Casino unveils hotel plans
It was a slow grind to get there but about 50 residents and area business owners braved the United Boulevard gridlock created by an overturned tractor-trailer Wednesday to get a peek at plans for a hotel and convention centre at the Boulevard Casino.
The Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns the Coquitlam gaming venue, hosted an open house at the Red Robinson Show Theatre to allow the public to comment on its proposal for an 11-storey tower with 181 hotel rooms and suites, a convention centre, spa, pool, ultra lounge and restaurants on the west side of the property.
The city’s land use committee is expected to review the concept next month and, if council grants first reading to the bylaw change, a public hearing would be held in October.
Also at the open house were staff from Chris Dikeakos Architects, the company that designed the hotel/convention centre as well as the casino facility when it was built in 2002. The architects showed several drawings at the gathering, including boards depicting view corridors, shadow studies, design vignettes and landscape plans; as well, it had an animated video of how the destination resort would look when completed.
Howard Blank, Great Canadian Gaming’s vice-president of communications, entertainment and responsible gaming, said changes may be made before the plans are formally submitted to the city, based on feedback from the open house, “but, overall, people were really impressed with the look of it.”
Blank compared the hotel to Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, Cal., “that looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert,” he said, noting GCGC is aiming for “at least a 3.5-diamond rate” from AAA for the resort.
Nearby business owners and managers said they look forward to the hotel going up.
“It’s good for us because we’re both in the tourism business,” said Bob Lawlor, general manager of Go West Campers International on Fawcett Road. “It’ll be some place to put our clients while they’re here.”
Lawlor said his company works closely with GCGC, has taken part in its show and shine car events and usually mentions Boulevard Casino when it advertises. “We say we’re right behind the casino,” he said. “It’s kind of a beacon for United Boulevard.”
Don Watts, manager of Thermo King of BC on Fawcett Road, said he’ll also send out-of-town company visitors to stay at the hotel. Still, he doesn’t anticipate the extra traffic generated from the hotel/convention centre will do much for the area commercial businesses.
“Any increment in casual business is a good thing,” said Glenn Quarrington, owner of Speedpro Imaging on Fawcett Road. The new services at the hotel/convention centre would be handy, he said, “because, in general, I find this area to be deprived of accommodation and restaurants. It’s tough for employees to find some options to eat. Some of them go to the casino now to get a burger but there’s not much overall.”
Although a casino hotel would upgrade the industrial strip, Quarrington said, he worries about its potential effect on land values and, consequently, business property taxes and rents.
According to the city’s 2010 annual report, GCGC was the third biggest corporate taxpayer in Coquitlam last year, paying $1.5 million.
As well as municipal taxes, under provincial legislation, GCGC hands over 10% of its net profits to cities that host its casinos. Since the Boulevard Casino opened, Coquitlam has collected more than $75 million through the Ministry of Solicitor General; the city puts 12.5% of that money into a fund for local non-profit groups, with the remainder spent on major capital works.