Demolition at English Inn site to prepare for development

Earth movers are on the grounds of the English Inn in Esquimalt as its Vancouver owner prepares for what will eventually be a 180-unit residential development.

Aragon Properties, which purchased the 107-year-old English Inn and its 4.3 acres of development properties last year, envisions a four-phase development that will see the inn renovated, while all other buildings on the property are demolished and replaced.

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“Demolition will be starting at the end of November or first week of December,” said Ameet Johal, director of sales and marketing for Aragon.

The grounds are being cleared now, with trees and other plants being moved to preserve them, Johal said. But the old out-buildings will not be spared.

“All surrounding buildings will be demolished. This will include the current annex, Shakespeare, Verona, Anne Hathaway and the Carriage House,” said Johal of the series of buildings on the grounds.

In their place will be a two-level parking garage below ground, with wood-frame multi-unit residential buildings above. The buildings may have as many as six storeys.

Johal said there are also seven townhomes proposed for the southwest portion of the site.

“Aragon’s new development will be sympathetic with, and a good neighbour to both the existing heritage house and the surrounding neighbourhood,” she said.

As for the English Inn, which is a heritage-designated building, the company intends to renovate to re-establish it as a full-service restaurant, with an expanded bar and lounge, and event space in the basement.

Johal said the existing non-heritage wing of the inn is to be demolished and replaced with a new hotel wing which will include an additional 14 hotel rooms and a spa.

The project is to be done in four phases. The first will focus on the inn, its annex, parkade and a new building on the north end of the site.

Phase two will focus on a central building, phase three establishes a building on the south end of the property and phase four will be the townhomes on the southwest portion of the site.

Zoning for the site is in place.

Vancouver-based Lanyard, which sold the site to Aragon, led the site through a major rezoning process that permits about 225,800 square feet of building in a range of configurations.

The three-storey English Inn was originally named Rosemead and was designed as a private residence by Samuel McClure for businessman Thomas Henry Slater and his wife, Elizabeth.

It was bought by tourism promoter Sam Lane and his wife, Rosina, after the Second World War. They renamed it the Olde England Inn, established it as a guesthouse and put up buildings to mimic Shakespearean times.

Various groups have owned it over the years before Lanyard, which had arranged financing for a previous owner, stepped in to protect its investors by buying the hotel out of receivership in 2009.

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