The Kamloops hotelier is proposing to build a new hotel in Penticton and another that was announced for Oliver earlier this month. Both have proposed opening dates in 2018.
“It’s not an issue. Our plan is to build 10 hotels over the next few years,” said Mundi, adding that he has been in the business for two decades and owns seven hotels in B.C. and Alberta.
Mundi Hotel Enterprises is proposing to build a 95-suite hotel on Eckhardt Avenue, on the site now occupied by the Bingo Palace, which closed last spring.
The proposed hotel will sit on two properties, 602 and 640 Eckhardt Ave. West. Both the bingo hall and a house that was used as an office for the bingo hall. Both buildings will be demolished to make way for the hotel.
Gateway Casino, which owns the property, closed the bingo hall in the spring when their new Cascade Casino opened a block to the west.
Mundi said he has a deal to purchase the property from Gateway, contingent on the city passing the zoning change, which will be decided after a public hearing at the July 4 city council meeting.
Though their project is in very early stages, Mundi is suggesting an attractive brand for the finished hotel.
If everything works out, he said, the intention is to bring in Marriott Fairfield Inn &Suites as the preferred brand for this hotel. Mundi’s other operations are with both the Coast Hotels and Best Western chains.
Penticton already has a large number of hotels, but Mundi said the addition of a well-known, internationally-branded hotel would fill a gap, especially in proximity to the South Okanagan Events Centre, the Cascade Casino, and Kings Park.
“In trying to make that SOEC campus sort of an entertainment hub, the more hotels you can have around it so people can walk to the various events, the better,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, noting the proposed hotel location is only a block away from the casino on the edge of the SOEC campus.
“It’s also next to King’s Park which there’s a lot of soccer tournaments and things going on there as well,” said Jakubeit. “From a location point of view, I think it’s a viable location.”
Earlier this year, Jakubeit said the city would consider purchasing the bingo hall land if it came on the market at an affordable price. He said there were preliminary discussions about the city purchasing the property, explaining two factors blocked pursuing the land.
“One was the land owner wanted significantly more than what our appraisal said it was worth. So there was a bit of concern there,” said Jakubeit. “Our other big concern was we have limited resources.”
Penticton city council voted unanimously at their June 20 meeting to move the hotel proposal to public meeting. In order for it to go ahead, the city will have to grant a zoning change from service commercial to tourist commercial and two variances, including raising the allowable height from 12 metres to 13.4 metres to allow a four-storey building.
“This property is actually a little bit undersized for a normal hotel site,” said Planning manager Blake Laven. “They were trying to make a three-storey building but to get the unit count and to provide the parking and all the necessary ground floor amenities they had to add a fourth storey.”
Laven said the city requested a transportation impact assessment as a condition of the zoning change, after concerns about how the hotel traffic might affect the Orchard, Caribou and Eckhardt intersection.
Coun. Campbell Watt said he was concerned about the effect of traffic leaving the hotel and turning onto “one of our busiest streets.”
“But I’m sure that will be addressed. And knowing that I would move the staff recommendation to move this forward to a public hearing,” said Watt.
Jakubeit said he’s encouraged by the interest developers like Mundi are showing in Penticton.
“We’ve seen a lot of development over the last year and a half and a lot of momentum building,” said Jakubeit.
“Having a hotel come on board and having someone committing to $12 or $14 million to invest in the community, I think is a good sign.